A heartfelt message from author and environmentalist Terry Tempest Williams regarding the state of our public lands in the American West. These sacred lands are essentially under siege by the oil and gas industry with the support of our government (and many citizens of our country). I had no prior knowledge of the current environmental and human devastation including the high rates of cancer caused by the effects of coal extraction in Wyoming. It’s heartbreaking but important to see. To learn, to bear witness, to act. Perhaps we can find a way to simplify our wants and desires? To put less strain on our natural resources? What is happening in the United States is but a microcosm of what is happening worldwide on our beloved planet. I’m told a coal-fired plant goes online every day in China. It grieves me and I feel helpless yet again to stop this massive ecological assault but I can’t turn away either. We, as a global community, cannot afford to turn away either. In his Nobel Peace Prize winning memoir of the Holocaust, Night, Elie Wiesel writes: “Convinced that this period in history would be judged one day, I knew that I must bear witness.” This resonates deeply for me not only around the ecological crisis but twenty years ago I felt called to bear witness and speak out during the early years of the AIDS pandemic. After my brother died from AIDS in 1989, I became an activist offering education and outreach to heterosexual communities, but was ultimately met with denial. Fortunately, there are now drugs to extend life but so many people worldwide continue to be devastated by this disease. Unfortunately, there are no magic pills to cure the ecological crisis. This will require a radical shift in consciousness and in our way of living. But as the economic crisis has been teaching us, sometimes simpler can be better. More time for family, friends, community, creativity, simple pleasures. How will we be judged by future generations? What will be remembered about this time in history will be determined by how we respond right here, right now. Denial is not an option.
“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time. They are kneeling with hands clasped that we might act with restrain, that we might leave room for the life that is destined to come. To protect what is wild is to protect what is gentle. Perhaps the uncertainty we fear is the pause between our own heartbeats, the silent space that says we live only by grace. Wild mercy is in our hands.” -Terry Tempest Williams, Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert