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Honoring Kim Crumbo

By Camilla Fox

Kim and Becky in Warm Springs Rapid on the Yampa (c) Dave Foreman

Kim Crumbo and his wife Becky in Warm Springs Rapid on the Yampa (c) Dave Foreman

Editors’ note:  The whole Rewilding team and our close partners at Project Coyote, Wildlands Network, Wild Arizona, and other groups have been rocked and saddened by the news of Kim Crumbo’s disappearance.  For The Rewilding Institute, Kim Crumbo has been a rock, upon which we have based many of our wildlands protection and restoration efforts.  While we still desperately hope for a miracle, it is time to acknowledge that Kim has not resurfaced from the storm on Shoshone Lake; and that we must prepare to carry on his heroic work without his physical presence nearby.  We were grateful to our close friend and colleague Camilla Fox, Executive Director of Project Coyote, for putting pen to paper before the rest of us could.  We may soon have additional tributes to share; but for now, please ponder Camilla’s wise words and what they mean as we labor together for a wilder, better world.


My faith in humanity as a whole has never been excessive, but I do know that the Better Angels among us can rescue the Planet. We have to.
~ Email from Kim Crumbo to Camilla, July 29, 2021

Today I learned the shocking and devastating news that friend and colleague Kim Crumbo may have tragically died while canoeing in Yellowstone National Park’s Shoshone Lake with a family member.

While the search and rescue party continues and hope wanes, I felt compelled to write about Kim–especially because our last communication was around the subject of hope.

And the way I often deal with grief, sadness, and despair is to put pen to paper.

Shoshone Lake area

Shoshone Lake (c) George Wuerthner

I first met Kim at a wolf conservation conference just outside of Yellowstone National Park around the time I was considering starting an organization to defend the most beleaguered and persecuted wild carnivores of North America and to promote compassionate coexistence. We shared a beer (or two) and a long conversation that focused on how to combat the increasing hatred of wolves and other predators across the country and the concurrent despondency and despair so many activists felt working in the trenches.

We shared our mutual need to escape into wild nature to rejuvenate our souls and to counter the grief and despair. It wasn’t until later that I learned from a colleague that Kim had trained as a Navy SEAL and served two deployments to Vietnam before dedicating his life to saving wildlife and wildlands.

Over the years our work for rewilding intersected, most recently with increasing collaboration between the organization for which he has dedicated so many years, The Rewilding Institute (TRI), and Project Coyote–the organization I founded in 2008.

Kim was a frequent and eloquent writer for Rewilding Earth (the publication of TRI); and I often referred to his writings for inspiration as well as an accurate chronology of pivotal points and figures in the conservation movement.

Sunlight shining though trees (c) Camilla Fox

Most recently Kim shared a draft of a revised article he had written seeking my feedback. I read his poignant essay, titled “Hope in the Age of Humans,” with the same kind of rapt attention his writings always elicited.

I shared my thoughts with him and we exchanged some meaningful communications about hope, despair, and why we continue to fight this good (though sometimes soul-sapping) fight. I felt his words worthy of sharing (below).

Perhaps what strikes me most acutely as I reread our exchange and think about Kim‘s words and what they mean: I am reminded that this is a man who had direct experience of war in Vietnam and who returned from that experience not bitter, broken, and angry–but instead infused with passion for justice, of standing up for the underdog, the downtrodden, and persecuted, and coming to all of this from a place of deep compassion, empathy, and commitment.

On August 5th Kim wrote to me: “As I often point out, my darkest days go back to Vietnam when, as a consequence of my 70 or so combat operations as a SEAL, I became all too aware of that Heart of Darkness within my fellow humans and within myself. It took some time and struggle to see it, as we all must to sustain, perhaps regain, our humanity, but there is a path forward. You are on it, my friend. Thank you for all you do.”

Thank you Kim for all that you have given to this Earth–and her wild beings—and for your friendship and mentoring. I’m still holding on to Hope.

 ~Camilla Fox, 9.21.21

Post note: only a few days before I received the news about Kim we had made the decision to post for a new Carnivore Conservation Coordinator position that will be shared between Project Coyote and TRI. The intent of this position is to carry on the good work of both Kim and his colleague and dear friend Dave Parsons (also of TRI and PC) to be mentored by both. As Dave said in an email to me this afternoon: “Kim will leave a huge gap to fill. I can’t think of anyone with enough compassion and wisdom for the job.”

Indeed. I like to think that Kim‘s indomitable spirit, passion, and fire in the belly for wildness and wilderness will carry-on in our future hires and collaborations. 

I find writing in nature cathartic and this is one of the special places I go to for just that. Thought a lot about Kim there, when I first met him and our communications — which I tried to capture. (Click any image to open an enlarged slideshow.)

************

The referenced email exchange between Camilla and Kim.

On Jul 29, 2021, at 7:20 AM, Kim Crumbo wrote:

All,

You all might be interested in the recent, highly relevant to 30x30, Scientists Warning about the climate emergency (attached). Pasted here is an excerpt:

"We need to stop regarding the climate emergency as a stand-alone environmental problem. Global heating, although ruinous, is not the sole symptom of our present struggling Earth system but is only one of the many facets of the accelerating environmental crisis. Policies to alleviate the climate crisis or any of the other threatened planetary boundary transgressions should not be focused on symptom relief but on addressing their root cause: the overexploitation of the Earth. For example, by halting the unsustainable exploitation of natural habitats (described below), we can simultaneously reduce zoonotic disease transmission risks, conserve biodiversity, and protect carbon stocks. So long as humanity's pressure on the Earth system continues, attempted remedies can only redistribute this pressure."

