David Buckel commits suicide in the name of climate change activism
David Buckel, a well-known lawyer who was an ardent campaigner for gay rights and environmental issues, burned himself to death in New York City on Saturday in a fatal protest against ecological destruction.
The charred remains of 60-year-old David Buckel were found by passers-by in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. According to the NYPD, Buckel was pronounced dead at about 6:30 a.m.
The Daily News reports that Buckel left two suicide notes in an envelope within a shopping cart near his body. The first note read “I am David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide,” signing off with “I apologize to you for the mess.”
A second, longer note — left with the first inside an envelope marked “For the police” — said Buckel had doused himself in “fossil fuel” before starting the fire as a metaphor for what he perceived to be the ongoing destruction of the planet.
“My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves,” he wrote. “A lifetime of service may best be preserved by giving a life . . . Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purchase in death.
“I hope it is an honorable death that might serve others.”
He compared his dramatic suicide with those who self-immolated to protest China’s occupation of Tibet. One such seincident was featured as the album cover for Rage Against The Machine‘s eponymous debut album.
The New York Times said it received an emailed copy of the note, which also said that “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 was the lead attorney in in a lawsuit involving Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was murdered in Nebraska. Hilary Swank went on to portray Teena in the 1999 movie Boys Don’t Cry, winning an Academy Award in the process.
Buckel worked at a firm called Lambda Legal, a national organization that fights for LGBT rights, where he was the strategist behind same-sex marriage cases in New Jersey and Iowa.
Susan Sommer, a former attorney at Lambda Legal, has been quoted as saying that Buckel “was all about justice, but he was also all about what it means to be human.”
“He was a very smart and methodical lawyer. He knew his craft and his trade and was strategic in how to build the blocks toward a sweeping victory.”
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