Top lawyer burns to death in anti-fossil fuel protest

David Buckel.
David Buckel. Photo credit: Reuters

Warning: This story contains details that may disturb some readers.

A high-profile New York lawyer has died after setting himself on fire in a protest against fossil fuels.

David Buckel, 60, doused himself in fossil fuels in Brooklyn's Prospect Park before setting himself ablaze.

In emails sent to numerous news outlets prior to his death, Mr Buckel said he had lived a life of "privilege", and had to "balance the harm caused" by his use of fossil fuels by ending his own life.

"Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather. 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," he wrote.

"If one does not leave behind a world better for having lived in it, all that remains are selfish ends, sometimes wrapped in family or nation."

Mr Buckel was a fighter for LGBT rights. His firm, Lambda Legal, said his death was a "tremendous loss" for the "entire movement for social justice".

His charred remains were found by passers-by.

In a post on its site, Lambda Legal said Mr Buckel worked hard to "secure justice and accountability for the murder of Brandon Teena, a transgender man who was brutally raped and then killed by his rapists after law enforcement failed to intervene".

That case was later immortalised on the big screen in 1999 film Boys Don't Cry, for which Hilary Swank won an Academy Award.

Mr Buckel also won a landmark court victory in 1996 that forced US schools to take anti-gay bullying seriously, Lambda Legal said.

Fatal self-immolation protests have been documented as far back as the fourth century, but became more common in the 1960s, particularly amongst Buddhists and anti-Communists.

Last week, the New Zealand Government announced a ban on new oil and gas exploration permits, in a bid to reduce its carbon emissions.

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