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Wynn Alan Bruce: Climate activist dies after setting himself on fire outside Supreme Court on Earth Day

Devout Buddhist Wynn Alan Bruce, 50, appeared to foreshadow his death in 2021 Facebook post

Bevan Hurley
Monday 25 April 2022 07:16 BST
Related video: UN climate report warns of 'rapidly closing' window for action

A climate activist has died 24 hours after setting himself on fire on the steps of the Supreme Court on Earth Day.

Colorado photojournalist Wynn Alan Bruce, 50, suffered critical injuries in the incident at 6.30pm Friday on a plaza in front of the court. He was airlifted to hospital, where he died Saturday.

Capitol Police, Supreme Court police, and DC police all responded to the incident.

“A medical helicopter just landed near the Capitol for a medical emergency. This is not a public safety issue,” Capitol Police tweeted.

Mr Bruce ran a portrait photo studio in Boulder, and his social media account was filled with posts about the environment and Buddhism.

He also left a cryptic post on his Facebook page with a fire emoji and the date of his death 4/22/2022. The post appears to have been edited a few days before his death.

Dr K. Kritee, a Buddhist priest from Boulder, wrote on Twitter that Mr Bruce had been planning to self-immolate for at least a year.

“This guy was my friend. He meditated with our sangha,” she said.

“This act is not suicide. This is a deeply fearless act of compassion to bring attention to climate crisis. We are piecing together info but he had been planning it for atleast one year. #wynnbruce I am so moved.”

Dr Kritee also shared a quote from Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh referring to the practice of Vietnamese setting themselves on fire in protest at the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

“To express will by burning oneself, therefore, is not to commit an act of destruction but to perform an act of construction, that it, to suffer and die for the sake of one’s people,” the message read.

Dr Kritee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr Bruce appeared to belong to the Shambala, a Buddhist organisation based in Boulder and frequently shared quotes from Buddhist teachers like Chögyam Trungpa.

Wynn Alan Bruce left a cryptic message on his Facebook page a year before his death (Facebook)

His final post from 28 March reads: “This is not humor. IT is all about breathing,” followed by: “Clean air matters.”

A LinkedIn profile that appeared to belong to Mr Bruce stated he was a photojournalist who had previously attended the Community College of Denver and Front Range Community College.

Fellow environmental activists are understood to be planning a vigil for Mr Bruce later this week.

Mr Bruce’s Facebook page was inundated with messages from friends and activists offering their condolences.

Danielle Gager wrote: “Thank you for the act of compassion you bravely did. I’m sorry you aren’t here now. But what you did for the world took so much to do.”

Close friend April Lyon said his death was “heartbreaking”.

“I meditated and danced with Wynn for many years and saw him as a kind and compassionate man. I don’t know his motive, but my take is that as activists, we have to be careful not to sacrifice ourselves for the cause.”

Others were critical of what they claimed were Mr Bruce’s “misguided view of climate change”.

In 2018, climate activist David Buckel, 60, died by self-immolation in Prospect Park in Brooklyn in protest at the use of fossil fuels.

Shortly before his death, Mr Buckel emailed a suicide note to several media outlets explaining his actions.

David Buckel speaking during a case in 2008 at a press conference about marriage equality (Reuters)

“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.”

Mr Buckel had been a prominent civil rights lawyer and LGBTQ activist and ran the marriage-equality project at Lambda Legal.

His death was believed to be one of the first acts of self-immolation since the 1960s, when Vietnam War activists set themselves on fire in protest.

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

If you are in another country, you can go to to find a helpline near you.

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