Together We Stand

I thought I was acting alone. I thought what I did last Friday at the BLM oil and gas auction was just an individual act of civil disobedience against a fraudulent auction and against a cruel leadership indifferent to the future of my generation.Rosa Parks

I was wrong. What I have learned since then is that America is still a place where when you stand for what is right, you never stand alone. I can now see that I acted together with all Americans who respect the right as much as the law. I stood with Thoreau, Adams, Parks and Bob Moses. I now stand with the thousands who have expressed their solidarity with my act and will join me in Washington DC on March 2nd for the Capitol Climate Action.

The tremendous outpouring of support which I have received in response to disrupting the BLM’s oil sale has been overwhelming for me. I can only assume that the thanks many of you have offered is not thanks for doing what you won’t, but thanks for awakening your own sense of efficacy. My actions were just the striking of the match head. The purpose of a match is not to light the world by its own flame, but to ignite the tinder and kindling which keeps the fire going. If my act is to be relevant, it must ignite the tinder of grassroots uprising which will burn the fires of change around the world.

The tinder of support already burning has given me hope that this country is ready to meet the urgent challenge before us. That challenge is clear and cannot be understated. James Hansen, the IPCC, Al Gore and others have warned in no uncertain terms that the next couple years are our last chance to take drastic action in response to climate change if we are to protect our civilization as we know it. I believe America is ready to make the sacrifices necessary to rise to that Tim DeChristopher

For decades the environmental movement has been dominated by cadre-based organizations who told the rest of us to just let the professionals handle things. We have been told that the best we can do is to sign an internet petition and send our donations so that Big Green could hire lobbyists to fight our battles. The upwelling of grassroots energy is finally responding that we are willing and able to do much more. We have discovered that hope for genuine change resides not on K Street or with Obama, but in ourselves. This uprising holds true to the faith that our heritage of civil disobedience is not dead and that we can again make this a government of the people.

In 2009 our new Congress and new President will decide our fate. They will either show heroic courage in standing up to powerful interests and defending our future, or they will demonstrate tragic failure. Failure to respond to this unprecedented crisis. Yet they can only follow the trail we break. So as they decide, we will be there. We will be in Washington on March 2nd, and we will be in every community in America all year long refusing to surrender the future of all for the short term profits of the few. Every one of us faces our own opportunities to make a difference. By responding to those individual challenges to our conscious, together we will defend our future.

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  1. #1 by Richard Warnick on December 26, 2008 - 12:05 pm

    I’m with Tim DeChristopher in believing that grassroots-directed change can work a lot better than what the big grant-funded environmental groups have been doing. I take responsibility for my own failures, over the last 20 years, to counter the Washington-focused approach to Utah wilderness issues that has failed so miserably.

    Blogs and other online tools have the potential to overcome the hierarchical, big-money model, and revive bottom-up organizing. Unless we lose net neutrality, we could soon witness the rebirth of a grassroots conservation movement.

    It’s a cliche, but “think globally, act locally” is the most realistic and practical approach. That’s what Mr. DeChristopher did last Friday, acting on the highest principles to save as much Utah wildland in one day as all the environmental lawyers combined have managed to save in years. I stand behind him.

    With “think globally, act locally” in mind, however, I don’t see the point of flying, driving or even hitchhiking from Utah to Washington D.C. to protest a coal-fired power plant.

  2. #2 by Moribund Republic on December 26, 2008 - 12:13 pm

    What will stop the rigs when they roll into the area? They don’t stop for the internet. They do stop for price drops though.

    Start living like cavemen or find and use alternatives out of your own pocket, for as sure as we discuss this, Washington has given itself a raise, and intends to spend us into oblivion.

  3. #3 by Uncle Rico on December 26, 2008 - 7:07 pm

    I don’t know that the choice has to be between big enviro and grassroots-directed change. Each approach certainly has its merits together with the capacity to accomplish the objective, albeit in very different ways. SUWA, for example, can accomplish through lobbying and litigation what an individual standing in front of a bulldozer can never accomplish. Conversely, Tim DeChristopher accomplished in his one, simple, beautiful and defiant act, something that big, corporate enviro organizations can never hope to accomplish. He rekindled our spirits and gave us courage to stand up to the bastards who seek to loot this nation’s heritage for a quick buck.

    Like Richard, I too am a bit jaded by big enviro, but methinks its a bit of an over-statement to say that what Tim accomplished in one day eclipses what all the enviro lawyers combined have accomplished in several years. But in the end, I personally don’t really care. I say hit them with both barrels anyway.


