"Ecoheroism and the Beaucatcher Overlook, by James Dye"
The term ecoqueer, sporting an entirely superfluous hyphen, slipped into the language a few years ago. It is applied to intrepid environmental activists, incidentally gay, whose sexual orientation is somehow linked to social responsibility, in this case to ecology. As Australian documentary filmmaker Pip Starr, himself an ecoqueer, noted, “[N]ature created people to be queer for good reason...we tend to become artists, storytellers, and spiritual guides or leaders.”
Among the ranks of the ecoqueer is Stephanie Hillman, who, in a very visible protest, camped for several days in the pouring rain on a ledge high above the city of Rio de Janeiro, in the company of large, Amazonian rats. Or there is Eric Heijselaar, who leapt onto a derelict storage rig from a helicopter and spent six days on the platform, nursing a broken ankle but thereby compelling Shell Oil not to dump the rig into the ocean. The contributions of Hillman and Heijselaar are in every sense heroic, the stuff of books and film. But Asheville has her own ecoqueer, a quiet, soft-spoken, and modest hero who has, through his efforts, saved thirty forested acres within the city limits for use as a public park.
John Cram’s name is synonymous with Asheville’s renaissance. With his Blue Spiral 1 Gallery and the Fine Arts Theatre, he breathed new life into the city’s decaying downtown. His New Morning Gallery and Bellagio have done the same for Biltmore Village. That he has an eye for art is unquestioned, and it is doubtless this visual sensibility, perhaps combined with that gay Frodo-environmentalism of the 1970s, that drives his campaign to save western North Carolina from itself.
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