Pondorosa Pine, Keith Lampe: Presente! Marking the Passing of an Environmental Pioneer
November 15, 2014
Memorial by Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War
Our good friend and activist Ponderosa Pine ("Pondo") has died at the age of 83 and was laid to rest November 10 in Loja, Ecuador. Pondo (aka Keith Lampe) had a one-of-a-kind career arc -- from reporter to soldier to activist to social critic, philosopher, eco-guru, musical pioneer and much more. An early pioneer of the US environmental movement, Pondo leaves behind a legacy of actions, organizations, teachings and inspiration. Watch Pondo on these videos and sing along with the guy the little kids called "Gandalf."
Special to Environmentalists Against War
Pondorosa Pine, Keith Lampe: Presente!
Marking the Passing of an Environmental Pioneer
Dear Friends of Ponderosa Pine,
(November 11, 2014) -- I regret to say that our good friend and activist Pondo was laid to final rest November 10 at 5 AM in Loja, Ecuador. He died from kidney failure among a few other complications. His health had been failing in the recent months and it came to its peaceful final closure.
Myself and a few other close friends were with him in his final hours to send him off with love and support. He died very peacefully with no pain and no painkillers. His last moments were very peaceful with many smiles from us and from him. He was not afraid and was sent away from this body easily.
Please let us share a moment and send him our blessings to wherever he has been sent to for his next mission. All the best to all his friends and family who cared much for our friend Pondo. This will be the last message from this address.
Remembering a Memorable Activist
Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War
The message from Ponderosa Pine's "Double Helix Office in the Global South White House" was not unexpected but it still hit with the force of a majestic redwood falling in the forest.
I had heard of Keith Lampe (aka Ponderosa Pine, aka Ro-Non-So-Te, aka Transition President of the Government of the USA in Exile) long before I had the pleasure of getting to know him as a friend and a colleague.
It was in 1969, as a staffer at the Berkeley Barb, that I first began reading Keith's unique self-syndicated fortnightly column, Earth Read-Out. It was the first "environmental column" to appear in the so-called Underground Press (or anywhere else, for that matter).
A few years later, I had my first direct encounter with Keith (appropriately enough) during an All Species Day Parade in San Francisco.
Along the parade route I spotted a fellow who stood out from the rest of the crowd. I was moved to ask: "Would you happen to be Ponderosa Pine?" It was an easy guess on my part. The fellow seemed to be the only marcher who was barefoot. He certainly was the only one dressed in an outfit fashioned entirely from tree bark. With a beaming smile and mischievous eyes peeking out between strips of tree-gleanings, he looked like a walking elm, both deciduous and impish.
Keith Lampe had a one-of-a-kind career arc -- from reporter to soldier to activist to media maven to social critic, philosopher, eco-guru, musical pioneer and much more.
From Randolph Hearst to Allen Ginsberg
In 1950, at the young age of 18, Keith scored a job as reporter for the Detroit Free Press. By 1957, he was based in Paris covering NATO as a correspondent for the Hearst empire's International News Service (INS). As he once recalled, "every time my byline appeared in the newspaper anywhere on the planet, a clipping of it was rushed to me by diplomatic pouch in order to feed my ego and keep me obedient to [Hearst's] right-wing corporate values."
Recognizing early that fame was an "ignominious" trap, Keith left INS and began freelancing. He devised the habit of writing under a number of pseudonyms so that "whenever one of them started showing up in corporate media too frequently, I could always slip into something more comfortable."
In 1964, while hiking through Scandinavia on his third globe-hopping journey, Keith learned of the murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi. Grabbing a flight back to the States, he showed up at the door of the Student Nonviolent Organizing Committee in New York. He signed on to register voters in Mississippi and wound up working with Francis "Mitch" Mitchell, who was filling in for Julian Bond handling SNCC's press relations.
Keith became aware of global warming early, when Allen Ginsberg (whom he had met in Kolkata in 1962) passed along Gregory Bateson's warning that, within a few decades, the polar icecaps would begin to melt and continents would be flooded.
In late '65, during the Vietnam War, Keith co-founded Veterans and Reservists to End the War in Vietnam. (He had served as an Army officer during the Korean War, acting as an artillery forward observer.) In 1966, he was part of a team of anti-war veterans who lit up America's TV screens by publically setting fire to their discharge papers, service metals and campaign ribbons.