  4. #4 by Gail Moore on December 26, 2008 - 9:05 pm

    Mr. deChristopher is an environmental hero, and I believe all like-minded supporters might want to consider contributing to a fund for his legal expenses, which wil almost certainly be high.

  5. #5 by Albert on December 27, 2008 - 12:26 am

    Kudos, what a great Christmas gift you’ve given the world. Thank you, Tim.

  6. #6 by atom ottokar on December 27, 2008 - 3:36 am

    i’m french but know perfectlly well the region

    thank tim

  7. #7 by Ken on December 27, 2008 - 11:41 am

    The bus that Rosa Parks rode on was fueled by gasoline. The same substance people like Tim would like to see banished forever. Tim is no Rosa Parks because she was fighting for freedom, while people like Tim are fighting for a world where government controls every aspect of our lives claiming it is for the environment when in reality it is just about raw power.

  8. #8 by Richard Warnick on December 27, 2008 - 12:29 pm

    Ken– Please cite source for your allegations.

  9. #9 by Ken on December 27, 2008 - 1:37 pm


    I am just taking the words of extreme environmentalists to its logical conclusion, because if they got everything they want, human activity would have to be severely restricted to try and achieve zero impact on the planet. (which is impossible of course)

  10. #10 by Damian Nash on December 27, 2008 - 1:43 pm

    Dear Tim —

    Thank you for your creative civil action during a crisis situation. It will help save the land we love here in Moab. You and your friends are welcome at our dinner table anytime!

    As you enter into a time of public scrutiny and legal complications, it might help you to remember that the word “patriot” comes from the Latin word “patria,” which means home-land, with an emphasis on LAND. In other words, the original meaning of the word “patriot” is a defender of the land against those who seek to conquer it. In this sense, conservationists are the true and original patriots, because they defend the land for its own sake and for the benefit of future generations. Unfortunately, in recent decades the word “patriot” has been co-opted by the far right to mean “those who defend the economic growth of the country at all costs, exploiting the land whenever possible for a quick buck,” and they have wrapped themselves in the American flag to confuse the masses.

    Because you now represent the focal point for the competing American values of land preservation and land exploitation — essentially the age-old battle between widsom and greed — you will get to see first-hand how those with financial power use it and abuse it to further their own agendas. Of course you are aware how the Bush administration is leaving a legacy of great violence toward the land of America and the climate of the world. They also leave a legacy of great violence toward innocent people who stood between vast Iraqi oil reserves and the Texas oil-men like Cheney who coveted it blindly. You are now a highly visible person who stands in between these same violent exploiters and the few drops of oil they hope to squeeze from the sands below Moab.

    It might be useful to you to remember that both Gandhi and Martin Luther King repeatedly said that, while they would not condone any form of violence, their methods of protest served to expose the violence that already existed, lurking below the surface in the oppressive societies they confronted. While the protesters committed no acts of violence, they were exposed to great violence from the police, who represented the arm of enforcement for oppressive regimes. Similarly, there is great psychological and social violence hiding behind the chant “Drill, baby, drill!” heard at the Republican convention earlier this year. You will be the target of that violence, of the confused masses of people who believe that the only answer for their personal and collective financial woes is the further rape and pillage of the American home-land.

    Please use caution where you step, and don’t underestimate the power of angry mobs. Greed, anger, and other human frailties turn into social memes that can cloud the judgment of those in power, even those who are truly well-intentioned. Please treat the individual humans who oppose you with kindness, as if they are confused but well-meaning people, because that is a correct psychological perspective, and a perspective that allows for real and permanent social change.

    Gandhi and MLK both humbly adhered to Jesus’s commandment to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” They firmly believed that wisdom and justice would ultimately prevail, not by destroying the people who opposed their peaceful agendas, but by appealing to their shared humanity and eventually winning their enemies over as allies. History has proven them right. Your creative act of civil disobedience has made you the lightening rod for the anger of those who are blinded by the lust for money and oil. Now win them over with wisdom and compassion.

    Meanwhile, know that you are a ture hero to me and my wife, Dorina, and we open our guest room to you whenever you visit Moab!

    Best regards,

    Damian Nash
    Moab, Utah

  11. #11 by Larry Bergan on December 27, 2008 - 3:34 pm

    As promised, Amy Goodman is staying on the story with a very good summation of it so far.

