My Turn: Lives and legacies — David Koch and Frances Crowe

Originally published in the Greenfield Recorder 9/16/2019 1:20:34 PM

Two lives are remembered in the pages of local and national newspapers. How differently they lived and led, and impacted the world they recently left behind.

The Greenfield Recorder article on David Koch’s death (”DA alum David Koch dies,” Aug. 24), read like a press release from Deerfield Academy, which he attended in the 1950s, praising his multimillion dollar gifts to the school.

With his brother Charles, David shared ownership of the sprawling Koch Industries. Based in fossil fuel extraction and transport, the privately owned conglomerate includes everything from building materials to synthetic (oil-based) fabrics. David Koch’s fortune of more than $40 billion is hard to imagine. Thus generous (and tax-exempt) donations to private schools and cultural institutions, winning him praise and social acceptance, were no problem, and shifted attention from his main focus.

The article did mention that David Koch ”founded the advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, which lobbies for right-wing causes.” But there is so much more. In fact, the Koch brothers’ main interest was in changing, weakening and eliminating government policies to serve their financial and political interests. And in blocking action around climate disruption.

After David ran for vice president on the 1972 Libertarian Party ticket, winning just 1 percent of the vote, “The brothers realized,” as journalist Jane Mayer wrote in her 2016 book ”Dark Money”, “that their brand of politics didn’t sell at the ballot box.”

Her in-depth study of the Koch-led 30-year process of moving political power in this country to the right through setting up front groups and deep pocket donations to political races has not received the attention or praise it deserves.

She describes how the brothers founded and funded a complex network of right-wing academic, media and “activist” institutions, and raised funds from others with similar political viewpoints to influence political races, often on the state and local levels.

On the other side of the spectrum, peace activist Frances Crowe. Small in physical stature, she was great in her effect and outreach.

The Koch’s weapons of choice: manipulation of wealth and planning for political and personal gain. Frances’ — building with others for social action, peace, inclusion, safe energy and democracy.

The Koch brothers’ 30-year campaign to block and reverse understanding and action on climate change helped steer the Republican Party to complete denial of science and support for an expanded fossil-based economy.

These policies have affected the health of millions — and ultimately the fate of the planet.

Frances’ legacy, so different, lies with her many friends, colleagues and history of activism, in our valley and beyond, and is one of “walking the talk.” Besides her well-known decades of political activism, she practiced her politics at home: shopping locally, avoiding air and car travel, paying informal “taxes” to local institutions and schools rather than the federal war machine.

Perhaps a good project for Deerfield Academy students would be to dig beyond the plaques on buildings donated, to understand the impact of David and brother Charles’ work.

Recent online articles and broadcasts offer a start, and several interview Christopher Leonard, author of “Kochland: The Secret History of Koch Industries and Corporate Power in America.” (Featured on “Fresh Air” and “Democracy Now!”) In another interview (, climate scientist Michael Mann describes the Koch brothers’ influence on climate denial, saying: ”The various cabinet members of the Trump administration is a veritable who’s who of Koch Industries and Koch brothers-affiliated lobbyists… Our policies on climate, on energy, and a host of other matters, has essentially been outsourced to the Koch brothers.”

Through their intricate network of so-called “citizen”’ and legislative organizations, and ability to donate and organize mega-spending from other billionaires, the Koch brothers prevented action on climate change for the past three decades, the crucial timeframe for preventing disastrous weather, CO2 and temperature increases, ice melting and uncontrolled fires.

The major anti-government political shift to the right also affects far more than the physical climate, increasing already existing social, racial, sexual and huge economic divides.

Instead of honoring David Koch for his generous “philanthropy,” it would be more fitting to challenge his institutional donations, as is being done now with those from Jeffrey Epstein, the “opiate lords” in the Sackler family and others. Such actions seem similar to removing early 20th century statues honoring Civil War defenders of slavery, symbols of oppression.

Frances and friends demand and need no statues or plaques honoring their contributions.

Anna Gyorgy is a resident of Wendell.

Economic sanctions: War by another name

Pedestrians walk past a mural depicting the late President Hugo Chavez, in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 6. AP PHOTO

By Pat Hynes
Published: 9/3/2019 9:05:19 AM

In early 2019, the White House threatened to invade Venezuela, take down the government and replace it with their choice of president and political party. Though no missiles have been fired and no bombs dropped on the country, our government is waging a war by other means, namely criminal economic sanctions, to achieve the same end. And they are just as lethal.

Sanctions against Venezuela began with President Obama in 2015; however, the most crippling and deadly have been ordered since by Trump.

In August 2017, Trump prohibited Venezuela from borrowing in U.S. financial markets, thus preventing its economy from recovering from a deep recession caused in part by the global drop in oil prices. The U.S. financial embargo produced rapid decline in Venezuela’s oil production, extreme drop in export income and loss of access to credit. Consequently, revenue for critically needed imports for health, agriculture and industry plummeted. Two respected US economists, Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs, have estimated that these sanctions caused 40,000 deaths in 2017-2018.

