The climate activist who self-immolated in front of the US Supreme Court on Friday was protesting our inaction on the climate crisis, according to his friends.
Wynn Alan Bruce, 50, was a photographer and studio owner from Boulder, Colorado. His friends knew him for his climate activism. In October 2020, he posted an article to his Facebook page about the global impact of climate change. About three weeks ago, he edited a comment to it to include a fire emoji and “4/22/22.” He never explained what it meant. But on that date, at 6:30 pm, he stood in the plaza in front of the US Presume Court in Washington D.C., and lit himself on fire. He was airlifted to a hospital, but passed away on Saturday of his burns.
Kritee Kanko, a climate scientist who says she knew Bruce through a meditation group, posted about the event on her Twitter.
“This act is not suicide. This is a deeply fearless act of compassion to bring attention to climate crisis,” she wrote. “We are piecing together info but he had been planning it for at least one year. #wynnbruce I am so moved.”
After many attacks by other Twitter users and an interview with the New York Times, Kanko clarified that she was not entirely positive of her interpretation of Bruce’s intentions, and neither was she encouraging others to do what he did.
“People are being driven to extreme amounts of climate grief and despair,” she said. “What I do not want to happen is that young people start thinking about self-immolation.”
Only four years ago, another climate activist, David Buckel, burned himself to death in protest of climate change inaction. Buckel, like Bruce and Kanko, identified with the tenets of Buddhism. There is a long history of self-immolation as social protest in modern Buddhism, most notably the Buddhist monks who burnt themselves alive to protest the Vietnam War.