  12. #12 by Jeff Campbell on December 27, 2008 - 4:15 pm

    James Hansen won’t release his source data or code, so we can’t trust his warnings. The IPCC cherry picked results and ran afoul of their own quality control standards. Al Gore and his Hockey Stick have been completely discredited by the hard work of Steve McIntyre at climate audit . Your little act of uncivil disobedience makes you look more like a bit player in the alarmist lynch mob than any kind of hero.

  13. #13 by noreen on December 27, 2008 - 5:05 pm

    i am curious—Why not start an e-movement to raise the money to BUY the leases? Does it require that they be used, or can they just be idled?

  14. #14 by Richard Warnick on December 27, 2008 - 5:46 pm

    noreen– Some people are in fact trying to raise money to pay for the leases. As far as I know, there is no due diligence requirement for oil & gas leases the way there is for mining claims.

    Others point out that the BLM acted illegally by auctioning off these parcels, and that it makes no sense for we the people to pay for land we already own.

  15. #15 by Dennis D on December 30, 2008 - 7:39 am

    Damian Nash hit the nail on the head here. Ghandi definitely broke the law where the law impedded on the good of his people; and he did it non-violently. We stand up for Tim’s actions as a moment of bravery for the good of his people. Good on you Tim!

    I echo Damian’s caution regarding violence. As soon as one of us raises a hand back in anger, we have lost this fight and all the momentum behind it. People like us need to stand up for what we believe and gladly take the consequences of our actions, recognizing that we have broken a law. This is the type of behavior, when shared en masse, that can change the world.

    Ghandi did it, Martin Luther King did it, Steven Biko did it…..and each of them learned from the other. You have our full support and admiration!

  16. #16 by B.D. "Buzz" VanDyke on December 30, 2008 - 10:40 pm

    Tim, I have worked with you and know you as a man of integrity and one I have trusted in our labors with youth. You have an understanding of the philosophy of our program that far exceeds my own. I heard you had been on the news when I left the field after Christmas.
    What are my feelings and thoughts on this matter? First, I think it’s quite humorous that you somewhat accidentally got thrown into the position of a bidder. And I’m in agreement that the users of public lands need to pay the full market price for the natural and community resources they use. So I appreciate the work on your part to assure that the mining companies or speculators pay their due to the community. Bravo!
    That said, I also take issue with some of the ideas I’m hearing about this, and I must be true to my understanding of things as you have been to yours. You have stated a concern about climate change and oil burning. I appreciate that concern but also say that I’m not certain that climate change is human-enduced. Many scientists believe it, but many scientists are also skeptics. I’d hope we could become less dependent on petroleum corporations either way. But meanwhile, you and I and the company we work for are high users of that oil.
    As long as we use it, it has to come from somewhere. If it comes from the USA, we have a lot more control over the way it is extracted. If we restrict mining in the USA, and it goes to the Third World, the possibility of ecosystem destruction becomes much greater.
    It seems a given in most of the articles I’m reading that oil mining will damage the lands on which it takes place. I’m afraid I’d have to agree with environmentalist Jim Stiles of the Canyon Country Zephyr- oil rigs are going to have a lot less impact on the wildlife than a lot of the New West recreation-tourism-real estate economies proposed by mainstream environmentalists.
    If our goal is to preserve the ecosystem community, I don’t think a few roads and oil derricks are going to impact the wildlife any more than the stuff we do in wilderness therapy- if it’s done on a small scale, over time, and with sensitivity to the land. I much prefer that to nuclear energy. Oil shale sounds like another matter- more like strip mine devastation.
    The visual effect may be the big thing, or the concern to preserve “pristineness.” But “pristineness” never was. Humans have been using these lands for millenia- hunting, gathering, planting, building, etc. I sympathize with rural peoples who use the land and don’t want multiple use to end. In fact, many writers maintain that ecosystems decline when humans are forced out or forced into purely aesthetic economies.
    So, thanks for having fun with the auction and keeping those corporations paying the public the full value of the land. But I have to question Robert Redford that the auction is permanent. It sounds to me like a lease, upon which the public can place certain conditions and time restrictions. We need a new environmentalism that respects caring use if the use pays fairly- the “usufruct” that Wendell Berry speaks of. Until then, stay out of jail! And let’s go to the Braza Grill!

  17. #17 by Damian Nash on December 31, 2008 - 11:19 am

    Buzz —

    Your response is well-spoken, and only seems to lack the perspective of first-hand experience with the particular parcels of land that were for sale around Moab, where I live and hike daily. I agree with you about more than I disagree.