In January 2019, Trump tightened the noose with sanctions intended to prevent Venezuela’s government-owned oil industry from exporting oil to the U.S. and the rest of the world. The goal being to strangle the economy, given 90 percent of Venezuela’s exports is crude oil. These sanctions also froze billions of dollars of overseas Venezuelan assets, including gold reserves that the government could have sold to stabilize the economy.

In August, Trump expanded existing sanctions, prohibiting any American economic transactions with Venezuela and threatening economic sanctions against any foreign company doing business with Venezuela.

One ex-CIA official captured the sadistic logic of these sanctions: “Put pressure on the target government by ripping out the social and economic fabric of the country. Make people suffer as much as you can until the country plunges into chaos, until as some point you can step in and impose your choice of government on that country.”

The leading Venezuelan economist Francisco Rodriguez (an opponent of the current President Maduro) estimates that Venezuela has suffered the largest economic collapse of a country “not at war” nor experiencing oil strikes, since the 1970s. Imports — of machine parts, trucks, diesel fuel and gasoline, infrastructure components for electricity and water systems, and food and medicines — have fallen 60 percent since last year. Agriculture has plummeted 50 percent with food rotting in fields from no gasoline for trucking to markets. He predicts that the country will likely suffer “a famine causing hundreds of thousands of deaths within the next twelve months,” mainly from the drop in oil production and sales due to Trump’s 2017 and 2019 sanctions.

Adding fuel to this inferno, National Security Adviser John Bolton recently sabotaged ongoing talks between President Maduro and the opposition that were taking place in Norway.

The almost laughable statement — that Venezuela is causing a “national emergency” and is an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security of the United States — has justified every executive order issued against Venezuela by Presidents Obama and Trump.

What possible threat could Venezuela (and Cuba, for decades) pose? Being socialist governments? Lifting their poorest out of abject poverty while we accelerate economic inequality? Housing the homeless better than the U.S.? Achieving higher literacy rates in the case of both countries and longer life expectancy, in the case of socialist Cuba, than we have?

Our real national security threat is the erosion of democracy and morality within our borders when we cage refugee children from Central America, terrorizing them and violating their human rights. We have a history of undermining and overturning democratically elected governments (Iran in 1953, Chile in 1973, Guatemala in 1954, El Salvador in 1960, Honduras in 2009, to name a few). Yet we hypocritically demonize other governments for endangering our national security.

As we starve those poorer, brown and black-skinned Venezuelans who legally elected (as validated by the Carter Center and other monitors) and continue to support their current government, another vital sign of our political degradation is that both parties Republican and Democrat, with few low-voiced exceptions, support this war by another name.

Recall the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 from grade school history? President James Monroe proclaimed that European nations could not colonize nor otherwise interfere in North and South American countries. Ironically, since 1890, the U.S. has intervened in Latin American elections, civil wars and revolutions at least 56 times, according to historian and author Mark Becker, to bolster US corporate interests and to eliminate democratically elected governments and leftist movements.

How true that we have met the enemy and he is us.

Pat Hynes directs the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice.

Traprock Center helping young people build a better world through books

Published: 8/12/2019 2:00:15 AM

Children in Sierra Leone hold books they were given by the Greenfield-based Traprock Center for Peace & Justice. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Like 1,000 paper cranes being folded to commemorate the prayers of Hiroshima children for peace, the 100 paperback books that are flying into the hands of young readers in West Africa mark a conviction by Greenfield-based Traprock Center for Peace & Justice that young people can help build a better world.

The books, with titles like “I Have a Dream,” “Wangari’s Trees for Peace” and “I am Malala” are greeting students at two schools in Freetown, Sierra Leone, after Traprock board member Pat Hynes met Kadie Sesay, president of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom Sierra Leone a year ago at the African Women’s Feminist Peace Conference.

Traprock’s Children’s Books Collaborative — which has already placed 100 books about peace and justice in public libraries in Greenfield, Turners Falls and Orange — caught the attention of Sesay, a former schoolteacher in the West African country. She suggested to Hynes a collaboration with the American organization to get similar books into schools in her country.

Hynes, who’s found test-focused teaching an impediment in getting schools here to accept Traprock’s grants for books with themes of social justice, peace and the environment, welcomed the opportunity to introduce them in a country where equality for women, fostering democracy and lifting the country out of poverty are all key issues.

The degree of women’s equality in a country, Hynes says, is the best predictor of how peaceful or conflict-ridden that country is, according to WomanStats studies of 175 countries. She stresses the importance of encouraging young people to help promote gender equality.

Hynes, a Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom board member, convinced the global organization’s Boston chapter to contribute toward helping the Sierra Leonian chapter acquire computer equipment and other support to help in its work.

It might seem that reading Nicola Davies’ “The Lion Who Stole My Arm” or “I am Malala” — about the Nobel-winning teen who advocated for educating girls in Afghanistan — wouldn’t do much to save a world in which democracies are threatened and the dangers of climate change are ignored. Planting seeds for grassroots community resources to encourage peace also represents a departure from the kinds of citizen demonstrations Traprock was best known for in the 1970s and ’80s.

