Saturday, September 1, 2012

One More Excerpt from Joan Dunning's "From the Redwood Forest"

Here's one more excerpt from Joan Dunning's book "From the Redwood Forest" that really resonated with me. Even though the battle for the redwoods may be mostly over for now, Joan's observations remain as relevant as ever. The book was written about the battle for Headwaters in the mid to late 1990's. Joan's response was written after several forest activists had marched into Pacific Lumber Company's Headquarters office after years of clear cutting, sat down on the floor, locked arms into a metal device, and refused to leave. They demanded that all 60,000 acres of Headwaters be preserved. Humboldt County law enforcement officers swabbed concentrated pepper spray directly into the eyes of the demonstrators in response after several warnings,and videotaped it for training purposes. The demonstrators eventually released from the metal device and were arrested. 

     "Is civil disobedience effective? Sometimes. Is it in this instance? I don't know. I am not the kind of person who enters a congressman's office with a tree stump, locks down, and refuses to leave. Yet all the other means of communication-mediation, lawsuits, religious forums, direct one-on-one communication, candlelight vigils, massive rallies-have not stopped the cutting that continues, day after day after day. For twelve years, since the takeover, the citizens of the United States-not "environmentalists," but we, the citizens, people who breathe air and drink water and eat food and are therefore dependent on "the environment"-have tried to effect change within the system. What is an "environmentalist" but simply a citizen who has shed denial, who has opened his or her eyes and said, "It does matter. Nature does not have an infinite capacity to heal herself, himself, itself....I am responsible...." It is only the media, working as a tool of greed, that uses the label "environmentalist" to somehow discredit a person who is simply a citizen.
     My daughter is thirteen. Spring (One of the forest activists), the youngest of the demonstrators (pepper sprayed), was only sixteen at the time of the demonstration. How the cutting of the forests looks to a judge who is fifty or sixty, and has raised his children, or how it looks to an officer who is thirty and has benefits and a retirement fund established through the police force, may be different from how it looks to a young girl with most of her life still ahead of her....It is different from how it looks to a salamander....
     As I sit looking up at the trees, I realize that fog has suddenly erased the stars. So many mornings I wake up with a heaviness in my heart that sneaks in just like this fog. In the morning I attempt to chase it away, just as sunshine disperses the fog from the groves. But the next morning it is back. I have read all the little books that teach the tactics: I reason with myself, "You have so much to be thankful for." I count my blessings. I play through worst case scenarios. But then, when the heaviness appears yet another morning, I finally have to ask my heart, like a child, "What? Why are you sad? This is real, isn't it?" And my heart answers, "Yes." My heart tells me that it would be wrong to simply count my own personal blessings and ignore the political climate around me. This is not a time to cultivate the skills of positive thinking. In this case, those skills would lead to the cultivation of denial. I would be ignoring one of our greatest challenges as adults: determining when to persist in soothing our hearts, and when we are obligated to open our eyes wider and act. One corporation entered this community MAXXAM), took over the reigns, hired more workers than the forest can support, began liquidation, and turned us against ourselves. My heart is sick for the young people who sat in a circle, locked down, heads bowed, and it is sick for the officers who have become so inexcusably brutal.

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