An open letter from Barbara Kingsolver 

A Call to Arms

Dear Friend,

OK, I'll admit it: I spent the inaugural weekend in denial. (He's not my president. Most of us didn't actually vote for the guy.) Ignored the smarmy front-page photos of parades and balls, skipped straight to Section B to look for coverage of the protests. But the fact is, we now have a new administration that's hostile to the things I love most: human kindness, the dignity of diversity, and the wild glory of life on earth. It's time to move on from denial to the next stage, which would be bitter cynicism or action.

I'm opting for action, because I don't really have a choice. Looking out my window right now I can see my two girls outside under the mesquite trees in this precious riparian woodland where we live, and my heart starts to break for all the beautiful things they'll never see if I allow unchecked Bushwhacking in the next four years. Civil rights and reproductive choice I suppose we could win back in time (though not the lives lost along the way), but the waters and wild lands devastated will never come back. So I've taken a vow to spend at least some part of every week protecting the truths and places I treasure.

Part of that commitment involves this letter asking you to do the same. I'm fairly confident you'll agree with my concerns, because we're the majority. Not only did most of us not vote for the guy, we also — by a handy majority, the polls say — oppose the assault he and Gale Norton hope to launch.

To choose an urgent example, their plan to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is hugely unsupported by U.S. citizens, and has even met some opposition from Bush's fellow Republicans. Most of us want the Arctic refuge to remain pristine and untouched — and we feel this way in spite of current energy worries and the fact that this magnificent birthing ground for Arctic wildlife is, for most of us, a place we've only imagined. The widespread reputation of Americans for selfishness notwithstanding, we are wise and generous enough to care about lives and places beyond our own backyards.

Starting today, if you haven't already, I hope you'll do a handful of concrete things including these: Post the addresses of your legislators somewhere you'll see it, and make a habit of writing them weekly to help guide their decisions about social justice and the environment. Think of the California energy crisis as an opportunity to institute, in your home and your conversations with friends, a policy of conserving resources that will provide the only long-term solution. And get involved with your conservation community, locally and nationally.

A step I recommend is the Internet activist campaign called www.SaveBioGems.org. When you visit this site, it will take you only about 10 minutes to send faxes to politicians and CEOs to voice your interest in protecting places like the Arctic Refuge, Greater Yellowstone, the Macal Rainforest of Costa Rica and Red Rock Wilderness of Utah. If you register there, the Natural Resources Defense Council will send you e-mail alerts every so often (while also respecting your privacy) asking you to return to www.SaveBioGems.org to participate in a crucial fax or e-mail campaign.

These things work. Every kind of communication adds up, and Web activism is a new force in the political landscape. Lots of effective campaigns have made good use of the Internet, such as the one against Nike, and it was Web activism that recently helped the Natural Resources Defense Council prevent the Mitsubishi corporation from destroying birthing grounds for the Pacific grey whale in Mexico. But it only works if we all care enough to get involved.

I believe the Bush administration has happened to us for a reason. Setting aside election fraud, family connections in Florida and the fact that Republican districts almost everywhere have better voting machinery, the reason is complacency: Too many people must have assumed that the things we cherish are permanently protected. We underestimated the power of wealthy corporations to put a petroleocracy into the White House. Now that it's there, it's our obligation and our right as citizens to drown out its awful agenda with our voices. We have majority support, now we just have to use it

Please take a minute to visit www.SaveBioGems.org, and if you agree with me, please extend this invitation to your friends and family.

Thanks — our kids ask the world of us, and my greatest hope is to give them one, intact.

Truly yours,

Barbara Kingsolver

Barbara Kingsolver is the author of "The Poisonwood Bible" and "Prodigal Summer."

Opinions expressed on the Back Page are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Style Weekly.



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