But Hynes sees ways the book project — like Traprock’s 25-year-old Journey Camp for girls and its Young Peacemakers Awards — can inspire young people to “dream behind their horizons,” in her words. It can open their minds to role models fostering diversity and conflict resolution.

In Sierra Leone, where female genital mutilation persists and there are ongoing efforts to recover from the effects of a decade-long 1990s “Blood Diamond” civil war that left more than 120,000 dead and millions of refugees following mass brutality by children soldiers, the collaborative book project also offers hope, Sesay believes.

Hynes and Sesay hope the African children, ages 4 to 16 and including more than 650 high school students, can become ambassadors for conflict resolution and environmental stewardship, encouraging peers as well as adults “in the community and beyond” to follow the examples of Malala Yousafzai, Martin Luther King Jr. and Kenyan Nobel Prize-winning environmentalist Wangari Maathai, among others.

There are also tree planting and other environmental education projects planned as part of a broader community outreach.

By finding relevant role models for children, Hynes says, Traprock hopes these books with broad, international themes of diversity and equality can empower young people to become active players in restoring democracy, resolving conflict and fighting income inequality within their societies.

“Books can affect young people in ways to inspire, to dream beyond their horizons,” she says. Especially if they’re read in a classroom or another group setting with a teacher or parent to help them interpret the lessons, she believes, books can serve to enlighten young readers — in our communities as well as in other countries — to move toward a more peaceful future.

Richie Davis was a writer and editor for more than 40 years at the Greenfield Recorder. His email is

Valley anti-war activist Frances Crowe dies at 100

Originally published in the Greenfield Recorder


Published: 8/27/2019 5:59:23 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Legendary anti-war activist and longtime city resident Frances Crowe died on Tuesday morning at the age of 100.

“She lived an amazing life and had a beautiful death at home surrounded by her children,” Crowe’s 72-year-old daughter, Caltha, told the Gazette. She said Crowe died after taking to her bed eight days ago, with hundreds of loved ones coming to visit and calling her throughout the week.

Crowe, herself a Quaker, was a committed pacifist who was arrested countless times during protests against everything from war and nuclear weapons to environmental destruction. She was known across the Pioneer Valley and beyond for her activism, and inspired many to follow in her footsteps.

“The phone rings about every three minutes and it’s somebody from somewhere in the world calling to make sure we know how much they loved her,” Caltha Crowe said. “This has been the most unbelievable experience.”

Born in Carthage, Missouri, in 1919, Crowe moved to Northampton with her husband, Thomas, in 1951, and soon began organizing anti-war and anti-nuclear campaigns. In a Gazette article in October 2018, Crowe wrote that she decided to oppose war after the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan.

As the American war in Vietnam began to escalate, Crowe founded the local chapter of the American Friends Service Committee in 1968, which she ran out of her basement. The organization provided counsel to around 2,000 men applying for status as conscientious objectors to the war.

In that 2018 article, Crowe described the first time she was arrested while staging a peaceful protest on International Women’s Day. The date was March 8, 1972, and together with a group she helped organize in 1970 called Women Against the War, Crowe demonstrated at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, where B-52 bomber crews trained before duty in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

“Some 30 of us dressed in black pajamas, the traditional garb of rural Vietnamese women,” Crowe wrote. “We hoped bystanders would feel the suffering of Vietnamese women if we dressed like them. We also hoped that young men facing conscription or drafting into the U.S. military would see the humanity of the Vietnamese people and examine their consciences about entering the army.”

Since then, Crowe has been a key figure in organizing or inspiring activism across the region. She co-founded the Traprock Peace Center in Deerfield and other local peace and anti-nuclear organizations, and was well known for chaining herself, along with other protesters, to the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

That work has inspired many, who together mourned her death.

“Frances absolutely changed my life,” said state Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton. Comerford said Crowe was one of the first people she met when she arrived in the Valley in 1998. “I was headed down a different path, and she was a beacon.”

Comerford worked at the American Friends Service Committee for seven years, and she said she often would run into people who had been inspired by Crowe. Once, she met a woman in New Hampshire holding weekly anti-war vigils. When Comerford asked why she was holding those vigils, the woman said she was following Crowe’s example.

“There are people like this all over the Northeast — and I’m sure beyond that — who picked up a call to action because Frances told them to,” Comerford said.

The Rev. Andrea Ayvazian was one of the people who helped Crowe organize weekly anti-war vigils in downtown Northampton.

Ayvazian said she met Crowe in 1981 after one of Ayvazian’s students at Hampshire College wrote her capstone project about local women who inspired her, including Ayvazian and Crowe. That student organized a get-together for them all in Crowe’s basement, but then got a stomach bug and couldn’t attend. So Ayvazian found herself alone with Crowe in her basement.

“Frances and I talked for many hours, and basically I never left her basement,” Ayvazian said.

The two grew close over decades of activism, and were arrested together around a dozen times, Ayvazian said. When she visited Crowe on her deathbed this past week, Ayvazian said, she sang some of the songs they used to sing in jail together, with Crowe mouthing the words with her.