An Arresting Presence
Keith was no slouch when it came to activism. He regularly scolded Berkeley's Dave Brower (the legendary founder of Friends of the Earth and Earth Island Institute) for never having gone to jail as part of a pro-Earth protest.
Pondo's first arrest came in the early Sixties when he was busted in front of Dow Chemical's New York Office for protesting the company's "obscene manufacture of napalm." Over the next two years, he was arrested twice during Stop the Draft Week protests, jailed following a demonstration at an Army Induction Center and handcuffed for attempting to delay the departure of a Vietnam-bound Navy destroyer berthed in the Hudson River.
In September 1967, Keith was part of a group arrested for tossing antiwar leaflets onto politicians from the Senate Gallery. A month later, Pondo was busted for protesting the war at the Pentagon -- along with Norman Mailer, Noam Chomsky, and Terry Southern.
In 1987, Pondo was tossed into jail for protesting the World Bank's plans to subsidize construction of a large highway through the heart of the Amazon rainforest.
Naturally, Keith was on the ground in Chicago for the 1968 demonstrations in the streets outside the Democratic Party nominating convention. He subsequently learned the New York City police had compiled a 40-page dossier on his activist history and had provided it to the Chicago cops. The report identified him as "an especially dangerous leader" who encouraged the rabble to disobey convention. Actually, Pondo pointed out, all he was saying was: "Do your own thing."
In 2000, Pondo, Bill McKibben, Granny D, and 30 others were arrested in the White House Rotunda for demanding campaign-finance reform.
It was in 1968 that Keith, along with wife Judy and daughter Issa, left Manhattan and relocated to Berkeley. It was only a matter of months before he joined with poet/activist Gary Snyder and others to risk arrest for taking a principled stand. This time it was a matter of throwing his body "upon the gears and upon the levers and upon the wheels" to blockade a logging truck -- or, in Pondo's more evocative translation, blocking "a truck carrying redwood corpses from a nearby tree-slaughter site." This radical act, many argue, marked the beginning of the modern US environmental movement.
In 1969, Keith gravitated to Woodstock, a transformative Counter Cultural event where, as Paul Krasner recalls, "hippies became freaks. Negros became blacks. Girls became women. Richard Alpert became Baba Ram Dass. Hugh Romney became Wavy Gravy. . . . Yippie organizer Keith Lampe became Pondorosa Pine, and his girlfriend became Olive Tree."
Over the next decade-plus, Pondo was arrested numerous times for putting his body between the bulldozers and the redwoods. In 1991, Pondo responded to the bombing of Baghdad by founding the US Pro-Democracy Movement.
Looking back upon his long history of activism, it is easy to believe Pondo's estimation that he was responsible for "co-founding more movements and sub-movements than anyone else in Home Planet history."
A frequent resident of Chang Mai, Thailand, during the 80's, Pondo eventually relocated to a beautiful mountain retreat in southern Ecuador. From his "Double Helix Office in the Global South White House," Pondo kept in touch by sending out daily dispatches of environmental news and opinion under the banner "A Day in the Life." Daily compendiums of global news regularly ran anywhere from a half-megabyte to 1.5 megabytes or more.
In September 2012, health problems compelled Pondo to dial back a bit. He revised his publishing schedule to one humongous dispatch every other day. His last edition of Day in the Life weighed in at a modest 238 kilobytes. It included more than 180 articles, ranging from reflection on the ebola virus, to climate engineering, attacks on free speech, labor protests in Rome, the militarizing of America's police, America's human rights abuses, a "self-running free energy device" and the threat of Artificial Intelligence.
Pondo lead off this final dispatch with his traditional introduction – a spontaneous exposition of his current concerns, observations, criticisms and prescriptions, by turns humorous and cranky.
But this one was different. Pondo knew he was dying and he wanted to share the experience with his many friends, fellow activists and readers around the globe.
Here is the introduction to Pondo's final dispatch:
Volunteers for Planetary Climate Action (VPCA)
Resolving the Atmospheric Emergency
October 31, 2014
Dear Sentinel Friends and Colleagues,
. . . I've been severely ill for more than four weeks now. Especially difficult have been frequent episodes of convulsive/spasmatic coughing shaking the inside of my body quite painfully.
My main problem has been my lungs, which constantly fill with phlegm and when added to severe emphysema and asthma cause quite a problem.
I've had two mainstream doctors up here to my mountain retreat but they've been unable to improve my condition. So Tuesday, I asked for a visit from a local shaman whom I've known for a few years now and for whom I have great respect. What he said is quite interesting.
