David Buckel: NYC Attorney, Community Composter, Self-Immolates To Protest Climate Change

by Samuel Abasi Posted on April 15th, 2018

New York City, USA: Prominent civil rights lawyer and pioneer community composter, David Buckel, 60, died Saturday morning after setting himself on fire in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in a reported protest against pollution, police said.

Authorities were called to the park after a passerby told nearby officers there was a fire on the grass around 6:15 a.m. Saturday, police said.

Buckel lived nearby the park, cops said. Police sources said his family received a text message from him before he died.

Buckel emailed copies of a suicide note to several news organizations.

The New York Police Department, NYPD, said a suicide note was found nearby. Buckel reportedly took his life to protest climate change by use of fossil fuels.

In the suicide note left near his body, Buckel reportedly said he had used “fossil fuel” to ignite the fire and wanted his death to symbolize what humans are doing to Earth.

“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” Buckel wrote in his note, according to the Times’ copy of the note. “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.”

Buckel worked with several environmental groups, including doing volunteer work with the Added Value Red Hook Community Farm and acting as the senior organics recovery coordinator for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s NYC Compost Project.

But his more prominent achievements came in his work as a civil rights lawyer.

Buckel was a senior counsel and director of the Marriage Project for Lambda Legal, an LGBTQ advocacy group. He argued in many landmark cases involving LGBTQ youth, including a lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America and its former ban on gay members.

He was the lead attorney in the case of a transgender man, Brandon Teena, whose murder inspired the Hillary Swank film “Boys Don’t Cry.”

He was also recognized for bringing the case Lewis v. Harris as part of the Lambda Legal Marriage Project, which resulted in a New Jersey Supreme Court victory that advanced the rights of same-s** couples.

“The news of David’s death is heartbreaking. This is a tremendous loss for our Lambda Legal family, but also for the entire movement for social justice,” Lambda spokesperson Camilla Taylor said.

Buckel was also a committed community composter. The New York Department of Sanitation issued a statement saying it was

mourning Buckel.

“David operated an organics processing site, wrote articles and was steadfast in his commitment to local processing. His loss will be felt deeply by all he touched,” The New York Department of Sanitation said.


Brenda Platt, Institute For Community Self-Reliance, ILSR, Co-Director joined The New York Department of Sanitation in paying tribute, explaining that Buckel was also a nationally renowned pioneer in community composting who was pivotal in developing various community compost sites in New York, with an expertise in regulatory compliance, urban farms, and configuration of operations to optimize community support/participation and environmental sustainability. He became the compost site coordinator for the NYC Compost Project hosted by the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Located at the Red Hook Community Farm in Brooklyn, the compost site is the largest in the United States that processes entirely with renewable resources (solar, wind, human power).

David was a master composter and a master at coordinating volunteers. He managed up to 2,000 volunteers a year who helped process more than 150 tons of compostable material by hand. With a focus on low-income communities, he developed the Red Hook site into one of the best run and most successful urban composting sites in the US and all without fossil fuel machines, something of which he was particularly proud. He created a model for under-resourced neighborhoods to keep their organics for their own benefit, greening where they live with more healthy food, beauty, and environmental stewardship, according to Brenda Platt.

David used the Red Hook compost site to offer skills training and programming for teens and young adults from public housing. He used traditional farming practices like composting and food production as a platform to empower community youth and connect them to broader, universal environmental justice issues like climate change, Brenda Platt said.

“….I will be forever grateful to David Buckel for sharing his knowledge about successful small-scale community composting. You protected the planet in life. May we honor your life by continuing to protect Mother Earth and her thin layer of soil that sustains us all. Peace my friend, Brenda Platt, ILSR Co-Director.”

David Buckel self-immolated as March For Science protests got underway worldwide and U.S. cities were getting ready to join – depending on their respective time zones.

EARLIER: March For Science Is Underway Worldwide – Supporters of science are marching on the streets of major cities around the world, Saturday, to send public officials a message that evidence-based policy decisions are important — and science cannot be ignored.

“We are a non-partisan movement, and we believe that science serves everybody and every candidate,” said Kristen Gunther, director for strategy of the March for Science. “We want candidates to see that this is something that is important to voters.”

The main U.S. rally is taking place in Washington, D.C., but marches are also being held in cities such as Houston, Philadelphia and Seattle, and as far as Kenya, Russia, Nigeria, Australia, Germany, Britain and India – literally most major cities in the world.

Saturday’s rally comes almost one year after the first March for Science. Last year, with inspiration from the Women’s March, more than 500 marches around the world were organized to protest what many see as a lack of concern for science, specifically by the Trump administration.

The 2017 march took place one month after President Trump, who has called global warming a hoax, signed an executive order aimed at rolling back Obama-era climate change and environmental policies. Trump said his priority in signing the order was America’s energy independence and job creation.

This year, March for Science coordinators created a survey for participants to discuss their top science policy concerns, which organizers plan to share with government officials.

Organizers of the 225 satellite marches are catering their rallies to match the needs and personality of each community, such as a science parade, a Pokémon Go-style nature challenge and a film festival. Gunther said each march will also emphasize voter registration and direct advocacy.

Lynn Scarlett, co-chief external affairs officer at the Nature Conservancy, said she hopes this march will help people focus on how the world works and the role of science and “not get distracted by, what are in many respects, side political debates.”

Scarlett wants more public-sector funding to study the effect of natural processes on everyday life, such as: how wetlands purify water; how tree canopies can help respiratory health; and how oyster reefs can protect coastal communities during high-intensity storms.

Scientists have typically let their research speak for itself, said John Fleming, a staff scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “People are twisting data for their own purpose, and now scientists have a voice to use to really bring about science-based decision-making,” said Fleming, who will be speaking at the march in Los Angeles.

In addition to Saturday’s marches, organizers are also sponsoring a March for Science Summit this summer to foster a community dedicated to continuing science advocacy work.

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