"Future Hope" Column
By Ted Glick
“I’ve no doubt he wanted his actions viewed optimistically. He wanted this to be viewed as a positive act of love for the planet. I have no doubt in his mind he believed what he was doing was a way to effect positive change.”
- Marisa DeDominicis, executive director of Earth Matter NY, on the self immolation death of David Buckel, quoted from The Guardian
On April 14th David Buckel, who I’ve never met or even heard of, took his life as a protest against climate disruption and environmental degradation caused by fossil fuels. In an email to the NY Times right before he set himself on fire, he said: “Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result – my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”
According to news sources, he was passionate about the environment. In his last years he worked effectively to develop a composting project at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Prior to that he had a long history of fighting for causes he believed in. He was a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society and Lambda Legal, and he helped to win important legal victories for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
As far as I know, this is the first death of a U.S. American by self immolation since the deaths of five people during the 1960’s in protest of the Vietnam war—Alice Herz, Norman Morrison, Roger Allen LaPorte, Florence Beaumont and Ronald Brazee.
I hope there are no more self immolation deaths. It is not a tactic I would ever suggest to anyone or encourage them to consider.
However, I fully understand why, in the world we are living in today, someone who gets it on what is happening to our severely wounded planet, its people and all of its life forms, and who wants to do something about it, would consider it.
I’ve never considered self-immolation, but more than once I’ve taken action that involved the risk of serious injury or even death. For example, in 1972, I took part in what became a 40-day, water-only hunger strike to try to stop the Vietnam War.
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