Many of those remembering Crowe recalled her consistent ability to move others to action. Even in her final days she was checking in with friends about their activist work.

“She was an organizer to the very end, essentially,” said Jeff Napolitano, executive director of The Resistance Center for Peace and Justice — the successor organization to the American Friends Service Committee of Western Massachusetts, which closed in 2017. “There’s no way to overstate her impact.”

“It’s not so much what she could accomplish on her own,” said friend and fellow activist Claudia Lefko. “What was amazing about Frances was that she gave people ideas, she inspired them. And she supported them.”

Lefko said that when she talked to Crowe this week, Crowe said one of the most important things she did in the Pioneer Valley was successfully fight to get the independent news program Democracy Now! on the local airwaves in the early 2000s.

Together with local musician and activist Ed Russell, Crowe helped bring the program to the Valley by making illegal pirate broadcasts of the show — first with Russell climbing Mount Holyoke to operate the broadcasts, and later transmitting from Crowe’s backyard. Eventually, she was able to get WMUA to pick up the show, and the station has run the program ever since.

“I think that just demonstrates who Frances is — just her passion for information, her deep belief that getting information out was a means of liberation,” Democracy Now! host and renowned journalist Amy Goodman said Tuesday. “She just would not take no for an answer, and it just so deeply inspired us.”

Goodman said she came to know Crowe in 2005 when she interviewed her in Northampton. Goodman was recently at Crowe’s 100th birthday, and said she spoke with Crowe last week after she had stopped eating and drinking.

Goodman pointed out that as Crowe passes away, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg is set to arrive in New York after traveling in a zero-emissions sailboat from Europe in advance of the U.N. Climate Summit.

“Really, Frances passes the torch,” Goodman said. “And what she cared about was equality, peace, a nuclear-free world, and she has helped make that happen.”

Crowe is survived by her three children — Caltha, Jarlath and Thomas — five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

Remembering Hiroshima, Nagasaki

Originally published on August 7, 2019 in the Greenfield Recorder.

Venerable Brother Towbee Keyes, Venerable Brother Gyoway Kato and Sister Clare Carter, from the New England Peace Pagoda, offer chants and prayers as people gather along the riverbank Tuesday afternoon at Unity Park in Turners Falls to honor the victims of the nuclear bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9 in 1945. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Venerable Brother Towbee Keyes, Venerable Brother Gyoway Kato and Sister Clare Carter, from the New England Peace Pagoda, offer chants and prayers as people gather along the riverbank Tuesday afternoon at Unity Park in Turners Falls to honor the victims of the nuclear bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9 in 1945. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE 


Staff Writer

Published: 8/7/2019 9:59:24 PM

MONTAGUE — The nuclear age began 74 years ago this week, when the United States bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing between 130,000 and 226,000 Japanese.

The two bombings arguably ended World War II. But they also mark the beginning of our era of global political dysfunction, in which the possibility of lasting peace seems as far away as ever.

Recognizing the atrocity of the bombing of Japan and its ongoing ripple effects, a commemoration ceremony was held in Unity Park in Turners Falls on Tuesday night, organized by the Greenfield-based Traprock Center for Peace and Justice and with involvement of several other local activist and religious groups.

The date of the ceremony, Aug. 6, is the day Hiroshima was bombed. Estimates of the death toll range from 70,000 to 126,000 civilians, plus 20,000 soldiers. Nagasaki was bombed Aug. 9, killing 40,000 to 80,000 people.

“We just wanted to recognize the date,” said Anna Gyorgy, who is on Traprock’s board of directors. “This is like a holy day, Aug. 6, for people who care about peace.”

About 30 or 40 people were at the ceremony. Attendees organized into a circle around a peace sign made of cut flowers on the ground, heard music by guitarist Ben Tousley and monks of the New England Peace Pagoda, and then were invited to share their own thoughts.

Sister Clare Carter of the Peace Pagoda pointed out that next year — the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Japan — coincides with the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the Mayflower in Massachusetts. There’s a continuity between the two events, she said: they both represent a conquering mindset, which is opposed to peace.

“We can’t afford any longer to not understand this,” she said. “It’s calling us back to the seed we planted.”

Similarly, the mutually assured destruction that characterizes the ongoing international arms race represents an essentially incorrect mindset, said Marty Schotz, who is on the Peace Task Force of Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution. The large nations of the world accumulate ever increasingly huge nuclear arsenals, calling it defense; ironically, Schotz said, this justifies other nations to do the same, increasing the perceived need for defense.

“What we do to them is done to us,” Schotz said. “We and the other are not separate.”

In the logic of the arms race, Schotz said, the inevitable end is a nuclear strike, regardless of whether it’s intentional or accidental.

The only sane alternative is disarmament, Schotz said.

“We have to do to them what we want done to us,” he said. “We can only try and set an example.”

It’s basically an ethical problem, which means that even small, local efforts matter, Schotz said. A ceremony of 30 or 40 people may end when they disperse, or some of them may spread the word.

