On Indigenous People’s Day, The Times Record published an op-ed from Linda Baker, who extolled the virtues of Sen. Susan Collins, Bath Iron Works and the thousands of workers who work there. She rightly points out that BIW is the one of the biggest employers in Maine and a heritage shipyard, with many skilled and dedicated workers. It has been a big part of many people’s lives. 

But it could be employing thousands more. And it could be responding to the clearest present threat on all our horizons: Climate change. 

A Green New Deal would redirect federal funds to tackling climate change with green-energy projects, and leading economists say it would create yet more jobs in Maine. A 2011 University of Massachusetts study looked at the job-creation effect of military spending vs. spending in other industries. While $1 billion in military spending created 11,200 jobs, spending that same $1 billion on clean energy created 16,800 jobs.  

If BIW’s 5,600 jobs is good, how great would 8,000 be? All while BIW continues to buy goods and services from local Maine businesses. And rather than building tools for war, ones we hope we never have to use, we could be building useful things: inexpensive power, less polluting travel along our shorelines and rivers, and solutions to the upheaval that climate change is bound to bring. 

The idea that we could have good union jobs without building warships at BIW is hardly a new one. In 1994, Maine’s Sen. George Michell was joined by President Bill Clinton and BIW union leaders In a Labor Day call to diversify the shipyard. 

Neither is continuing to rely on contracts building warships in Maine’s best long-term interests. The U.S. Navy is already armed with 20 aircraft carriers and 65 destroyers; Russia and China each have one aircraft carrier and fewer than half our destroyers combined. Plus, with modern technology, much of war is now fought virtually, via remote-controlled drone, or in cyberspace. 

Our greatest security threat — the world’s security threat — is the changing climate. No destroyer can help us beat back that threat. In fact, building and operating destroyers and other military machinery drives climate change. The United States military is the single largest contributor of greenhouse gases on the planet. It produces more than 140 nations do.  

If we are going to have a Senator funnel our taxpayer dollars to BIW, why not have BIW and the talented people who work there actually make something to combat climate change? They could be making hardware for public transportation. They could be making windmills and solar panels to create efficient, inexpensive clean energy. They could be making modular bridges and temporary housing — using cutting-edge technology created by the UMaine engineering school — to address the evolving landscape climate change will bring, which will force many in the U.S., including Maine, to pull up stakes and move.  

Conversion of the BIW shipyard would be good for Mainers, and good for the planet — positive change to move us forward to a secure future. 

Lisa Savage, of Solon, is a teacher, founder of the Maine Natural Guard, and is seeking the Maine Green Independent Party nomination for U.S. Senate. 

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