Wynn Alan Bruce
Climate Activist Dies by
Self-Immolation Outside Supreme Court
Adam Gabbatt / Guardian UK
(April 25, 2022) — A US climate activist has died after he set himself on fire outside the US Supreme Court building in Washington.
Wynn Bruce, from Boulder, Colorado, died on Saturday from his injuries, Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department said. Police said Bruce had set himself on fire at about 6.30pm on Friday, and was airlifted to hospital.
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan police told the Denver Post that investigators had not found a manifesto or note explaining Bruce’s motive.
Friday was Earth Day, an annual global event to demonstrate support for environmental protection, and the supreme court has environmental cases on its docket.
Bruce, 50, had recently edited a comment on his Facebook page, adding the date 22 April and a fire emoji. The comment was in response to a post about the global impact of climate change. Bruce had posted several times over the past year about the environment.
On Sunday, Kritee Kanko, a Boulder-based climate scientist and Zen Buddhist priest, said Bruce was a friend and member of her Buddhist community, who had been planning the self-immolation for “at least one year”.
“This act is not suicide. This is a deeply fearless act of compassion to bring attention to climate crisis,” Kanko said in a tweet.
In a subsequent interview with the New York Times, Kanko said she could not be certain about Bruce’s intentions. She told the newspaper that “people are being driven to extreme amounts of climate grief and despair” and that “what I do not want to happen is that young people start thinking about self-immolation”.
In April 2018 David Buckel, a prominent gay rights lawyer and environmental advocate, burned himself to death in New York.
In a note, Buckel said: “Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result – my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”
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Who Is Wynn Alan Bruce?
Wynn Alan Bruce, a Boulder, Colorado resident, was 50 years old. Bruce was a Buddhist who followed the Shambhala Buddhist path. He was a photojournalist and portrait photographer who attended Front Range Community College and Community College of Denver.
Bruce displayed his deep worry about climate change on his Facebook account in the years leading up to his self-immolation, posting relevant news stories and supporting activists like Greta Thunberg.
He started using the account in April 2020 to criticize public inactivity in the face of the climate crisis. On October 30, 2020, Bruce sent a link to an edX course on climate change science.
In April 2021, Bruce commented “4-1-1” on the post; in October 2021, he edited the comment, adding a fire emoji. On April 2, 2022, he edited the comment again to add the date “4/22/2022”.
Additionally, in January 2022, Bruce posted a photo of antiwar activist Thích Nhất Hạnh, who had written in 1965 that “to burn oneself by fire is to prove that what one is saying is of the utmost importance.”
Bruce self-immolated in the plaza of the United States Supreme Court Building around 6:30 p.m. on April 22, 2022 (Earth Day).
On Twitter, footage showed police officers immediately extinguishing Bruce’s fire. No one else was hurt.
He was transported to a hospital by a National Park Service chopper minutes after committing self-immolation. As a result of his injuries, Bruce died the next day.
The area surrounding the plaza was closed to the public by the Supreme Court Police, the United States Capitol Police, and the Metropolitan Police Department, citing the necessity for additional investigation; two streets were momentarily closed but reopened the next day.
Bruce’s neighbors told KMGH-TV that they were uncertain how Bruce got to Washington, D.C., stating that he was unable to drive because of a childhood injury to his leg and head.
Following his death, Bruce’s Facebook page became a site for messages from climate activists and his friends. The Independent reported that environmental activists were planning a vigil for him.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.