We are humbled and inspired by the passion shown here by Joseph Goldstein. It’s amazing to see how the Boundary Waters has impacted his life and inspired him to make it his mission to protect the wilderness. The following is a letter Joseph drafted and sent to decision makers in D.C., which he shared with us.
My name is Joseph Goldstein. I am 13 years old, I live in Springfield, Illinois, and in October of 2014 I was diagnosed with leukemia (ALL). I’m writing today to request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss the protection of one of America’s most beautiful and pristine wildernesses: The Boundary Waters Canoe Area. This very special place is at risk from sulfide-ore copper mining, and I have made it my Wish to permanently protect the BWCA from this danger.
When the Make A Wish foundation first came to me, I was pretty surprised and didn’t really know what to say to their offer. The idea of having a wish granted was...uncomfortable. They talked to me a lot about all the Wishes they grant every year – trips and swimming pools and ponies. I’ll admit that I did like the idea of asking for a trip to the North Pole, something my dad and brother and I have talked about doing with our friend and explorer, Paul Schurke, but it just didn’t feel right – it didn’t feel BIG enough.
After we left the hospital, I kept thinking that a wish is an important thing. I think it should be about more than just me. It should be about my brothers and my friends and my parents and all of us – a wish for my generation and everyone after. I have been exploring the Boundary Waters since I was 5 years old, both summers and winters. I know what an important, beautiful place it is, and I know how much my friends and teachers all want to hear more about where we went and what we did. I want them to have the chance to be there and love it, too. I want them all to know what it feels like to pull a huge Pike from the lake, to clean and cook it over a fire they built, and to be able to drink straight from the lake (I know I’m not supposed to but the point is I CAN). Everyone I know is interested, even if they haven’t yet had the chance to experience it, and I want to protect that opportunity for everyone, forever.
Because of my experiences in the BWCA and the friends we have made there, I’ve had the chance to travel to and learn from a lot of other wild places. I have seen, first hand, that a lot of damage has been done because of short sightedness, and I know that there is no “safe” way for the area around the BWCA to be mined. Water and runoff won’t understand man’s boundaries, and sulfide-ore mining for copper and nickel will create destructive pollutants that will poison the water, and kill the fish, the animals and the forests of the Boundary Waters. This type of mining is just shortsighted destruction for temporary gain. I know that there are people who call this job creation, but I hope we can come up with something better.
Wilderness is important. It is important for its own sake. It is also important for the sake of all of us. My dad says that wilderness is a place to learn and grow and be challenged to be more. My mom says it’s a place that can heal who we already are. I think they both are right. I know that the BWCA is a place I want all my friends to see and experience. It is a place I want my brothers to grow up with, too. It is a place I want my kids to know and love someday. It is a place that can change who we are, for the better. It also is a place that can’t protect itself – wilderness relies on us to understand its importance in our lives and guard it for the future.
Nearly 100 years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt understood the need to guard our beautiful, natural resources and began protection of the Boundary Waters. Fifty years ago, the Wilderness Act made those protections stronger. Today, we have a chance to permanently save this special place for everyone, forever. Edward Abby once said, “Wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.” I am proud to use my Wish as a defender of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, asking you and all our leaders to please, permanently protect this beautiful, important wilderness.
Cancer doesn’t make any sense at all, and my mom says there’s no use trying - we can’t choose what happens to us, we can only choose how we respond. My choice, my Wish, is to try to make things better. I’m very grateful that I have a lot of friends who were already working on this, and I truly hope you will join us in this, too.