On Gilded Wings (Concerning the Eagle Creek Fire)

On Gilded Wings (Concerning the Eagle Creek Fire).
8 x 8″.
Encaustic on wood.
By Cat Jones.

[This is a small piece, owing mainly to the expense of encaustic paint and the lack of resources I share with most artists. I’ve said before that I prefer large canvases. But, my God, this new (to me) medium is so rich and lush and full!  Here’s the story on this painting.]

Last year, teenagers throwing fireworks in a tinder- dry forest ignited a roaring wildfire back in Cascadia, where I grew up. It burned for two months and took out 50,000 acres in the Columbia Gorge, blackening the landscape, destroying habitat, wounding animals, and sending Cascadians into mourning for some of the last of the once- verdant Pacific Northwest rainforests.

It hit especially hard because, decades before this fire, avaricious timber companies were razing all the forests, all over Cascadia. Ancient forests, thousands of years old, were being cast into clear cuts overnight. These were some of the very last forests, some of the few that escaped the saws, and we’d fought HARD for them. Cascadians took to the trees, mounted a rising resistance against the timber companies, and fought tooth and nail to save these very forests from the greedy saws of capitalism. Much of the radical environmental movement was born here, in these trees of the Pacific Northwest, for the very life of the world in which we all live. 

There is less than 2 percent left, of the old growth forests that once covered all of Cascadia. Places like Eagle Creek only existed in the 21st century at all because people literally fought and died for them at the end of the 20th century. With so little left, at such great cost, these 50,000 acres gone to ash … this is absolutely devastating.

In a special note of irony, some of the very same people who were fighting for these forests were later sentenced as “terrorists,” and spent many years in prison, for minor property destruction associated with saving the forests. They, and anyone who could be shown to have helped them in any way, were branded as terrorists and co-conspirators, were threatened with as much as life in prison, and were sent away for years. Some of them are still in prison today. For interfering with timber companies’ profit margins while saving these forests.

Meanwhile, the people who so thoughtlessly burned them down, in a completely foreseeable calamity, faced no such sanction. They giggled and took cell phone video as they threw illegal fireworks into the July forest, during a burn ban. And when they saw it catch fire, they simply walked away. One of them – the one who threw the firework- got probation. No one else was punished.  Nobody went to jail. Hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes, millions of dollars in damages, a state of emergency, lives endangered… and nobody went to jail. Nobody was called “terrorist” for this.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to see some dumb assed 15 year old kid imprisoned for being a stupid shit. But neither did I want to see good, dedicated, compassionate people get their lives destroyed and get sent away to dungeons for years because some stupid log truck got vandalized or whatever in the service of saving a forest. The disparity here makes no sense, except to underline that capitalism is based on greed, and greed is evil, and good people get sacrificed to it all the time.

Anyway. So this is a meditation on the Eagle Creek forest fire of 2017.

As an afterthought, I add that I traveled through the fire zone a couple of months ago, a year after the fire. Nature is resilient, but capitalism is reprehensible. It turns out, timber companies are exploiting the fire to use “salvage logging” loopholes to take out even more of the very last forests in Cascadia. Shameful.

Rise Up. Resist.





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