Written by Ben Purden
Annual town meetings are a New England tradition dating back to colonial times. In what Henry David Thoreau called “the true Congress,” residents engage in direct democracy on matters affecting them all.
Residents in Shutesbury, Massachusetts, made their May 4th, 2019 meeting a forum about an issue of global importance: the prohibition of nuclear weapons.
Joining with the residents of six other towns in Massachusetts this spring, Shutesbury residents voted unanimously to pass the resolution “Calling for The US to Join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons”.
Shutesbury already has a progressive record on this issue. In the 1980s, the town passed a local ordinance making it a Nuclear Free Zone. At the height of the Cold War, the movement to establish Nuclear Free Zones throughout the United States and the peace movement at large, had a major impact on de-escalating tensions on the global stage. However, at a time when world governments are sounding more like adversaries than allies, and nuclear warheads around the world are being upgraded, a renewed effort to abolish nuclear weapons is vital to the survival of humanity and life as we know it.
Shutesbury’s resolution therefore calls on the federal government to take up the mantle of peace and sign the 2017 U.N. Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It also calls for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to pass legislation that would investigate what it would take to sever all ties with the nuclear weapons industry. House bill H.3239 and Senate bill S.2157 would create a Citizens Commission to explore this in depth and determine where resources could be reallocated, creating investment in and demand for green technologies.
Finally, the resolution brings the matter home, calling for the Select Board of Shutesbury to “take all necessary steps to align with the Treaty.” As defined by campaigners, “alignment” would mean that the town would prohibit any activity related to nuclear weapons on town property, reject contracts with major weapons producers, and divest town funds from said companies. Doing so would follow Article 1(e) of the Treaty, making it illegal to “assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any of the prohibited activities.”
Following up on the resolutions passage, the Select Board of Shutesbury has expressed a willingness and interest in exploring whether any Town funds are invested in the nuclear weapons industry.