Famous rights attorney and environmentalist, David S. Buckel, 60, doused himself with a fossil fuel and set himself on fire in suicide, early yesterday morning, in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York. Before his reported suicide, Buckel set notes to media houses explaining his actions along with observations and warnings to humanity.
The lawyer, who became famous through his championing of LBGT causes, reached a major pinnacle in his career as lead counsel in the case Brandon v. County of Richardson, in which he successfully argued that a Nebraska county sheriff was liable for failing to protect transgender Brandon Teena, who was murder in Fall City, Nebraska. Buckel engulfed himself in environmental causes in recent years.
In the suicide note the learned counsel left, he explained that he immolated himself using fossil fuel to symbolize the damage human beings were doing to the Earth. "Pollution", he said according to the New York Times which confirmed receiving his note at at 5:55 a.m., "ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather."
The note added: "My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves." He encouraged people to lead less selfish lives as a way to protect the planet.
The New York Times also reported that Buckel's note discussed the difficulty of improving the world even for those who make vigorous efforts to do so. Noting that privilege was derived from the suffering of others, Buckel observed: "...many who drive their own lives to help others often realize that they do not change what causes the need for their help" and he rationalized that donating to organizations was not enough.
Sadly, though, in the self-immolation of a learned conflicted man, lessons for humanity could be had: the urgency to reduce greenhouse gases, the necessity to protect our shared environment, the need for empathy and a call to do more for those less fortunate.
While suicide must never be condoned, I nevertheless venture to wish that David S. Buckel travels well and to thank him for his services to humanity.