“We have to acknowledge and pay attention,” Schotz said. “If we don’t pay attention, how can we convince other people to?”

Reach Max Marcus at or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.

Remember, and Prevent, Nuclear War


Originally published on July 25, 2019 in the Montague Reporter.

TURNERS FALLS – The Japanese city of Hiroshima was bombed on August 6, 1945, and three days later Nagasaki. Each year, many people around the world gather to remember this first use of atomic weapons, and urge an end to the nuclear age.

This year, area peace and justice groups invite all to a local event on
the banks of the Connecticut River in Turners Falls on Tuesday, August 6. Organized by the peace taskforce of the Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution (FCCPR), and co-sponsored by the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice, the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding, and the Interfaith Council of Franklin County, the event will start at 5:30 p.m. at the Unity Park riverfront.

There the flowers and banners we bring will create a peace symbol on the grass. At 6 p.m. we will circle it for a short program of remembrance – and calls for nuclear disarmament. We will remember the innocent civilian victims in the two cities: an estimated 135,000 deaths in Hiroshima, over 64,000 in Nagasaki. Many succumbed later from radiation exposure, burns, and related health effects.

In the decades since 1945, survivors known as “Hibakusha” have spoken around the world, warning of the dangers of atomic weapons. One of these, Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow, spoke with great feeling and conviction on December 10, 2017, on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), who received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Peace prize ICAN won was for their decade of work for a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. In July 2017, at the conclusion of a special “UN Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons,” 122 countries voted in favor of an historic treaty to legally prohibit nuclear weapons – though none of the nine nuclear-armed nations joined.

The Dorothy Day Catholic Worker community and other DC peace groups will demonstrate at the Pentagon and White House. They write:

The US has never repented for the use of these weapons of indiscriminate mass murder. Moreover, it has continued to build even deadlier weapons which endanger all of creation. Today the US possesses over 6,000 nuclear weapons, many of which are on hair-trigger alert, and proposes to spend an estimated $1 trillion over the next 30 years to modernize its existing nuclear arsenal.

This includes the W76-2 Trident nuclear warhead, designed to carry a relatively small destructive payload of five kilotons, far less than the 100 kiloton thermonuclear warheads with which Trident missiles are currently armed. This reduction fulfills the Trump administration’s quest for nuclear-war-fighting “flexibility.” This deadly venture not only endangers the world, but represents a direct theft from the poor of our nation and world. Under Presidents Obama and now Trump, more than $1.7 trillion has been authorized to upgrade and replace all things nuclear over the next 30 years. “This death money from our taxes could instead provide life-bringing jobs in renewable energy and high-speed rail, health care, affordable housing, and eliminating child poverty – in short, a Green New Deal,” Traprock director Pat Hynes and Vicki Elson, co-director of NuclearBan.US, wrote in a recent editorial.

Instead, the Trump administration brings us closer to wars that could
turn nuclear. In May 2018, it pulled the US out of the long-negotiated
international treaty blocking Iranian nuclear development. In February
2019, charging Russian violations, it withdrew from the Reagan-Gorbachev-era Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which had banned many Russian and US ground-launched missiles.

Along with peaceful demonstrators bearing witness in the nation’s capital, in Hiroshima, and elsewhere around the world, we call on the United States, the only country to have ever used nuclear weapons, to endorse this treaty – see – and lead the way to total worldwide nuclear disarmament.

Anna Gyorgy lives in Wendell. She is a member of the Traprock Center’s board of directors and FCCPR’s peace taskforce.

Give back peace, give up nuclear weapons

Published: 7/22/2019 9:26:07 AM 
Originally published in the Greenfield Recorder.


Give back my Father, 

Give back my Mother. 

Give Grandpa, 

Grandma back; 

Give my sons 

and daughter back. 

Give me back 


Give back 

the human race. 

As long 

as this life lasts, 

this life, 

Give back Peace 

Peace that will never end. 

Poet Sankichi Toge survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945; his loved ones did not. He voices the anguish and grief of atomic bomb survivors who lost forever their families and friends, who live in the shadow of death themselves, and who long for the world to reject the madness of nuclear weapons and choose lasting peace. 

He is not alone. 

The non-nuclear nations of the world are clamoring for the abolition of nuclear weapons. They have held high-profile conferences on the catastrophic global consequences of accidental or deliberate detonation of nuclear weapons on human health, food and water, climate change “by 

fire and ice” and the economy. And they have taken a major step for humanity toward lasting peace. 

On July 7, 2017, nearly two-thirds (122 in all) of the world’s countries adopted the new UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons banning nuclear weapons. The nine countries possessing nuclear weapons boycotted the UN vote. Among them, the United States lobbied hardest against this treaty, contending these weapons of mass destruction keep us secure. 

Despite this morbid logic, we learned recently that our government’s leaders have a set of fortified sites constructed to save themselves in the event of nuclear catastrophe while the rest of us fend for ourselves (See Garrett Graff’s book, “Raven Rock: The Story of the Government’s Secret Plan to Save Itself While the Rest of us Die”). 

