Forty-one years ago I was living in Berkeley. I had started hormones and not yet full time. My radical friends were already treating me like one of the women and were protective of me.
In Berkeley we were staging something that was so audaciously cool and in a way so Earth Liberation Front except without the eco-sabotage that I sometime view it as the Battle of Lexington in the cultural revolution that brought us to Earth Day 40.
The University had condemned a block that was filled with older Craftsman style buildings that had provided off campus housing to many of the students and non-students who made Berkeley one of the most liberated cities in the world. They tore those buildings down and left an ugly barren gash of muddy field in their place. They claimed they were going to build various different structures on the land including dorms and a sports facility.
Then in late April an announcement appeared in the Berkeley Barb calling on people to come together and reclaim this land that had been appropriated by the University. In many ways we were influenced by the Levelers, a British movement of the mid 17th century that among other things wore green ribbons and forcibly reclaimed the commons for the usage of everyone and not just the wealth land owners.
Over the next two months we built “People’s Park” and fought the police, sheriffs and National Guard to keep it. We were beaten, arrested, tear gassed and fired upon. One man was murdered by the police another was blinded. It has been claimed that over 150 demonstrators received gun shot wounds, mainly bird shot fired at us by the police. All of us at one point or another were faced with the naked steel of the Guard’s bayonets.
Over the years many of us have been horrified to watch as baby seals are clubbed to death so that the rich elite can have fancy expensive boots. We have watched in horror the murder of whales,large brained mammals of beauty and grace so that some oily drunken business man can eat them as exotic sushi.
Some of us have hiked and seen the clear cutting of the old growth redwood forests. Some have engaged in eco-sabotage and others have been moved to take the small but vital steps of recycling, fuel efficient cars. Others contribute to the Sierra Club, Green Peace and the like.
As an atheist I am sometimes asked if I have any spiritual beliefs and there is one, I believe in Gaia. Not a god but a principle that says the universe and all that live in it are part of an organism, mutually dependent on the other parts of that organism. Avatar comes out today and the Gaia Principle is the way of the Na-vi.
The most important act I have taken in defense of Gaia was to transition and become sterile before reproducing. By never having children I did my part to lessen the destruction of the ecosphere.
But there are other things that can be done. We can make these small choices each and every day. Eating locally is one. Protesting the use of coal, a dirty source of energy that carries far more environmental costs than nuclear and costs many more lives than nuclear energy has. What? 29 miners in just the last month died in a coal mine in West Virginia.
So think about our planet. Go watch Avatar or Al Gore”s “An Inconvenient Truth”
Here are some sites:
For fun reads I suggest anything by Edward Abbey but especially The Monkey Wrench Gang. I also suggest anything by Stewart Brand, Dave Foreman or James Lovelock.