The past few months have not been easy for those of us fighting to maintain progress in environmental management and justice. It’s smart, sometimes, to remember what does go right, as well as the heroes and heroines that ensure that we continue to make gains over time.
A few weeks ago, Buck Parker, the Executive Director of Earthjustice (http://www.earthjustice.org) suggested that I try to find a copy of a newly released documentary called “The God Squad” about the Washington committee created in 1978 that was empowered to exempt selected species from protection. The film includes some aerial footage taken from a LightHawk (http://www.lighthawk.org) airplane. He knew I’d be interested because I’ve served on the Board of LightHawk for over ten years. In my Internet search for any trace of the film or its story, I came upon the web site (http://www.hazelfilm.org/mission.htm). I learned that the film will be shown in Seattle in the next few weeks, but my interest in the film slipped as I learned that Hazel Wolf had passed away last year. Hazel Wolf was an amazing environmental and human rights advocate whose influence had spanned generations and many continents. The obituaries on the web talk about how she had a goal of living in three centuries. Born in 1898 in British Columbia and dying in Seattle on January 21, 2000, she succeeded in her goal by just 21 days.
I met Hazel a few of years ago and corresponded with her for a while. Around that time, I turned 50. I did not turn 50 gracefully, but lingered in the denial stage of mourning in a kind of prolonged pout. For some reason, I shared this with Hazel. Her reply? “Forty seven years ago when I was fifty, I was just beginning to make public speeches.”
When I met her, she was padding around a cocktail reception in pink fuzzy slippers. Hazel’s eyes twinkled. She was one of those people who got right to the point whether or not you wanted her to. I don’t remember what we talked about when I met her that night, but undoubtedly it was about activism of some sort. Hazel was a single mother in 1923 when she came to the United States. She had worked on labor issues in the depression. The government tried to deport her as a member of the Communist Party in 1947. One of her obituaries claims that diminutive Hazel was once arrested for “trying to overthrow the government by force of violence”.
I admired her unfailing sense of the meaningful as opposed to the trivial. She lived modestly on social security, and snagged everyone she met to contribute to the Seattle Audubon Society, which she co-founded. Apparently, the night she died she lectured her doctor on the problems of the World Trade Organization and urged him to join. Later she “slipped away in her sleep”, her hands clasped restfully behind her head. The following night, there was a total eclipse of the moon.
Just after learning that Hazel died, I passed a billboard in San Francisco. It said something like “Go ahead, use the best china.” “Live Rich.” “Citi.” The billboard by Citigroup is not so subtly encouraging us to take on usurious debt to find richness in life. Somehow, that sign made me think of Hazel. I know what she might have said if I’d asked her what she thought of it and the mentality it represents: “I’d rather kayak”.
You can actually listen to Hazel talk and catch a picture of her in a kayak on her web site. I highly recommend it! http://members.tripod.com/~HazelWolf/.