If the environmental movement were a game of poker, Tim DeChristopher raises the stakes. By boldly throwing up his paddle as the infamous bidder #70, he also may have thrown in his freedom and future. He did it all in an effort to fight what he calls “a war on the young.”
DeChristopher is part of a new activist movement aimed at building awareness about climate change. In what some would call a monkey-wrench move (although others define monkey-wrenching as not getting caught), DeChristopher bid on lands that were to be auctioned off to oil and gas companies.
The problem is – he did so only to keep the lands safe from drilling and had no intention or ability to pay. Some of the folks up on Capitol Hill didn’t think it was too funny and charged him with a felony.
When the judge threw out the “necessity defense,” which can be used when someone commits a crime for the greater good, he virtually assured DeChristopher a guilty verdict. The jury, banned from hearing one word about climate change, convicted him on two felonies. DeChristopher, much like the land he risked it all to save, now must wait for a decision on his fate. He faces up to 10 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.
When it comes to saving the Southern Utah parcels from drilling, so far, he’s winning that hand. The Obama administration has taken them off the auction block. Many considered their sale to be a final offering by the Bush Administration to their friends, the oil companies.
DeChristopher is also co-founder of the organization Peaceful Uprising, symbolized by a palm-out clenched fist. The outward facing position of the fist is meant to show peaceful will, while the fist is to show unity and strength. Many are now looking to DeChristopher for guidance on the steps that they should take.
“I can’t tell you what to do, you must look for opportunities,” DeChristopher said.
The game wages on as DeChristopher has turned into a catalyst for many other voices in the environmental movement. Steve Valk, Regional Manager for the Citizen’s Climate Lobby flew all the way in from Atlanta to be in Utah to support him – saying he was “blown away by the bold and audacious courage.”
DeChristopher also had Robert Redford blogging about him for the Huffington Post and Daryl Hannah jetting in to do a benefit auction to aid in funding his defense.
Not only the hip, famous and powerful are backing DeChristopher. Lindsay, a Utah resident dancing with her toddler outside the courthouse said, “Tim got me fired,” but offered no further elaboration.
Another member of the Peaceful Uprising group, Ryan Pleune, a bus driver in Salt Lake City, took his 5thgrade students to “buzz the tower” (drive by the courthouse) to show support for DeChristopher on his trial day.
DeChristopher declares, “The most powerful we can be is non-violent.”
Terry Root, an Environmental Scientist speaking at the University of Utah at a 2008 symposium seemed to give DeChristopher the final push that he needed to get off the bench and into the game.
“She literally put her hand on my shoulder and said ‘I’m sorry, my generation failed yours,'” DeChristopher said.
These are the words that percolated in his heart and finally brewed into a paddle-raised bid that could now end in his lost freedom. Will DeChristopher be the flashpoint that leads to more bold and audacious moves by the environmental movement?
As DeChristopher said in Spock-like fashion, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.”
For more information about Peaceful Uprising visit peacefuluprising.org.