Mayors of U.S. cities are equally alarmed about the extreme danger of these weapons and the theft of resources away from cities and towns. Under presidents Barack Obama and now Donald Trump, our government has authorized more than $1.7 trillion to upgrade and replace nuclear weapon delivery systems, bombers, missiles and submarines over the next 30 years. This death money comes from the coffers of our taxes and should be used more sustainably for renewable energy, high-speed rail, a living wage, affordable housing and eliminating child poverty — in short the Green New Deal. 

Opposition to nuclear weapons has been unfailingly bipartisan since 1945. Key World War II military leaders from all branches of the armed forces, including generals Eisenhower, Arnold, Marshall and MacArthur; and admirals Leahy, Nimitz and Halsey strongly dissented, for both military and moral reasons, from President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the bombs on two civilian Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At their 40th anniversary reunion in Los Alamos, N.M., 70 of 110 physicists who had worked on the atomic bomb signed a statement supporting nuclear disarmament. 

In February 1998, retired Air Force General Lee Butler, who had overseen the entire nuclear arsenal, urged his government to take the lead in abolishing all nuclear weapons. “Nuclear weapons have no politically, militarily or morally acceptable justification. … They expunge all hope for meaningful survival.” 

Fewer than four months ago (April 11), George Schultz, Republican secretary of state under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and Democrat William Perry, defense secretary under President Bill Clinton, co-authored an article in the Wall Street Journal urging for a world without nuclear weapons. They quoted Reagan’s 1984 State of the Union Address: “Nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” 

Underlying the 2017 UN Treaty are decades of activism in the U.S. and globally: “ban the bomb,” “nuclear weapons freeze,” nuclear test ban campaigns, “nuclear-free zones,” and most recently and significantly, the International Campaign Against Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). 

In Northampton, NuclearBan.US, an ICAN partner, has just published “Warheads to Windmills: How to Pay for a Green New Deal.” The report is a detailed analysis of what it will take to 

adequately address the climate crisis and where the needed money and scientific and engineering expertise could come from: namely, the nuclear weapons program. 

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that these weapons threaten our very existence as a species,” says author Timmon Wallis. “And so does the climate crisis. But if we eliminate nuclear weapons, we can convert an industry of death to an industry of life. We can shift massive amounts of money and scientific talent to green technologies we need to survive — and we can create millions of jobs.” 

On Aug. 6, join us at Unity Park Riverfront, Turners Falls, at 5:30 p.m. to commemorate the atomic bomb victims and to resolve “never more.” 

Patricia Hynes directs the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice. Vicki Elson is co-director of NuclearBan US.

Reckless and unjust

Letter to the Editor, Greenfield Recorder

Published 6/24/2019 7:50:25 PM

The state Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has its head in the sand in light of current environmental health findings regarding the human health and climate polluting effects of burning biomass to generate energy. Calling it “clean energy” and promoting legislation to give state renewable energy subsidies, DOER is also backing a proposed Palmer Renewable Energy biomass plan to be sited in East Springfield, which will burn wood chips, wood pellets and other wood products. Here are three reasons that it is reckless and unjust.

1. Air pollution: Biomass burners pollute as much as coal – the dirtiest air polluter of all the fossil fuels – emitting air pollutants that cause and worsen asthma, resulting in ER visits, missed school and work days for children and their parents.

2. Climate Crisis: Burning whole trees for energy increases carbon emissions compared to fossil fuels and does so for decades, given the lag time between cutting trees and waiting for newly planted ones to mature. It is not carbon neutral.

3. Environmental Injustice: Springfield is the worst place in the state to site a biomass burner, having been designated as the worst U.S. city for someone with asthma by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. Moreover, Springfield residents have a poverty rate nearly three times the state average; and a majority of the city’s residents are people of color. The state’s siting choice is blatantly racist.

What can we do? Submit a letter, opposing the proposed legislation to give state subsidies for biomass plants and siting a biomass plant in Springfield, to John Wassam electronically at or via mail to the Department of Energy Resources, 100 Cambridge Street, Suite 1020, Boston, MA 02114.

Patricia Hynes


On corporate exploitation and military aggression


Originally published in the Greenfield Recorder, May 29, 2019

“We are here because you were there.” — Slogan of 1980s immigrants rights campaign in Britain.

Why would so many Guatemalans make the arduous journey to the U.S.-Mexican border seeking refuge, knowing the hatred heaped on them by the Trump administration? A short list of our long history of corporate exploitation and military aggression in that country might explain.

In 1928 the American United Fruit Co. (present-day Chiquita Banana International) instigated a massacre of thousands of Guatemalan workers who struck for better working conditions. In 1954 President Dwight Eisenhower ordered the overthrow of democratically elected President Jacobo Arbenz, who had issued the Agrarian Reform Law, which redistributed land to some 500,000 landless indigenous peasants. Ten years of democracy in that country (1944-54) was gutted, and the U.S. installed an authoritarian government to roll back agrarian and worker reforms and, thus, protect United Fruit’s land interests.

