Written by Ben Purden
Once every twelve months, usually in springtime, residents of towns in Massachusetts meet to discuss and vote on issues of town importance. This year in seven towns across western Massachusetts, residents considered something of global, existential importance: the abolition of nuclear weapons.
The residents of Chesterfield voted on May 13, 2019, to pass a resolution aligning the town with the 2017 U.N. Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Whereas the federal government is tearing up international agreements, including the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris Accord, common citizens are showing solidarity with the nations of the world that are struggling for peace and a sustainable future.
Article 26, “calling for the US to Join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons” was brought to the town meeting after an effort by local activists and campaigners. It required a petition to be heard, and once it was, it passed. Like the resolutions of the six other towns, including Leverett, Shutesbury, and Conway, the first thing it resolved to is to “call on the Select Board to take all necessary steps to align the Town of Chesterfield” with the Treaty.
This statement shows the true spirit of people who cannot rely on their federal leaders to act on their behalf. They begin by doing what they legally can to follow the letter of Article 1(e) of the Treaty, which makes it illegal to “assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any of the prohibited activities.” This means that where the Select Board has the authority to act, the residents of Chesterfield want it to prohibit any and all activity related to nuclear weapons on town land, reject all contracts with nuclear weapons producers, and divest town funds from these same companies.
Taking a step outside of town limits, the resolution calls on state representatives in the House and Senate of the Commonwealth to pass pending legislation that would align Massachusetts with the Treaty as well. Sponsored by state representative Lindsey Sabadosa and state senator Jo Comerford, House bill H.3239 and Senate bill S.2157 would create a Citizen’s Commission to explore the ramifications of severing all ties between the Commonwealth and the nuclear weapons industry.
Finally, the resolution calls on federal leaders to bring the United States government to the table and sign the Treaty. As of this writing, 33 nations have ratified the Treaty. Every dollar of personal or municipal wealth divested, every contract rejected, every bill passed, sends a clear message to the nuclear weapons industry and to militaries worldwide: the work of the future is that of peace and sustainability, not war and profiteering.