As I come down from the stress and anxiety of preparing for Friday’s oral arguments in the Thacker Pass case, I’ve been thinking about what I’ve learned since Max Wilbert and I set up our little two-person tent back on January 15 to protest the Bureau of Land Management’s final record of decision to permit an enormous open pit lithium mine that would destroy Thacker Pass. It’s been difficult to articulate what I’ve learned. The difficulty comes from the fact that I want to have learned something encouraging or hopeful, something that leaves my readers feeling good.

But, what I’ve learned is not encouraging or hopeful. At least, it’s only as encouraging or hopeful as honesty is.

Honestly, this campaign has left me feeling empty and exhausted. Part of it comes from my fear that, after all the work so many have done to protect Thacker Pass, the judge is still going to allow Lithium Nevada to rip the land up on their way to stealing artifacts and sacred objects created by my Native clients’ ancestors. Another part of it is my knowledge that this fight is really just beginning.

The biggest part of it, though, is that I thought through this work there might be some moment of fulfillment, some moment of victory or pride I would experience in “fighting the good fight” or in being counted among those “who are at least doing something.”

The truth is, I’ve never felt that moment. The natural world is still being destroyed at an intensifying pace, most people don’t care, and most people probably will never care.

I’m not going to give up. You shouldn’t either. Golden eagles need us. Sage grouse need us. Yearling pronghorn antelope need us. The generations who may or may not exist depending on our success need us. That should be enough.

There’s no glory or fulfillment or spiritual salve in fighting to protect the natural world. You might be happier and healthier if you never join the fight. But, if we don’t do it, who will?