Opinion: Airshow protest highlights Pentagon’s carbon footprint / by Sam Pfeifle

The Brunswick Airshow is undoubtedly popular entertainment. Our state’s various media outlets covered it thoroughly. WCSH let us know that the Blue Angels wowed people. WGME was more subdued. Any number of publications previewed the event with interesting profiles of the folks who would be performing. 

Just one piece published by a mainstream media outlet, however, mentioned the 60 or so protestors who gathered at the main gate of Brunswick Landing to draw attention to the massive carbon emissions of such a show — indeed, the massive carbon emissions of the U.S. military as a whole — in the context of what all evidence shows is a worsening climate crisis, in which there were a record 22 natural disasters causing at least $1 billion in damage in the United States alone in 2020. 

“The Blue Angel performances also drew a crowd of roughly 60 protestors,” writes Thatcher Carter in his story’s final paragraphs, “who spoke out against the environmental impact of the Blue Angel performance.”

The Times Record did Monday also publish a couple of letters critical of the airshow

Just what was the tenor and message of those protestors? Those 60 people came from all over Maine, and from as far away as Massachusetts and New York. Signs and banners lined the streets as hundreds of cars in bumper-to-bumper traffic (contributing yet more carbon emissions) entered to attend the Great State of Maine Air Show. The IDEAL Maine Social Aid & Sanctuary Band played several rousing numbers, including a singalong of classic antiwar anthem “Down by the Riverside.” 

Speeches rang out. 

Luke Sekera-Flanders of Community Water Justice speaks at the Brunswick Air Show protest. | Photo courtesy of Ellen Davidson

Luke Sekera-Flanders, for example, served as MC and represented Community Water Justice. As a recent high school graduate, he despairs of the future that awaits him as the climate crisis worsens and political leadership seems to dither in addressing it. He spoke of his experience that no one during his education ever mentioned the massive greenhouse gas emissions produced by the U.S. military, though he heard often about military valor and its need for “defense.” 

Who is going to defend his generation from the climate crisis, he wondered. 

Indeed, Meredith Bruskin, a nurse from Swanville, spoke from a public health perspective on the effects of climate crisis on our physical, mental, and spiritual health. If the monetary impact of climate change isn’t enough to move you to action, she implored, think of the health impacts we are dooming future generations to experience. 

Organizer Lisa Savage spoke on behalf of Maine Natural Guard (I served as her media coordinator during her independent run for U.S. Senate in Maine in 2020), urging people to take the pledge to help their neighbors connect the dots between climate crisis and Pentagon greenhouse gas emissions. She asked attendees to ask their friends what the cholera epidemic in Nigeria, the drought in the U.S. western states, the catastrophic fires from Lake Tahoe to Siberia, the fatalities in flooding in NYC, New Orleans, China, and Germany, and human trafficking in the Philippines all have in common. 

The answer —that they all have climate change at their root— can be an effective educational tool, she said. 

Why, she asked attendees, do we see constant stories in the media about plastic straws and bags, but we never hear about the U.S. military emitting more greenhouse gases than are emitted by the entirety of 146 other countries? Finally, she urged people to sign on to demands that the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, often known as COP26, address military emissions when countries conference in Glasgow this fall. 

Until now, they have been exempted from discussions.

And there were plenty of attendees who knew the U.S. military from firsthand experience. Veterans for Peace national Executive Director Garret Reppenhagen, who has recently moved to Lincolnville, Maine, spoke about enlisting to go to Iraq for economic reasons after his veteran father passed away. He decried the glorification of war via air shows that lure unsuspecting youth into signing away years of their life and possibly experiencing trauma they never recover from.

Veterans for Peace member Tarak Kauff, from New York, spoke about the Pentagon’s environmental harms and the militarized culture we live in. 

As just one example, veteran Bruce Gagnon of Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space, noted that military displays such as the Blue Angels are so revered that we accept as a society that it is “normal” when their practice runs shatter the sliding glass door of Brunswick resident Jean Parker’s house. Our hundreds of foreign military bases similarly terrorize local residents with their displays of military might, he said. 

An estimated 60 people protested outside the Brunswick Air Show. | Photo courtesy of Ellen Davidson

And while any number of flyers were passed through car windows as attendees streamed in, protestors refrained from confrontation. They took particular note of the kindness they were shown by police, who let them know they would protect them from any repercussions they might experience because of their protest. 

Those gathered to protest know well the lack of information most people living in the United States get about the causes of climate change and understand the allure of skilled pilots operating sophisticated machines that represent true feats of engineering. If we are to mitigate the worst effects of a warming planet, however, they know too they must work to give people better information about how we have come to the situation we all now find ourselves in.

Top photo: Courtesy of Gigi LarcFacebookTwitterShare

Author: Sam Pfeifle is a writer, editor, and publisher living in Gray. He currently serves as the Chair of the MSAD 15 School Board, was recently the press coordinator for the Lisa for Maine campaign to elect Lisa Savage to the U.S. Senate in 2020, and fronts the World Famous Grassholes. He can be reached at sam@westgraycreative.com.

Source: Maine Beacon, September 8, 2021, https://mainebeacon.com/opinion-airshow-protest-highlights-pentagons-carbon-footprint/