On James Lee and the Events at Discovery Communications Headquarters

discovery communications building photo

photo: Michael Graham Richard

As most readers have probably heard or read by now, yesterday was a dramatic day at the Silver Spring, Maryland headquarters of TreeHugger's parent company, Discovery Communications. Early in the afternoon a lone man, later identified to be James J. Lee, entered the building, brandishing a pistol and carrying explosives, and began taking hostages. The situation ended four hours later with the hostages unharmed and Lee losing his life. Discovery Communications' Executive Vice President of Global Communications and Corporate Affairs, David Leavy later expressed what no doubt everyone in the building felt that day.

"First and foremost," Leavy said, "Discovery Communications wants to express how relieved and grateful we are that all employees, and the children from the Discovery Kids Place daycare center are safe. Employees in Silver Spring demonstrated courage, compassion, and cooperation throughout the situation... The events of today showed the strong heart of the Discovery family."

Lee was a known quantity. Two years ago he staged what amounted to a one-person protest outside the One Discovery Place offices and issued a rambling screed demanding that Discovery's multiple television networks do more to prevent the planet from being destroyed by humans. He took issue with everything from the military, to peace activists, to environmentalists, and, to the point of violent destructive obsession, with Discovery.

In the hours that followed the tragic events of September 1, much of the commentary in the media -- from the mainstream to the blogosphere -- tended toward sympathy for the victims in the building. Some, however, strayed toward the extremes of both sides of the conventional political divides, which seems so irrelevant in such situations.

Events like this force everyone involved to stop and pause. In those moments the thing that keeps coming to the front is one word: Life. Why do those of us dedicated to protecting the environment do what we do? Life, preservation of life, and attempting to create a world where all life can thrive more fully, that is the goal.

Compassion and courage are required for that. Compassion for all concerned and courage to keep promoting the message that a better world is possible, non-violent change can happen, even when the misanthropic actions of one profoundly misguided individual force themselves upon you in one of the worst possible ways.

We offer profound gratitude to all of the TreeHugger and Planet Green readers, as well as all the readers, viewers, followers, and lovers of our sister Discovery brands, who expressed support during yesterday's very trying moments. We appreciate your well-wishes. Thank you again.