At the Depopulated Bat Cave Capital of Massachusetts

By David Detmold

Chester, MA

The bat cave in the abandoned mine in Chester Massachusetts was a paradise for little brown bats before the fungus now known as Pseudogymnoascus destructans was first discovered in 2006 by spelunkers in upstate New York. Upstate New York is an area the traditional Onondaga leader Oren Lyons calls a nuclear “national sacrifice zone” because of the odd proximity of nuclear waste dump sites – like West Valley – leaking long lived cancer causing radionuclides into the Cattaraugus Creek in the heart of the Seneca Nation – and the Nine Mile and James Fitzpatrick nukes just north of polluted Onondaga Lake. More than 10,000 bats used to winter over there each year, and the arrival of spring saw bats raining down from the mouth of the cave above Walker Brook.

Now, according the Department of Mass Fisheries and Wildlife, white nose fungus, the common name for what is killing off the bats, has decimated the population at the Chester Cave. No, decimated is not a strong enough term, because there are only about 32 bats still nesting in the cave. They have been driven, like so many other species, to the verge of extinction. And time is running out for humanity to wake up and change our behaviors, if we are going to save this planet, and the creatures who are being forced to share it with us.

I cannot think of a better place to start the Massachusetts, where I happen to live, nor a better approach than to try to convince state leaders, town meetings and city councils to start by changing the white supremacist flag and seal of our Commonwealth. The white hand holding a Colonial broadsword over the composite image of a Native American has defined our society’s genocidal relationship to the Native caretakers of this land (and by extension to the land itself) for hundreds and hundreds of years. Now is the time – in this moment of global climate crisis and mass species extinction – to elevate the voices and Native people, and look to their spiritual and moral leadership, if we have any hope of ever extricating ourselves from the mess the white settler society has made of this once verdant paradise called Earth.

As I travel down Route 20 by bicycle, handing out leaflets and talking with folks I meet along the road about the campaign to change the Massachusetts flag and seal (39 legislators now co-sponsoring – 39 cities and towns already voting to change the flag and seal – when will we reach 40? – with your help we will!) I pass endless self storage units and land moving equipment, property management services and private, gated communities, and I think of the famous quote attributed to Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Nation:

“Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the children of the earth. This we know: the earth does not belong to human beings, human beings belong to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Human kind did not weave the web of life, we are merely a strand in it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. One thing we know: our god is also your god. The earth is precious to the Creator him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator.”

Time to ride. You are welcome to join me along the way! Get in touch at daviddetmold@gmail.com

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