Healing of the Earth is focus of Oct. 6 vigil
A Vigil for the Healing of the Earth held on Oct. 6 called attention to the Superfund Site that runs from Bunker Hill in the Silver Valley through the East Mission Flats Repository below Cataldo Mission in the Coeur d’Alene River Basin and through the Spokane River into and through Spokane, as well as to the Midnite Mine cleanup on the Spokane Tribal Land.
“This is sacred ground. We are here to recognize the preciousness of the earth, air, water and fire,” said Gen Heywood, convener of Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience, which organized the vigil.
Gen said a vigil is a call to keep awake, keep watch and keep vigilant.
“We need to be alert both to grief and to possibilities,” she said to the group of 30 who gathered for the vigil.
At the opening, two who read an FLLC statement spoke of the need to “humble ourselves to the truths of ecological and cultural devastation, and to pause in grief, lift our hearts and open our hands to hope.”
The FLLC statement continued: “A vigil is an experience of keeping awake during the time usually spent asleep. It includes a sense of keeping watch against danger. For far too long, many of us and our world have been asleep during the devastation of our Earth. We gather to witness to each other that we will keep vigilant. We will find ways that each of us can participant in the moral call for healing of the Earth.”
At the closing, participants visited tables with resources telling about different opportunities to engage in action to help heal the earth.
Lead poisoning led to fighting environmental injustice
At their October vigil, the Faith Leaders and Leaders of Conscience (FLLC) recognized Cass Davis, who is vice chair of KRPF Radio Free Moscow in Idaho, for speaking out about lead poisoning of people like him, who grew up in the Silver Valley.
Cass, whose family made a living from extractive industries—mining and logging, remembers the South Branch of the Coeur d’Alene River running milk-white.
“Even though I had a below average IQ, I knew that was wrong,” said Cass, who repeated first grade. “I went to summer school. It was called ‘retarded school.’ There, they had me go through hoops, walk on a balance beam and do other tests. I could do those skills and reason. They concluded I wasn’t retarded but I was lazy, so they put me in second grade.”
His parents diligently went through workbooks with him. They tried to ground him and not allow him to leave his room until his homework was done. They even tried spanking.
“My parents knew all I wanted to play with frogs at Pine Creek,” he said. “Punishing me wasn’t working, so they eventually let me do that and I was a happy child,” he said.
In junior high, he was in special education. He did not pass tests, but the school kept passing him.
“I did not seem retarded. What was wrong? I did not get homework done. Everyone was disappointed. I did not like school. I did not like learning,” Cass said.
Because lead poisoning was not acknowledged as a problem, the teachers were not trained to deal with the disorders and learning disabilities of students who had high lead levels in their blood, he said.
His fifth grade teacher told his mother he would be institutionalized by the time he was 18. That’s when his parents decided to let him play at the creek, rather than forcing him to do school work. They focused on building his self-esteem and let him have fun.
“I was born in a sacrifice zone. Most teachers did not know that students had lead poisoning,” he said. “That’s because it was a company town that controlled the media and covered up what lead did to children.
“My father told me if I want to understand how the world works, to follow the money trail to see who is making profits,” said Cass.
He became involved with a direct action environmental movement that allowed him to travel across the country. He met other environmentalists who were trying to save indicator species, whose loss would mean the ecological web would be broken.
“As a white male, allegedly a person of privilege, I call for camaraderie among all victims—the repressed gender, native Americans whose lands were taken, black people who were enslaved, and people whose lives are limited by poisoning from environmental devastation,” he said.
“I did not succeed at college. I couldn’t pass tests, so I was a laborer, limited by my disability from lead poisoning. I wanted to go to college to become an environmental attorney so I could work for social and environmental justice and sue polluting companies into extinction,” he said.
Cass knows, however, that bugs, trout, birds, mammals and people all are threatened: “We need to respect other species in the big picture,” he said.
“I’m entitled to speak as a victim of the extraction and consumption economy that threatens all life on the planet,” he said. “We need to come together as allies, all connected.
“Small activists need to have courage. We need to struggle despite the odds,” he said.
FLLC presented Cass with a photograph of an eagle flying over Lake Coeur d’Alene as a symbol to give him strength.
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Copyright@ The Fig Tree, November, 2019