A Hero For Our Times: Tim DeChristopher

March 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

If you haven’t yet read this wonderful interview with Tim DeChristopher in YES! Magazine, I’d highly encourage you to do so.

Back in 2008, Tim was planning to disrupt the auctioning of land that held valuable oil and gas. He says, ‘I knew I would probably go to jail, but my mindset was: “It’s worth it to keep this oil in the ground.”’

Grist.org explains what happened next;

“DeChristopher hadn’t planned what he was going to do that day when he arrived directly after a class. The auctioneers asked if he would like to be a bidder. Thinking on his feet, he said, “Yes, I would.”

Handed bidder paddle number 70, DeChristopher began bidding as soon as the auction opened. He bought more than a dozen parcels and drove up the prices of others before being stopped by a federal agent. His “purchase” totaled 22,500 acres, and effectively put a halt to the 11th-hour leases and subsequent drilling.

The auction itself was later deemed illegitimate by the Obama administration because it was conducted outside of the rules set for holding such auctions. A law known as Secretarial Order 3226 went into effect in 2001, stating that all parts of the Department of the Interior, including the Bureau of Land Management, have to take into account the impacts of climate change in any major decision they make involving resource extraction.”

An inventive and brave incident of direct action has now meant he’s $1.7 million in debt, facing a court date and up to 10 years in jail. On Monday he started his trial – and his interview reveals a man who sees the moral arc of our age – we just haven’t started acting like it.  Some choice quotes,

“One of the dominant characteristics of the climate movement is a sense of disempowerment. We’re fighting against these entrenched interests, against the richest and most powerful corporations in the world, often in collusion with our federal or state government. We think that they’re big and powerful and we’re small and weak, so we’re just not going to be effective at overcoming them.

We’re missing out on the fact that even if 10 to 15 percent of the U.S. population really get the issue of climate change, that’s 30 or 40 million people. That’s more than enough to bring the fossil fuel industry to its knees. If even a tenth of those people were willing to engage in significant nonviolent civil disobedience, that’s an incredible force. To begin with, there’s no way they could all be arrested—that would double the population of prisoners we currently have in this country, and we already have a prison crisis. They wouldn’t know what to do with us. And that’s with just a tenth of people who really understand the problem.

We think we have no power when in fact we have more than enough power. Right now, we have a big enough movement to win this battle; we just need to start acting like it. That’s the message that the climate movement really needs to internalize. On an individual level, it means making the commitment that we’re going to be powerful and effective agents of change; on the movement level, it’s about making the decision that we’re really going to win this battle.”

“An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

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