Throughout the 1960s-1980s Cold War era, the U.S.-backed coups and right-wing leaders with troops and weapons to repress left-leaning social movements. One president we championed, Efrain Rios Montt, was convicted of genocide in 2013 for trying to eliminate Mayan peasants. The inequality and violence that we have fostered and aided forced those Guatemalans under attack, rendered landless and impoverished, to leave and migrate north. They are here because we were there.

In 2009 reform-minded President Manuel Zelaya, who had raised the minimum wage, built new schools and provided pensions for the elderly, was kidnapped by the Honduran military and flown out of the country to Costa Rica. The Obama administration tacitly supported the 2009 coup and assisted in preventing Zelaya’s return to Honduras. The U.S. has continued to approve subsequent illegal presidents who have intimidated and violently suppressed rural and indigenous farmers’ land rights in favor of large agro-corporate land grabs. Over the past 10 years, police, military and hired militias have murdered thousands of indigenous activists, peasant leaders, journalists, human rights and union activists, opposition candidates and judges. By 2016, Honduras had the highest murder rate in the world.

Meanwhile U.S. border patrol agents have tear-gassed Honduran asylum seekers fleeing police, drug gang violence and the loss of their land. They have separated thousands Central American children from their families and dumped them into cold, crowded detention centers with filthy toilets and insufficient running water. They are here because we were there.

El Salvador
Over the last eight decades, U.S. military support for right-wing coups and authoritarian candidates has strangled social movements for self-determination, worker rights and economic development in El Salvador. In 1932 the U.S. and Britain, owners of large export-oriented coffee plantations, sent naval support to quell a peasant rebellion led by the communist Farabundo. What follows is a short list of our interventions in this country that have driven the displaced, impoverished and endangered to travel a trail of tears to our border.

In 1960, President Eisenhower, fearing a leftist government, facilitated a right-wing coup and openly opposed the holding of free elections. The same Cold War ideology drove President Reagan to provide generous military assistance and training in 1983 to the authoritarian military-led government in its civil war against a leftist front. Eighty thousand Salvadorans were killed in the 1980-1992 civil war, with the majority of civilian deaths caused by Salvadoran military. In the early 1990s some 200,000 Salvadorans were given Temporary Protected Status (TPS). However, their TPS was revoked in 2018 by President Trump, emblematic of his hostile and hate-mongering history toward the poor, displaced and endangered who arrive here because we were there.

Since 1890, the United States has intervened in Latin American elections, civil wars and revolutions at least 56 times according to historian and author Mark Becker, to bolster U.S. corporations’ interests and eliminate democratically elected governments and leftist movements. In synch with this legacy, the Trump administration has enacted crippling economic sanctions, supported an attempted coup and threatened military action against the socialist government of Venezuela. Adding fuel to his scorched earth policy, Trump’s proposed 2020 budget increases the Pentagon budget by 5 percent and decreases the State Department by 31 percent — a signal of our increasingly belligerent, non-negotiating role in the world.

Perhaps the only way to attract the well-financed, educated and presumably white immigrants Trump seeks is to declare war on a Nordic country, hoping they will come because we are there.

Pat Hynes, a retired professor of environmental health and environmental engineer, directs the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice in western Massachusetts.

The Madness Driving Climate Catastrophe

By H. Patricia Hynes

Originally published on April 5, 2019 on

Gerry Machen / Flickr

“Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption”

A book by Simon Pirani

The Great Acceleration: This is the designation given to the last 70 years during which industrial countries and a handful of newly rich developing countries extracted and consumed fossil fuels at a reckless rate. While accurate, the metaphor might suggest progress rather than the ominous atmospheric, terrestrial and oceanic climate trends ensuing.

The 20 hottest years on record have occurred since 1995, almost in tandem with the impotent U.N. climate negotiations begun in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and followed by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, Copenhagen in 2009, Paris in 2015 and Poland in 2018. Yet, even with near global consensus on the necessity of reducing climate-warming emissions radically by 2030 and (nonbinding) national pledges to do so, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose by 2.7 percent in 2018. Moreover, some analysts predict they will rise higher in 2019 due to increasing deforestation, especially in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have risen unremittingly to levels not prevailing since hundreds of thousands (and possibly more than 6 million) years ago.

Historian and energy researcher Simon Pirani likens this collective failure to act on climate change to the “collective madness” of World War I, in which old world imperial loyalties set loose the juggernaut of a mindless, pointless bloodbath of Europe’s boys and young men, ending only from morbid exhaustion on all sides. In “Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption,” Pirani sets out to plumb the political, social and economic causes of the “madness that is producing global warming.” His is a critically needed departure from much climate crisis writing (and activism) that focuses solely on technology, individual consumption and population growth as drivers of climate change.

“Burning Up” takes a structural and a muscular evidence-based tack; in doing so, it shows us the dominant axis of evil driving climate change. For example, though individuals are consumers of fossil fuel for electricity, heat, air conditioning, goods and services, the author contends, “they do so in the context of social and economic systems over which they may have little control.”