Here's one of his most memorable lines: "Too much compassion for plants and animals causes a lung problem." He said his father had been like this -- and had died a month ago at age 72.
Then he said quite recently he'd also had a lung problem and just a couple days ago he'd gone to the local hospital for a chest X-ray -- and it showed his lungs were clean. He even pulled out the X-ray and showed it to me.
So what I think we should take from this is that a much higher percentage of our current illnesses than we think are psychosomatic (or neurosomatic) rather than simply somatic.
For example, we may think we're sick from toxic chemtrails residues when actually we're sick from these plus the neural stress resulting from having to absorb the info that those controlling us are so evil that they perpetrate chemtrails.
Certainly the news of these past four weeks has been more horrendous than that of any similar period I can remember. One of my most aware readers commented a few days ago that "Hell has come to earth".
I've had information sickness several times before but always mildly: two or three days of deep fatigue, then back to okay again.
In any case, yesterday morning my housemate came up to my second-floor room just as I was waking and said: "I'm scared. I think you are dying."
That same thought had occurred to me just the day before as I wondered how I was going to make it through this at 83 if my friend's father had been taken out by the same malaise at 72.
On the positive side, it's certainly a respectable cause of death: Natural World Hyperconcern (NWH).
And I've already arranged for my death to instigate at least one more really good party. Forty-nine days following it, there'll be a Bardo Party for me at the Bolinas (CA) Community Center with excellent live music and excellent potluck food. Yeah, at least my death will have some value.
In recent years I've several times pointed out that there are a variety of daily practices which can gradually strengthen the nervous system so that gradually folks can absorb more bummer info before being sickened by it.
I'll paste one of these directly below. You can get into it by yourself merely by imitating what you hear in the accompanying audios and/or videos. I've been practicing it for nearly forty-four years now. It's not a panacea but it's quite helpful and also it enhances average mood.
Power to the Flora,
Keith Lampe, Ro-Non-So-Te, Ponderosa Pine
PS: NYC graffiti a few decades ago:
"Death is nature's way of telling you to slow down."
Pondo on The Rights of Mother Earth
(April 20, 2010) -- Info and commentary on the auspicious World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, by Keith Lampe aka Ponderosa Pine, a founder of the US environmental movement in 1969.
Some Offerings Selected from Pondo's Website
Sing along with Pondo as he riffs on Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man."
Pondo's Innovative Eastern/Western-Music-Mix
With Peter Rowan's "Break My Heart Again"
(NOTE: If you wait to the very end, you'll be rewarded with a wonderfully "Pondoesque" grin.)
(November 12, 2012) -- It's a new musical genre combining the intense pleasure of a great Occidental tune and the neural benefit of a well-practiced Oriental mantra. The current singer -- selected randomly from a line-up of DLBHs (Dirty Little Barefoot Hippies) busted for being elated without a permit -- is so-called Pondo.
If you've enjoyed what you've heard so far, please help us spread the word about this new music. In most regions of our planet these days, there are quite a few folks adept at one or more mantras. We urgently hope they'll start getting it together with local musicians able to appreciate how much can be added to the presentation of Western tunes by Eastern background vocalists. Indeed, let ten thousand E&W bands bloom.
Vocal Energy Health (VEH)
Keith Lampe (Ponderosa Pine), Vocals and Doug Adamz, Tibetan Bell
Part One: http://www.flyingsnail.com/Podcast/pinevesone.mp3
Part Two: http://www.flyingsnail.com/Podcast/pinevestwo.mp3
With VEH (Vocal Energy Health), after a few sessions of imitating these sounds, one can start doing them alone or -- even better -- with others creating an effective practice that requires no gear.
The Yippie Movie Page
Here is a direct link to 1968 movie, Yippie for Pigasus, produced by Ed Sanders and Narrated by Keith Lampe:
Note: In 1968, the Yippies nominated a pig (named "Pigasus") as their presidential candidate. During the Yippies' 1972 campaign, a Rock ran for President and Roll ran for Vice President. Dinner rolls were brought to the rallies. The Yippies followed up with the Birthday Party's "Nobody for President" campaign. Started in 1975, it continues today. "Out of all choices for President, Nobody is perfect!"
Live from Vilcabamba:
Pondo in Ecuador
(October 24, 2009) -- Pondo, aka Keith Lampe, venerable hippie activist and yogin. He has a famous daily newsletter about world news. One of the main characters of Vilcabamba. Distributed by Tubemogul.