In this episode of Wine, Women, and Revolution Heather is thrilled to be joined by author, environmentalist, an activist Doug Peacock. This man is one of the great inspirations of the environmental movement in general and Heather specifically. So needless to say, she was a little in awe of getting to speak to Mr. Peacock. If you are someone who generally just reads the articles and skips the interviews, Heather requests, humbly, you listen to this one as Mr. Peacock’s words on eco socialism or eco anarchism are grander than she will ever present you.
The Birth of an Environmentalist
From his boyhood, Doug Peacock developed a love for wild places. He was raised in Michigan and his father was a Boy Scout leader after inheriting his troupe when his brother went off to WW2 and never returned. As a little boy, Doug got brought along on scouting activities; although too young to be a part of the scouts he was allowed to roam and explore the forests on his own. His love for the wilderness was born.
A War Changes a Person
It was another war, this time Vietnam, that solidified his love of nature. As a college student, Doug was already an activist, but he sadly hated being in school. One semester he dropped his credit load to low and the draft board came knocking. He allowed himself to be taken and ended up as Green Beret Medic for 2 tours in Vietnam. He was stationed in the rural mountainside and was enchanted with its beauty. Unfortunately, even his little mountainside was not spared from the devastation of the war. During the Tet Offensive his job primarily became patching up the small bodies of children caught in the crossfire of the war.
A View of Death
Eventually he could take no more and was ordered out. A helicopter came to get him, and on the way out he was flown over My Lai as the massacre of March 16th, 1968 was happening. He saw those images on the cover of Time magazine one year later. In his own way, he inherited all the pain of that day. In his mind, he owned all that devastation. He was a man broken by humanity and returned to the wilderness of his childhood, the one place he always felt comfortable.
A Time for Recovery
He bounced around the west until a malaria attack sent him to Yellowstone to mend in the hot springs and that was where he met the Grizzly Bears that would save his life. The thing he most needed in his life was to find a source of true humility. For Doug, that humility was coming face to face with a giant carnivore that could kill him in seconds but almost always will choose not to. This was one-time humans were not in charge. This solidified his views that arrogant human views on dominion, ownership, and capitalization were true wrongs.
Bears saved his life and his humanity so he will save them.
Doug credits his experiences with saving his life and allowing him to regain some of his humanity that he lost in Vietnam. He saw these bears were in trouble from extinction, hunting, and habitat loss and decided it was time to pay them back for what they had given him. The grizzly bear taught him restraint and humility. Mankind is much more dangerous than bears. Doug talks about a moment when a mama grizzly bear nursed her cubs right beside him.
A Relationship with Edward Abbey
Edward Abbey and Doug Peacock were friends for over 20 years. They met in late 1968 and they were friends until the day Mr. Peacock buried Edward’s ashes in the Arizona wilderness. They were like brothers and on occasion fought like brothers. One of the characters in Edward Abbey’s book “The Monkey Wrench Gang” was loosely based on Doug. Although Mr. Peacock is much more well-rounded and more an intellect than Hayduke (the character modeled after him). The two men fought over this but eventually buried the hatchet in where else but the wilderness. What they always had in common was their belief in fighting for wild spaces.
A Culmination of Arrogance
Mr. Peacock speaks on the arrogance of mankind and how all our past blunders are accumulating in catastrophic climate change. He talks about his friend Guy McPherson (listen to his interview here) and calls him the greatest truth teller around. He speaks in time tables of a decade instead of a century for climate change to destroy us. It is our responsibility to face these truths no matter how uncomfortable they make us. We can not hide from our blunders, for they will not go away. This monster is on our doorstep. In his work with the Inuit, he sees the drastic loss of sea ice. It is completely off the continental shelf.
Wildlife and Wilderness Management
Doug Peacock does not consider the federal wildlife management to be allies. Their conservation plans are archaic 19th century-based thinking. It is another form of human dominion and ownership of animals and lands. Doug has worked with native people to preserve and protect 10 million acres of land from the Federal Government. The federal government delisted Grizzly bears and stripped their protections and opened the way for a trophy hunt. Doug had managed to prevent that hunt from ever happening. Heather and Doug discuss the New Jersey bear hunt and what activists can do to prevent the hunts here in New Jersey. They also discuss the arrogance of the pipeline developers in NJ.
The Value of Wild Places
Doug thinks that relationship between humanity and wild places is crucial to our wellbeing. Wild places were everything to him during his developmental years and we must preserve those spaces. When Doug lectures his tells people to start protecting the wilderness in their back yards first and move from there. Doug tells a story of a friend of his, who ultimately committed suicide, but found his humility before nature simply by watching ants in a park. We all have a deeply personal, intimate, and unique relationship with wilderness. He speaks especially how valuable nature is to returning and injured veterans. It’s a source of healing for so many.
Anarchy and Environmentalism
Doug doesn’t self-label as an anarchist, but he doesn’t deny the label either. He sees the sickness of society and wants no part of it, but also happens to be standing in the middle of it. What lies on the fringes of those societies is a view of anarchy. He sees his work as just working with a bunch of friends. That’s what he and Abbey did. Friends and Comrades on the fringe must lead the way for environmentalism and social justice because capitalism has failed us, and climate change will become the one thing that takes over all other issues. Doug says he will never stop his work even in the face of climate change. He is committed to the noble fight even if he knows the deck is stacked against him. The future is dire but maybe just maybe some species can survive for a while in these wild places and that is everything.