Andy Bortz passes on
Andrew Bortz died in Corvallis last week. He was the local "Solar Guy" and he was a pioneer in non-violent forest activism. If not for Andy and other's who stood by him...Oregon's Middle Santiam would be mud flats by now.
Ode to Andy Bortz Forest Activist extraordinaire
The Solar Guy passes on
1947 - 2007
"Way back in the 1970s, a few nature-oriented philosophers came up with a visionary framework for viewing the world. They called it deep ecology, or biocentrism. The premise is pretty simple: Humans are not the end all, be all of evolution, but merely a strand in the web of life, with no inherent right to wreck everything and spoil the grand evolutionary pageant for everyone else. Deep ecology says that all living beings and life-giving systems are equal and have an intrinsic value, beyond what value humans may ascribe. In other words, all life and life-giving systems have inherent worth and a right to exist for their own sake, regardless of what kind of money people think they can make off them."
- John Johnson, EF! Journal, Samhain/Yule 2005 (25th Anniversary Edition) p. 43 - Do We Know Where Our Deep Ecology Is?
Andy was a friend of mine and he died suddenly in Corvallis about a week ago. Andy was a friend to many, and especially Andy Bortz was a friend to the Earth. In Corvallis, he was known as the Solar Guy. Andy was into solar when the technology was just in its infancy. He loved the old solar panels and the "Copper Cricket" one of the first solar water heaters. He knew the top of many mid-Willamette valley roofs. Installing, solar tubes, solar water heaters, solar panels. He helped to start several organizations that supported solar and alternative energy. His back yard is a museum to the evolution of solar technology in the last 35 years.
Andy believed in the "Commons" and loved to participate in community events like the Corvallis Peace Choir and Earth Day celebrations. He taught us all to believe and persist even when progress seemed forever blocked. Andy was a patient teacher. He loved to see the light go on when someone finally understood why we needed to protect and defend the earth.
Andy was also an amazing pioneer in forest activism. Andrew Bortz was one of the founding members of the Cathedral Forest Action Group (CFAG). They were the first forest activist groups to plan organized tree sits in the Middle Santiam. Due to these actions to stop massive clearcutting, we have a few good stands of old growth left. We have water, we have some air and we have wildlife left because of people like Andy Bortz.
In the early 1980s, the Corvallis, Oregon-based Cathedral Forest Action Group (CFAG) began to apply nonviolent, civil-disobedience tactics to protect the Willamette National Forest's ancient Douglas-fir stands from the devastating clear cuttery of the Reagan Administration.
The group's tactics included debates, public forums, logging-road blockades and setting up a "witness camp," whose visitors were taken to observe ancient forest ecosystems and freshly killed tree remains.
CFAG's blockades attempted to halt further road building into the Santiam forest in western Oregon, as well as to stop loggers from entering the Santiam via the already-existing spaghetti of taxpayer-funded roads. Most of CFAG's actions were well-orchestrated, peaceful sit-ins across logging roads, carried out in the hope of bringing the destruction of those forests into public view. One memorable blockade featured CFAG organizer Brian Heath holding a solitary sit-in atop a crate of explosives that was about to be used to blast a roadway through a ridge! But getting busted and banned from the forest for a year after spending no more than an hour "defending" it was not very cost-effective.
Were it not for the treespiking occurring with random precision, courtesy of the Bonnie Abbzug Feminist Garden Club, the pace of clearcutting within the Santiam region would have scarcely been slowed at all. This spawned an activists' brainstorming session around a campfire one smoky night. It was here that the treesit was born, a tactic that now occupies an important place in the toolbox of Earth activism.
Here is a large portion of the Cathedral Forest Wilderness Declaration:
(The Cathedral Forest Action Group was formed in 1984 to take a stand in protecting 80,000 acres of forest wilderness in central Oregon's Cascade mountains...)
"We believe that all things are connected, that whatever we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. If we destroy our remaining wild places, we will ultimately destroy our identity with the Earth: wilderness has values for humankind which no scientist can synthesize, no economist can price, and no technological distraction can replace.
"We believe that we should protect in perpetuity these wild places, not only for our own sake, but for the sake of the plants and animals for the good of the sustaining Earth. The forests, like us, are living things: wilderness should exist intact solely for its own sake; no human justification, rationale, or excuse is needed.
"We perceive the Earth is dying. We pledge ourselves to turning this process around, to stopping the destruction, so that the Earth can become alive, clean, and healthy once again."
(from page 196 of Deep Ecology)
Andy's pledge was lived out each day of his life. He was the teacher of several generations of forest activists. Arrested several times, he was sued by the wealthy and almost lost his livelyhood. He was part of a land mark suit to allow peaceful non-violent activism to continue to occur in our beautiful forest.
May the forest bless you and cover you with boughs..
may the mountain winds heave you up to the heavens
You lived a good life
a life worth living
dream deep my brother
it is not over
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