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Peace Center, Occupy Buffalo Members Suggest A Sunnier Future For Falls Airbase

Niagara Gazette   
July 8th, 2012



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By: Timothy Chipp

Niagara Gazette — Niagara Falls is known not only as a tourist destination, but also as one of the brightest examples of cheap, clean energy in the nation.

Using the area’s standing in the green energy movement, the Western New York Peace Center thinks more can be accomplished in the field of renewable energy generation using another of the planet’s natural occurrences: sunlight.

According to the center’s interim executive director, Charley Bowman, one of the best options going forward would be to turn the airbase into a giant solar array, which he said could increase the area’s renewable energy output by as much as 50 percent and create more than 600 new, higher paying jobs.

“One solution is solar energy,” he said. “It could generate enough energy to power all of the homes in Western New York.”

The plan would also include converting the Lewiston pump storage resevoir into an array, a project he estimates to cost approximately $3.7 billion, or “only a couple days of war.”

Standing outside the Niagara Falls International Airport Saturday, Bowman, joined by several protesters from Occupy Buffalo and other Western and Central New York peace groups, called for the end of the military presence at the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station to make the solar array reality.

The assembled group protested the possibility of the Pentagon converting the 107th Airlift Wing, which is in danger of losing its mission if budget cuts go through in October, into a drone aircraft operation and maintenance unit.

Washington, D.C.-based author Madea Benjamin, who published a book called “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control,” said drones are not a humane way to keep service men and women employed in Western New York or anywhere else.

“We’ve been given an option it sounds like,” she said. “Do you want thousands of soldiers on the ground killing and being killed, or do you want drones killing people without risking our own lives? Why can’t we say neither? This is part of the problem, not the solution.”

And after nearly 10 years of war, she said, the fighting, killing and watching the caskets of fallen Americans make their way back to this country just perpetuates more battles while creating more enemies.

Instead, she said, the military as a whole should rely more on negotiations and peacefully work to keep people in line through policing and other methods, an ideal which has a stronger track record both historically and recently.

“It’s one thing to occupy our cities … or to occupy our government,” she said. “It’s another thing altogether to occupy a foreign country. Ten years of more killing only leads to more enemies.”

The Niagara Military Affairs Council, meanwhile, is still working hard to find a new mission for the 107th Airlift Wing should the budget cuts be approved in congress.

Chairman Merrell Lane said specific missions, especially drone-related ones, haven’t been discussed. But rumors of drones coming to Niagara Falls persist because the remote, unmanned tools are the direction the military is headed.

But while the group exists to preserve the military presence at the airbase, he said the idea of turning it into a solar array isn’t necessarily outside the scope.

“The military has been looking for ways to do things economically for a while now, with solar and other forms of energy being researched,” he said. “They’ve tried solar arrays in the southwest, with massive amounts of open space and sunshine. Around here, I’m not sure it would work. I’d just be concerned we’d be losing the things we do have and changing the whole picture of things (on the base).”

Story originally appeared at: Niagara Gazette

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