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Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
September 28, 1998


I found myself in tears the other morning, tears that came at the death of a young man I never had the honor of meeting. This man was not a stranger because I was related to him in spirit. Like myself, he shared a commitment to protect the other beings that share this planet from the monster known as Man. So there I was retrieving my E-mail when I got word that David "Gypsy" Chain had been murdered while trying to protect an old-growth forest from the greed of Pacific Lumber. The environmental community had lost a brother. And all I could do was sit in front of my monitor and cry.

On the morning of September 17th during an altercation between Earth First! forest defenders and loggers, a shouting match took place during which one of the Pacific Lumber employees threatened to start dropping trees on the activists. Ten minutes later David Chain, a charismatic 24 year-old from Austin Texas was crushed by a tree that had been felled by the same logger who had made the threats. It doesn't surprise me that a individual who can so casually destroy a forest that predates Christ, had no problem dropping a tree on a young man in the prime of life.

"Why" you ask "are you telling me this? What does this have to do with me?" Well folks, the truth be told, we are all accomplices. Today at school, while getting lunch I noticed a container of disposable chopsticks. I have seen them everyday I have been at CSUSM yet now they were different. Where before I might have considered them a convenience, today I could only experience them as an accusation. A reminder of the part those of us in San Diego played in Mr. Chains death. Throw-away eating utensils come from throw away trees. And it seems that those who are trying to protect the trees are just as expendable.

I invite everyone who shops at Home Depot to consider that the stack of Redwood you are about to purchase was meant for something other than a deck to surround your Jacuzzi. Perhaps it provided a home for an endangered bird such as the Spotted Owl or the Marbled Murrlet. Perhaps it is part of an ecosystem that depends on those trees to help keep steep hillsides intact so that soil erosion doesn't silt up creeks thereby making it impossible for Coho Salmon to survive. Granted your new patio is stunning, but is it worth the price on an entire ecosystem?

Not to let the death of some environmentalist get in the way of profit, the loggers continued to cut trees that same afternoon. A spokesperson for Pacific Lumber said they would not be logging in the area, presumably to cooperate with the coroner. But on the next morning loggers and their trucks returned to the scene of the crime only to be stopped by Earth First! activists who refused them entry. The Gypsy Free State had been established at Grizzly Creek.

Dian Fossey died trying to protect Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda, Chico Mendes, the Rainforests of Brazil, and Joy Admanson wildlife of Kenya. Here in North County activists haven't been lost...not yet. We are still trying to preserve open space and native species through the proper channels. The Rural Heritage and Watershed Initiative is one example. What happens when local activists start putting themselves in harms way? Is the destruction of Box Canyon worth killing for. We'll see.

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