The results of the 2016 Presidential election surprised a lot of us. As conservationists, as lovers of the Wild, as passionate defenders of Mother Earth, many already felt that our government was not being authentically responsive to the gravity of our situation – the rising seas, the dying seas, the disappearing species, the endless stream of loss. And now we are facing an administration that has thrown what slender legal protections our natural world currently has in question; for example, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Power Act. Even if many of these protections were not enough, stripping them is certainly no improvement.
Even more disturbing is the apparent rise in cruel and hateful acts since the election. Each of us likely knows someone who has been accosted or assaulted, or who has seen strange and ersatz displays of triumphant power – from ignorantly scrawled racist graffiti to images associated with genocide and other crimes against humanity – nazi swastikas and confederate flags – on proud display. Even US flags, overlarge and billowing from the backs of pickup trucks, seem to announce a new reign of bullies in ascendancy.
In the days and weeks before the election, it became undeniably apparent that for many Americans, sexual assault, bragging of sexual assault, and blatant misogyny – the hatred of women – were not disqualifications to hold the highest office. For centuries now the connection between destruction of the land and the violation of women has been conclusively established. For those actively engaged in the protection of Mother Earth, dismantling misogyny has been integral to our work and imperative for our success.
Coupled, the stripping of legal protection for the wild and the unrestrained rise of the bully will have a negative impact on wildlife and wildlife care.
And yet even the cure may have serious repercussions for wildlife and wildlife care. While the work of large organizations to protect and strengthen federal laws that protect the wild is important; there is a real possibility that the efforts to protect what we love at the national level will absorb limited resources, sucking the oxygen out of the room, stranding small organizations who operate on the slimmest of budgets – the truly grassroots – which is where the wild lives and has her babies.
In our work, trauma, recovery, death and healing live side by side. Everyday, a gull might fly from her caregivers, free again, while another is admitted with a wing severed, hanging at the shoulder, wet, red bone under an exam light, fear in the gull’s eyes, a return to his ancestors the only hope.
People who work for the environment, for Mother Earth, have struggled a long time with the knowledge of how our society is destroying the world, destroying what all that we love depends on… Many of us were heartbroken long before this election – by the senseless destruction, the avarice, the cold calculations that value the fool’s gold beneath the forest more than the forest.
We’ve watched in horror while the losses have mounted – Mother Nature has been on the run since long before the 1970s. It’s seemed that nothing we’ve done has changed the world – a victory here, a victory there, while the machine only gets bigger, more costly, more destructive. And politics can seem a useless tool against this machine. Each president in his turn has sacrificed our collective future to some open grinder, a mountain range torn apart here, an ice sheet collapsing there…
We all know it and feel it – in our bones that are made of earth, by Mother Earth.
We must ensure that wildlife rehabilitators around the country are not stymied by the flow of support to large national organizations, even as we support their work. We will still need, especially in a world where callousness, where brutality, where thuggery, and hatred for mother earth are elevated, we will still need compassion for the injured, for the orphaned, and for the marginalized… and no one is more marginalized than wild animals… just drive down any road in your town and see the raccoon dead on the shoulder lying there bloating with not a resource turned her way.
Many people in our line of work shared emphatically their sense that this was our last shot at correcting the horrifying course that we’ve been on for decades, even as we likely all knew that we couldn’t stop this machine by replacing its operator.
Now, even inside the nausea and the fear that many of us feel, there is a way forward. There is a revolution underway – a revolution led by grandmothers, as it should be. This revolution is not for supremacy or for power. This revolution is for Mother Earth, for the wild, for the water, for the air, for the forests, for the deserts, even for us, humans of every color, of every gender, of every language.
There’s never really been a way for the USA to lead this revolution – the USA is largely responsiblefor the revolution’s necessity, through its policies that place corporate greed over the needs of the environment (i.e., wolf-eradication, fracking, mountain top removal coal mining). That USA is one of the revolution’s targets. The people of the USA have an obligation to take the necessary steps to protect the lives their government threatens.
As Dr Martin Luther King Jr said nearly 50 years ago – this country is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” This election was the voice of that America’s violence. It’s not our voice. Now we’ve got to stand with those who protect the water, protect the air, protect the wild, protect the people.
We can honor life. We can tune the life within us to the life outside us. We can join the grandmothers, the water protectors – we can #StandwithStandingRock
We can support those who provide the care that the victims of the onslaught of violence need. Wildlife rehabilitators everywhere are a first line defense against barbaric cruelty, against totalitarian indifference to life, against the crude callous disregard for the rich and central inner life of each of us.
Mother Earth does not forget the individual. Mother Earth works at the individual level. It is individuals who are born, who live, who dream, who study the rain-cleaned air, who gaze from the high rock over the plain, who hunger and thirst, who dance and who mate, who build and create, who suffer and die. It is only individuals who can actually stand. And we stand with Mother Earth.
She really is our only hope.
Please, in these perilous times, wherever you live, remember your local wildlife care providers. We all need you.