    First, I’ve read pretty much every Scientific American article written on global climate change. You are right to question the naive, popular assumption that all climate change is caused by humans, and all change is bad. But, from my reading, the vast majority of serious climatologists take it as obvious truth that massive releases of CO2 and methane by human activities worldwide do, in fact, add to the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect, and are contributing to the recent trend toward global warming. After that starting point, however, the scientific disagreement begins in earnest.

    What I personally found most interesting was an article describing how humans began to cause global warming about 8000 years ago, when the agricultural revolution led to the cutting down of forests (reducing the re-uptake of CO2 worldwide) and when the practice of irrigation led to a large-scale release of methane through the creation of swampy conditions. The article that promoted this interesting perspective concluded with a statement that, without this human-caused global warming, Europe could well be in the midst of a deep-freeze ice age right now, and Western civilization as we know it might not have happened.

    My point? I don’t dispute that humans are causing significant climate change through our collective use of fossil fuels. I don’t dispute that the polar ice caps are receding at unprecedented rates, posing a real and large threat to the direction of the North Atlantic Current and the climate of Europe. I don’t dispute that more heat energy trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere will mean more unstable weather patterns worldwide, bigger tropical storms, more flooding, etc. I don’t dispute that this will have tragic consequences for large numbers of poor people living, for example, in Bangladesh or New Orleans. I don’t dispute that patterns of precipitation will probably change, and fertile reaasons will become too arid to yield the crops that large populations depend on. All this can be seriously bad news for millions of people, especially if governments don’t plan ahead wisely.

    What I do dispute, however, are the Chicken Little “sky is falling,” doomsday projections, such as the one brought into our collective unconscious through the movie The Day After Tomorrow. In that movie, the climate of the entire northern hemisphere entered an ice age in a matter of a few days, wreaking havoc worldwide, and, amusingly, causing the immigration problems at the US-Mexico border to reverse directions. I also dispute Mr. Gore’s conclusion, at the end of his documentary film, “An Incovenient Truth,” that what lies at stake is civilization as we know it. Extremism and alarmism have a place — they are good for waking up the masses to the impacts of our collective habits — but they make a shaky foundation for long-term policy decisions.

    Despite my complete opposition the recent BLM auction, I am not opposed to oil drilling and exploration, and agree with your argument that oil exploration at home gives the US more control of our energy future and more control of mitigating the environmental impacts. But, like Obama and the billionaire oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, I strongly believe that oil and gas development must occur within the context of a massive national program to explore and develop more sustainable energy sources, such as solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear, tidal, etc. It also should happen within the context of a massive national program to promote the development of high-mpg, low-emissions vehicles, to promote clean, effective public transportation and to promote low-carboon footprint lifestyles, such as walking or biking to work, buying locally-grown foods, etc.

    Now, onto the main point where I disagree with you. If you come to Moab, I will take you to the actual parcels that the BLM put up for auction. You will notice that many of them are in the middle of roadless, proposed wilderness areas. We will look at the draconian solutions that would be required to bring roads into these areas, cutting through spectacular, ancient sandstone formations and obliterating ultra-sensitive soils. You will see remote and profoundly beautiful ecosystems that have survived human degradation only because they are so difficult to access by road.

    Then I will take you to similar areas where roads have recently been introduced. There you will see appalling degredation to the land, not just from the oil trucks that originally explored them, but from the thousands of four-wheelers, ATVers and mountain bikers who followed on the newly-created roads. Utah Governor Huntsman recently took such a tour with Moab’s part-time billionaire, and called this kind of environmenatal devastation “an abomination.” I couldn’t agree with him more.

    Drilling for oil and gas is appropriate in many places, but not everywhere. Our land is incredibly diverse, and must never be managed by a “one size fits all” policy. If that happens, then the incredibly beautiful, absolutely unique landscapes, like those we have here in Moab, will suffer the most. Tim DeChristopher and other protesters of the BLM sale understood this, and through lucky coincidence, he managed to place winning bids on some of the more sensitive parcels of land that only a desperate madman like Cheney would ever open to drilling.

    Come visit me in Moab, and I will give you the first-hand experience of these parcels of land. That missing piece of information will allow you to fully understand the significance of what Tim DeChristopher just did, and why he should be given a congressional medal of honor instead of a prison sentence.

    Best regards,

    Damian Nash
    Moab, Utah

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