[Listen to #RadioTeco News’ episode about Wynn Bruce.]

Grieving comes in all shapes and in all forms. A person can grieve the loss of a loved one, a beloved animal, a cherished friendship, a transition out of an old  job, or even so, a person can grieve climate change. 

It may seem strange, but a person doesn’t so much grieve climate change, but what climate change is doing to our earth. Our earth is dying, and it is the only home we have come to know. It’s our only home. 

Our planet is experiencing some of the worst effects of climate change than ever before. In this series of climate change articles, I have depicted some of the ugliest causes and consequences of climate change that are impacting the world’s most vulnerable communities. 

In a desperate attempt to raise awareness, Wynn Bruce demonstrated an act of bravery on Earth Day 2022.

On Friday April 22, 2022, Wynn Bruce self-immolated in front of the Supreme Court. His actions – that shook the public that day – were for a grander purpose. His sacrifice of setting himself on fire was a showcase of how tragically our world is burning due to climate change. 

In the immediate aftermath, the media failed to detail Bruce’s actions. Not enough has been written and shared about Bruce’s acts of courage and his life. 

Bruce, a 50-year-old from Boulder, Colorado, had dedicated himself to taking care of the environment. “He had this incredible aura about him and a twinkle in his eye,” said Candice Ford, a former partner of Bruce, recalling the memories they shared. “Even without knowing him I could just sense his ability to connect deeply with the earth.” 

Bruce and Ford dated for about three years until they both made the decision to shift their relationship into a friendship as they felt ‘their lives were going in different directions.’ But the love they shared would always remain. 

Bruce’s life was greatly shaped by a tragedy in his youth. He was in a car accident that killed a close friend of his, which left him severely injured. 

“He had faced death very early on in his life, in a tragic and profound way. And that opened him up to the fragility and beauty of every moment in life and … that everybody truly has a gift and has a way to use that gift to inspire change in the world,” said Ford. Bruce impacted Ford’s life in more ways than one. They both shared the life purpose of protecting the earth from human impact. 

Kritee Kanko, a friend of Bruce and a founder of the organization Boundless in Motion, shared her experiences with knowing Bruce and how they worked together to create change. “I knew him as a member of the community extremely worried about climate crisis,” said Kanko.

“People felt very seen and very safe with him.” 

Kanko is also a climate scientist working to heal those, and herself, from the tragedy of climate change. Boundless in Motion is an organization that teaches practices of various forms of healing and meditation to reflect and make intentional changes to our planet’s eco-crisis. The organization holds retreats to unveil and unleash the grief amongst the community who mourn loss over various aspects of life but more importantly, the loss of our earth due to climate change.

Grief, as previously mentioned, comes in all forms. “Seven years I’ve been teaching, leading, grief rituals — climate grief rituals,” said Kanko. “I invite people to make primal sounds. Shout, scream, let out that inner anger and inner grief.”

Bruce attended many of these rituals. The purpose is to find outlets to deal with the trauma and loss that is experienced due to climate change. Kanko described the rituals as ‘ways to compost one’s grief.’ 

“When the grief is bottled in us, you are weighed down by it, instead of being empowered by grief, because grief is love. You don’t grieve anything you don’t love,” said Kanko.

Wynn Bruce. Photo courtesy of Candice Ford.

When the grief is bottled in us, you are weighed down by it, instead of being empowered by grief, because grief is love. You don’t grieve anything you don’t love. – Kritee Kanko

Kanko and other teachers were a part of the movement to inspire change amongst large communities, especially people of color. Bruce was part of this movement and was motivated by his own trauma and, perhaps even, his own grief to act. 

His life involved much hardship, but he used those experiences to inspire and send powerful messages. While most media failed to cover the events that occurred that day, an article by the Washington Post encompassed the true nature of his actions. 

The article’s first paragraph read, “He didn’t scream. He didn’t run toward the nearby fountain outside the Supreme Court. He didn’t cry out in pain. The fire consuming Wynn Bruce’s body raged for 60 seconds Friday before it was extinguished by police, and he remained still, sitting upright on the court’s famous marble plaza, his legs stretched in front of him.”

Engulfed by roaring flames, Bruce only screamed until the flames were extinguished. Why? 

“I see his last act as a powerful, potent scream. Even though there was an absence of physical sound because he took it on as a practice of scream,” said Kanko.

“Wynn’s action wasn’t about strategy, it was about this primal, emotional scream. Wynn’s action was about: Wake up! We feel this sense of disempowerment, this immense climate grief, immense racial trauma. It’s like the world has stopped listening to me.” 

His lack of sound was, almost, an embodiment of how many of us have stopped listening and paying attention. Mass media and the capitalism that rules our daily lives failed Bruce. We need to make everyone listen. Like Bruce’s actions on Earth Day, his final, loud and agonizing screams to help save our planet, we must continue to scream for and with him – for the sake of our environment

We must grieve the loss of our planet and share the pain with our communities in order to create change. For if we compost our grief, that gives us hope for something new. 

For inquiries of the Grieving Retreats held by Boundless in Motion, Visit the Website: http://boundlessinmotion.org/