Reference:

William J Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M Newsome, Jillian W Gregg, Timothy M Lenton, Ignacio Palomo, Jasper A J Eikelboom, Beverly E Law, Saleemul Huq, Philip B Duffy, Johan Rockström, World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency 2021, BioScience, 2021;, biab079, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biab079

<Ripple et al 2021.pdf>

RockströmJ. et al.. 2009. Planetary boundaries: Exploring the safe operating space for humanity. Ecology and society 14:32.

[IPBES] Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. 2020. Workshop Report on Biodiversity and Pandemics of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Daszak, P. et al., eds. IPBES. doi:10.5281/zenodo.4147317.

Kim Crumbo
Wildlands Coordinator
The Rewilding Institute 

On Jul 29, 2021, at 8:57 AM, Camilla Fox wrote:

Many thanks for sharing Kim. Sobering - and yet I fear humans do not have the wherewithal to do what is desperately needed - immediately - to change this trajectory…. But we carry on- and try to raise consciousness and change behavior…

CAMILLA H. FOX FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR 
Project Coyote

From: Kim Crumbo
Date: Thursday, July 29, 2021 at 9:50 AM
To: Camilla Fox
Cc: Susan Morgan
Subject: Re: Scientists Warning on Climate Emergency

The sky is clearing and the night
Has cried enough…Rejoice, rejoice, we have no choice but
To carry on ---CNS&Y

Camilla,

My faith in humanity as a whole has never been excessive, but I do know that the Better Angels among us can rescue the Planet. We have to.

I’m working on revising a pre-election essay on “Hope in the Age of Humans” with the hope it will attract more readers. Even Michael Soulé came around to conditionally support my take on conditional optimism. Should you find the time, I would be most grateful if you could take a steely-eyed look at it and provide suggestions.

Reference: https://rewilding.org/hope-in-the-age-of-humans/

Kim

On Aug 4, 2021, at 11:26 PM, Camilla Fox, Project Coyote wrote:

Hi Kim- I finally had a chance to read this. Whoa. Wow- beautiful piece—like your Op Ed in the SL Tribune. You have a gift of the pen (key pad)- and I’m glad you are revising this to get it out to a wider audience. Might you aim for a journal to begin- and then we can all repost?

With regard to the content while I am a believer in harnessing the power and compassion of the “better angels,” as I get older I increasingly become more pessimistic about fundamental change w/in the human species. Some humans are hard wired for bad behavior; I wish I could see that evolution would weed out the violent/sociopaths, but I don’t see that happening. And the better angels ultimately get squeezed out by those with might and power.

That said- I agree with Hawken and Goodall and Albright that we must focus on the positive and as you so beautifully and succinctly said: enlist the better angels of our society—scientists, artists, writers, medical workers, teachers, farm workers, delivery truck drivers, etc.—and continue to insist on the best available science and adherence to our democratic values to protect and restore our natural and cultural treasures.

YES! This is essentially what I feel I’ve been put on this earth to do- to inspire others to join our cause for good, for compassion, for coexistence, for rewilding—and I think we can do it better, we can reach more people, we can push for systemic change by taking a step back and seeing where movements can work together more effectively (as well as individuals and communities). Finding Common Ground- and appealing to people’s compassion and self-interest. Not an easy task in a world where most people are unable (or unwilling- or both) to step back and look at the big picture- and how their behaviors affect it all.

Sorry- this week/month/year has been challenging so I’m not feeling hopeful at this very moment. I DO hope one day we’ll all get to dive deep into all of this in the wilderness with the TRI and PC packs and come up with some unique and powerful plans for changing this paradigm.

Thanks for sharing–and for desiring my input; I wish I had more constructive things to say.

In solidarity–and with admiration for all that you do for wilderness and wildlife,

Camilla

On Aug 5, 2021, at 4:09 AM, Kim Crumbo wrote:

Camilla,

Thank you. I’ll get back to work on the essay. I do believe we will prevail. Like I said, we have to.

As I often point out, my darkest days go back to Vietnam when, as a consequence of my 70 or so combat operations as a SEAL, I became all too aware of that Heart of Darkness within my fellow humans and within myself. It took some time and struggle to see it, as we all must to sustain, perhaps regain, our humanity, but there is a path forward. You are on it, my friend. Thank you for all you do.

Kim

From: Camilla Fox
Date: Thursday, August 5, 2021 at 9:11 AM
To: Kim Crumbo
Subject: Re: Scientists Warning on Climate Emergency

💜

Sent from my iPhone

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Becky Crumbo - October 2, 2021

Camilla,

Just got a chance to read this. Seeing it and remembering Kim’s conditional optimism warmed my heart. Thank you

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Trish Rice - October 3, 2021

A beautiful piece to honor a wonderful, compassionate human. May the Better Angels continue to soar and lead.
For all that personally knew him, I am sorry for your loss. For the wildlife he fought for, I hope his legacy continues.

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Peter Callen - October 6, 2021

Lets not lose Kim’s power to honor and defend this wonderous Life on Earth, I’m sure he left it here for us to use. Thank you Kim for being such a leader and example to us all.

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