Corporate wealth-seeking and corporate power over the political elite drive the economy and determine the modes of technology, production and consumption—namely fossil fuels—for electricity, heating, cooling and commercial products (cement, steel, plastics); and as fuel for transportation and road building, construction and military.

The same corporate power grifters promote mass consumption through marketing, with hidden persuaders, and encode fossil fuel dependence through promoting car-oriented development globally.

Although a handful of large rich countries and some wealthier developing nations are included in this book, the United States is the central actor and agent for more reasons than its historical megaconsumption of fossil fuels. The U.S. has functioned as the stimulant and model for social, economic and political systems driving GDP growth in other rich and newly rich countries, resulting in fossil fuel use spiraling “out of control since the mid 20th century.” Not only that, but the U.S. mode of consumption is continually being reproduced across the world.

Pirani’s temporal focus is the 1950s to the present, coinciding with the postwar “great acceleration,” in which the impact of technology and economies on nature has been swift and drastic. Among his most cogent examples of political and economic elite driving climate change is the calculated design of cities for the car, now replicated throughout the world.

Car-centered transport in the United States between WWI and WWII “became a template for the world and shaped fossil fuel consumption patterns internationally.” Industry consolidated from 88 carmakers in 1921 to 10 in 1935, with the big three Ford, GM and Chrysler, encompassing 90 percent of the market and ranking among the most powerful corporate lobbies in the world. In the U.S., they bought up and shut down trolley systems, and helped displace railways with road transport for buses, trucks and cars. This stimulated car-centered urban design and urban renewal (in the case of older cities), and was embedded in the post-50s mushrooming of car-oriented suburbs. Government invested in building fossil fuel-intensive roads and highways through cities; manufacturers designed cars for obsolescence; and industry pioneered the annual style change in cars. All were the result of “corporate strategies to stimulate consumer demand,” even during the Depression.

As for the future, 55 percent of the world’s people now inhabit cities, with a projected increase to 68 percent by 2050. Car-based urbanization drives consumption of fossil fuels, especially because cities are not designed centrally for public transportation. And, as Pirani underscores, governments, developers, and corporate interests, not the individuals who live in them, shape the design of cities and constrain individual choice.

U.S. tax policy and subsidies enabled all early fossil fuel and nuclear energy transitions, whereas government support for emerging renewables pales in comparison. This is, as Pirani’s comparative data substantiates, a global phenomenon. In the United States,opponents of renewable technologies, promoters of fossil fuels and nuclear power, and diehard critics of government subsidies to renewable technologies have branded federal energy subsidies as an unfair handout to the solar and wind sector. In their view, these subsidies are a welfare program, giving an advantage to the renewables industry that would collapse if it had to compete with coal, oil, gas and nuclear.

However, a historical study of government subsidies to all energy technologies, not included in “Burning Up,” easily trounces this myth. Federal incentives for the first 15 years of subsidy life were five times greater for oil and gas and 10 times greater for nuclear power than for emerging renewable technologies. Indirect government support for fossil fuels and nuclear includes land grants for early timber and railroads for coal and other fuels. Early government-supported research and development for these energy industries was significantly greater than for renewables and efficiency. Moreover, there is no counterpart in renewable energy subsidies to the $7.3 trillion spent by the U.S. Department of Defense from 1976 through 2007 patrolling the Persian Gulf to protect U.S. oil shipments.

Finally, as many researchers predating Pirani have attested, the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries are not held financially liable for premature deaths and morbidity from air pollution from fossil fuel combustion, or for the costs of ultimate disposal of nuclear waste. Nor do the fossil fuel industries pay their fair share for their role in the record loss of species and coral reefs, the fivefold increase in natural disasters since 1970, and property damage due to global warming emissions.

Pirani’s closing chapters reinforce his opening message. Corporate capitalism and political elites have led us, by their dominant choice of fossil fuel-based energy and technology, to the point of “burning up.” Given they are leading the human race (and many other species) to extinction, he urges us to take the road less traveled: “… [T]he decisive actor [must be] society—all of it collectively—rather than political elites.”

I am reminded here of the precocious Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old Swedish climate activist speaking at the U.N. climate conference in 2018 on behalf of the global youth climate movement. Every day the world uses some 100 million barrels of oil, yet “there are no politics to change that, no politics to keep the oil in the ground,” she said. “Since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago. There is no time to continue down this road of madness. We have come to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge.” Since her speech tens of thousands of young students across the world are following her example, strikingfrom school one day a week to pressure their governments to abide by their commitments to reduce climate change emissions.

Pirani concludes with steps to “breaking the resistance of incumbent interests” that are disappointingly general and, thus, not quickly actionable. In the spirit of his conclusion, I would point to a few recent standouts of taking action and taking back our future: the pragmatic and progressive Green New Deal; the meteoric rise of young political action groups like the Sunrise Movement in the U.S.; and the infectious youth climate action lawsuit Juliana v. U.S., filed by children and young adults against the U.S. government for failing to limit the effects of climate change on human health. May we be spared the time needed—given the rapidity of climate breakdown—to disrupt the hold of corporate wealth and power.