Posts Tagged civil disobedience
Its been my great honor getting to know Tim DeChristopher since his brilliant act of civil disobedience. But it is especially sobering to consider that he could easily end up in prison. I understand, the willingness to suffer years of incarceration is part of the romanticism of civil disobedience. But it this case, it would send a devastating signal to this generation.
One of Tim’s most ardent and more senior supporters chaffed at the decision to raise money to cover the $45,000 bond on the leases exclaiming, “What’s the point of civil disobedience if you’re not willing to go to jail?”
Just the day before, after meeting with the lawyers, Tim quietly corrected me when I used the word ‘jail’. “It’s federal prison” he reminded me. That hit me like a ton of bricks. Tim is your average exceptionally bright, humble and brave guy trying to do the right thing and suddenly faced with years in a federal prison.
Tim is at the mercy of a politically motivated federal prosecutor in a state that – lets get serious – HATES environmentalists and loves Oil & Gas jobs. If you need to be reminded, take a moment to review a few Utahn’s sentiments toward Robert Redford.
“Please know that by stopping the gas and oil development many families and communities will be hurt tremendously.”
“Interesting that all these rich people are so ‘for the environment’ and so out of touch of the rest of the people, their neighbor, brother, sister, other human beings. At what point are they going to get it (probably never) that PEOPLE and their livelihoods are more important.”
“Can you say elitist snobs or environmental hippocrites [sic]?”
Unfortunately, we are not dealing with a simple matter of right and wrong or of justice and law. Tim is facing a complex combination of forces uninterested in the future and welfare of a college student who acted out of frustration by the failure of an entire movement to stop eight years of a devastating and illegal assault on the environment by the Bush administration.
Tim’s generation is looking at a worldwide scientific community telling us its probably too late; that the environment is past the tipping point. Tim’s generation has two choices: become hysterical, or do nothing. We wonder why today’s youth are so apathetic.
Lets send a message to Tim’s generation by doing everything we can to keep him out of ‘prison.’ The alternative will not only destroy Tim’s life, and justify the apathy, but it will also signal an entire generation to just give up.
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.
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 challenge.
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.
One Utah author Warnick asks: “Is Tim making the big Washington-based enviro groups nervous?”
SHOULD the enviro groups be nervous that one guy acting alone with no budget, in one afternoon, saved more land from government subsidized than they might in any given month?
The Bush Administration auctioned off sections of the Utah wilderness to be used for oil and gas drilling. One man against the auction signed up as a bidder, sabotaging some of the bids and may now face fraud charges. Rachel Maddow is joined by Earthjustice president Trip Van Noppen.
Maddow: This young man from the UofU deciding essentially to sabotage the auction, I know that has not been the tactic that your law firm has chosen to fight this sort of thing … . What do you make of his tactics, of his actions.
Noppen: …We think that there is a remedy for this in the courts. I do understand that civil disobedience has had a place in history at times when the law won’t work. We actually think in this case the Bush administration is violating the law and the court will remedy it and so we’re in court to stop it.
It was generous of Trip Nolen to concede that there is ‘a place for civil disobedience…when the law won’t work,’ unfortunately, Earthjustice, NRDC and all the lawyers in the world represent at best, a few symbolic successes against the wholesale violation of environmental law, the destruction of habitat, and the poisoning of our air and water by industry.
And unfortunately, the cases they do choose, are just the ones with the highest likelyhood of drawing media attention and ones for which they can raise lots of money.
If Noppen means it when he says, “there is a place for civil disobedience when the law doesn’t work” then I would say every day and every place is a ‘place’ for civil disobedience.
Lets be honest, in this case, EarthJustice (Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund) was not successful in stopping the lease of tens of thousands of acres. Though the expensive attempt produced some marginal wins on technical grounds, but virtually no affect on preventing Bush from giving away a huge chunk of ‘The Farm’ to his best buddies.
May Tim’s ‘tactics’ be found in the mainstream of ‘tactics’ to save our lives.
With a plot that would have done old Ed Abbey proud, a college student managed single-handedly to disrupt the BLM oil and gas lease auction sufficiently to prevent some parcels from being sold at all, and running up the prices for others.
An act of civil disobedience without any destruction being done. Clever and well-executed.
Tim DeChristopher, 27, faces possible federal charges after winning bids totaling about $1.8 million on more than 10 lease parcels that he admits he has neither the intention nor the money to buy — and he’s not sorry.
“I decided I could be much more effective by an act of civil disobedience,” he said during an impromptu streetside news conference during an afternoon blizzard. “There comes a time to take a stand.”
The Sugar House resident — questioned and released after disrupting a U.S. Bureau of Land Management lease auction of 149,000 acres of public land in scenic southern and eastern Utah — said he came to the BLM’s state office in Salt Lake City to join about 200 other activists in a peaceful protest outside the building Friday morning. But then he registered with the BLM as representing himself and went to the auction room.
There, he thought about the times he has marched, fired off letters to his congressmen, signed petitions and supported environmental organizations — all to no avail.
“What the environmental movement has been doing for the past 20 years hasn’t worked,” DeChristopher said. “It’s time for a conflict. There’s a lot at stake.” [snip]
BLM official Terry Catlin said the agency didn’t want to reopen the bidding on the parcels DeChristopher snagged unless all interested parties were able to compete for the leases. That means the parcels won’t be available again until at least February — after Obama takes office — during the next scheduled auction.
DeChristopher, who acknowledged upping other bids by about $500,000, said he would be willing to go to jail to defend his generation’s prospects in light of global climate disruption and other environmental threats.
“If that’s what it takes,” he said.