Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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In your March issue, you published a letter by Rachel Wakefield, who pointed out that David Brendan Hopes’s “thin sword of moon” could not have been rising at sunset because only full or nearly full moons rise at sunset. Hopes replied, “I confess not to be able to tell a setting moon from a rising one sometimes.”
But Hopes could not have witnessed a setting sliver of moon in the east either, since the moon (like the sun) sets in the west. It is, however, common to see a thin sword of moon setting in the western sky around sunset — a lovely sight that I got to witness this very evening.
Reading Jamy Bond’s essay “What Feels Like Destiny” [February 2006] was like reading my own diary. My aunt Marilyn, only nine months older than I, was killed in a car accident just after her twenty-ninth birthday. In the days following Marilyn’s death, my family and I pored over the few concrete details we had, piecing together the tragedy: she had been slowing down for road construction, and a pickup struck her from behind, causing her car to spin around and hit two other cars. She slipped into a coma almost instantly, and was taken to a hospital where she died soon after.
As children, Marilyn and I were like sisters. She was cuter and more charming than I was, with a timeless little-girl beauty and perfect brown ringlets. I was the brat who once refused to participate in a family photo until I could wear one of her red patent-leather Mary Janes on one foot and my own brown suede loafer on the other. In high school she was first trumpet in band, played basketball, and always made the honor roll; I got mostly Bs, was third-chair clarinet, and stayed away from extracurricular activities. As a teenager she became very involved in her church youth group; I discovered I was agnostic. She got a PhD in psychology so she could help others; I got a BA in English, which led to a string of unfulfilling secretarial positions.
Despite our numerous differences, we remained close and respected each other’s viewpoints. Marilyn had a grace and wisdom that transcended her physical age. I can’t count the number of times I went to her for advice, which she always gave generously.
It is difficult to recover from the early death of a loved one, even more so when the person had such promise and passion to change the world. I felt as though Marilyn, like Bond’s sister Shelby, could have changed the lives of thousands had she been given more time.
I don’t know if The Sun is considered appropriate reading material for boys aged nine to fourteen, but I can tell you that my sons read it constantly, and are the better for it. After school today I pull out the January 2006 issue and read Lee Rossi’s poem “Early Space Travel” to my nine-year-old over brownies. Then we read Sunbeams, his favorite. He likes the Ann Landers quote best: “Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.” My eighth-grader adores Readers Write and anything by Sparrow, so “Why I Am Not President” is a real treat for him.
My fourteen-year-old, a cello player, Boy Scout, wrestler, aspiring writer, and churchgoer, steals The Sun when it comes, and I have to steal it back from his incredibly messy room. He always turns to Sy Safransky’s Notebook first, so he is disappointed that it’s not there. He pictures Sy as a young man, maybe twenty-one, wise and patient. This month he reads Cheryl Strayed’s “The Boy with Blue Hair” to me, deleting the F-word for his mom. He is sad that anyone would consider using heroin.
I don’t know what your magazines go through in other homes. At our house, they are lugged on vacations and camping trips, and even have to spend long periods of time in the bathroom, being read by a boy at his leisure.
As someone who’s known Dave Foreman since the early days of Earth First!, I was disappointed with Jeremy Lloyd’s interview [“Redneck for Wilderness,” December 2005], which overlooks the complexity of both the man and the issues, and consequently puts a stamp of approval on his revisionist Earth First! history.
Foreman is a brilliant man and a talented performance artist who has stepped over the line from artistic license to fraudulent misrepresentation. Like so many charismatic visionaries, he attracts worshipful admirers while failing to embody the truths and values he espouses. His prideful authoritarian bent and blatant hypocrisy undermined the radical conservation movement more than the FBI provocateurs did, and certainly more than the anarchistic animal-rights and antiglobalization activists he disparages.
I would have been fine with this interview if only it had given a more complete picture. Earth First! was, from the very beginning, made up mostly of counter-culture types, not “rednecks,” and the “hippies” were more willing than the conservatives to get arrested for their beliefs. It was founded not just by Republican Foreman but also by ex-Yippie wild man Mike Roselle, honestly conservative conservationist Howie Wolke, and soft-mannered Ron Kezar. The “monkeywrenching” (sabotage of property) that Foreman advocated was mostly carried out by the anarchists he derided, and, heroic or not, it proved ineffectual in the face of unfavorable public opinion and a government increasingly adept at control. Foreman alienated the movement he helped start by calling all the shots in an autocratic manner. When the FBI arrested him, he distanced himself from his radical stance, as well as his codefendants, who had believed in him and followed the advice in his sabotage how-to book Ecodefense. They weren’t let off, like him, but ended up serving the prison time.
The megalinked corridors and expanded wilderness areas Foreman speaks of could indeed benefit animals, but would hurt the rural people he claims to care about. One has only to go into any cafe or store in the Gila bioregion and read the petitions against such proposals to measure the terror and anger they have inspired. If we are to advocate creating places free of traffic and development, there’s no advantage in downplaying the real human costs.
Foreman played the “Republican conservationist” when the conservatives were in power, pretended to be a tribalist communitarian when Earth First! was in its heyday, then returned to being a make-believe redneck when the country’s politics shifted to the right again. The only thing he has been true to is the concept of wilderness — which he promotes at the expense of the rural people and communities he says he supports.
Dave Foreman envisions “a future when wolves will once again be able to roam unmolested from Mexico to Alaska.” But if wolves are able to roam unmolested, they are able to molest humans. The name “Earth First!” reveals just what is wrong with that organization: when the earth comes first, humans come second, if at all.
In Jeremy Lloyd’s interview, Dave Foreman is both inspiring and infuriating, as usual.
He argues that we have to face some tough truths, but neglects to point out that the sheer amount of stuff Americans have is completely incompatible with the survival of millions of species, including our own. Though it is heartwarming to read about saving black-footed ferrets, the reason those animals and so many others are endangered is that Americans consume too much.
Foreman complains that we don’t talk about overpopulation anymore; it’s “too controversial.” But do we have a right to dissuade other human beings from having children while each of us occupies the space of six? Global responsibility starts with personal responsibility. Calling for wildlife corridors under freeways skirts the fundamental issues while pandering to our desire to have it both ways: to be generous in spirit and irresponsible in lifestyle.
Foreman says he needs his SUV because “how else am I going to haul my gear to the river or back to trail heads?” Real men walk or ride bicycles or horses to find wilderness. Real men fish with an eight-ounce spool of line, a stick, and a grasshopper. They don’t need a two-ton vehicle to haul around a bunch of gear. Real men more closely resemble my seventy-year-old neighbor, who walks a mile to the store to buy groceries because “it’s just a little thing I can do for the world.”
If Foreman weren’t so compelling, if he didn’t care so much about the planet, I wouldn’t be so disappointed in the interview. He’s got to know, in his heart, that our own greed is the real problem. He should leave the freeway tunnels to the government biologists. You’re a mouth of a great social movement, Mr. Foreman. We need you to speak the hard truths.
As a quiche-eating, latte-sipping, overeducated Sierra Club member living in urban Venice, California, I enjoyed your interview with Dave Foreman. He’s done a lot to raise awareness of our threatened wilderness, and if he has to raise some liberals’ hackles along the way, so be it. But he might keep in mind that there are urban environmentalists who love Edward Abbey, have farming roots, and are not quite sure why he feels a need to engender the antagonism he does. Good grief, if he’s in my neighborhood, I’ll buy the man a beer.