“My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”
A prominent LGBT rights attorney, David Buckel, committed suicide by setting himself on fire in New York’s Prospect Park. Buckel, who was involved in the Brandon Teena murder case made famous by the film Boys Don’t Cry, left suicide notes and mailed copies to various media outlets.
Buckel wrote that his final act of “early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves” and expressed his hope that his suicide will serve others in some way.
A nationally known advocate for gay rights and the environment died Saturday in a fiery Prospect Park suicide, with his self-immolation meant as a wake-up call to save the planet.
The charred remains of David Buckel, 60, were discovered shortly after sunrise when firefighters responded to a 6:40 a.m. blaze in the southwest corner of the sprawling Brooklyn park.
“I am David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide,” read a hand-written suicide note left near the blackened circle of burned grass. “I apologize to you for the mess.”
A second, longer note — left with the first inside an envelope marked “For the police” — said Buckel doused himself in “fossil fuel” before starting the fatal fire as a metaphor for the 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.”
. . . . “This is not new, as many have chosen to give a life based on the view that no other action can most meaningfully address the harm they see,” he wrote.
“Here is a hope that giving a life might bring some attention to the need for expanded actions, and help others give a voice to our home, and Earth is heard.”
EXCLUSIVE: David Buckel’s suicide notes were left inside an envelope labeled “for the police” placed inside a garbage bag left inside a shopping cart near the body. https://t.co/n5EFz4BjNp
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) April 14, 2018
The New York Times received a copy of Buckel’s suicide note and has more.
Friends said that after he left the organization, Mr. Buckel became involved in environmental causes, which he alluded to in his note as the reason he decided to end his life by self-immolation with fossil fuels.
“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather,” he wrote in the email sent to The Times. “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.”
In his note, which was received by The Times at 5:55 a.m., Mr. Buckel discussed the difficulty of improving the world even for those who make vigorous efforts to do so.
Privilege, he said, was derived from the suffering of others.
“Many who drive their own lives to help others often realize that they do not change what causes the need for their help,” Mr. Buckel wrote, adding that donating to organizations was not enough.
Noting that he was privileged with “good health to the final moment,” Mr. Buckel said he wanted his death to lead to increased action. “Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purpose in death,” he wrote.
According to the New York Daily News, Buckel was found by early morning joggers and bicyclists.
Early morning joggers and bicyclists spied the burning body as smoke wafted through the air on the year’s first warm spring morning.
“I rode by (the body) several times,” witness Rochelle Krause posted on Twitter. “The first time I tried to convince myself it was a mannequin. But then the fire department showed up.”
Bicyclist Rahmin Pavlovic, 43, of Brooklyn, said Buckel’s choice of location was no coincidence.
“It’s definitely some kind of statement,” said Pavlovic. “He did it out in the open, right near the main entrance — not in some tucked away part of the park.”
Buckel, a prominent LGBT attorney working with Lambda Legal, has long been a proponent of same-sex marriage. In 2008, he was involved in getting UPS to grant same-sex benefits to employees in New Jersey, as they had in Massachusetts.
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