You might remember Tim DeChristopher, the University of Utah student who threw an oil and gas land auction into disarray last year after placing numerous false bids. His trial is set to begin in March, and he's facing up to 10 years in prison.
“My intention was to cause as much of a disruption to the auction as I could,” said DeChristopher in an interview last year. “Making that decision — that keeping the oil in the ground was worth going to prison — that was the decision I made.”
Some pretty heavy green hitters are calling for people to flood into Salt Lake City, where DeChristopher is on trial, to protest his prosecution. The following letter was written by NYT bestselling author Naomi Klein, wildlife author Terry Tempest Williams; Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org; and leading climatologist Dr. James Hansen.
The epic fight to ward off global warming and transform the energy system that is at the core of our planet’s economy takes many forms: huge global days of action, giant international conferences like the one that just failed in Copenhagen, small gestures in the homes of countless people.
But there are a few signal moments, and one comes next month, when the federal government puts Tim DeChristopher on trial in Salt Lake City. Tim — “Bidder 70” – pulled off one of the most creative protests against our runaway energy policy in years: he bid for the oil and gas leases on several parcels of federal land even though he had no money to pay for them, thus upending the auction. The government calls that “violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act” and thinks he should spend ten years in jail for the crime; we call it a noble act, a profound gesture made on behalf of all of us and of the future.
Tim’s action drew national attention to the fact that the Bush Administration spent its dying days in office handing out a last round of favors to the oil and gas industry. After investigating irregularities in the auction, the Obama Administration took many of the leases off the table, with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar criticizing the process as “a headlong rush.” And yet that same Administration is choosing to prosecute the young man who blew the whistle on this corrupt process.
We cannot let this stand. When Tim disrupted the auction, he did so in the fine tradition of non-violent civil disobedience that changed so many unjust laws in this country’s past. Tim’s upcoming trial is an occasion to raise the alarm once more about the peril our planet faces. The situation is still fluid—the trial date has just been set, and local supporters are making plans for how to mark the three-day proceedings. But they are asking people around the country to flood into Salt Lake City in mid-March. If you come, there will be ample opportunity for both legal protest and civil disobedience. For example:
* Outside the courthouse, there will be a mock trial, with experts like NASA’s Jim Hansen providing the facts that should be heard inside the chambers. We don’t want Tim on trial—we want global warming on the stand.
*Demonstrators will be using the time-honored tactics of civil disobedience to make their voices heard outside the courthouse in an effort to prevent “business as usual”—it’s business as usual that’s wrecking the earth.
*There will be evening concerts and gatherings, including a “mini-summit” to share ideas on how the climate movement should proceed in the years ahead. This is a people’s movement that draws power from around the globe; for a few days its headquarters will be Salt Lake City.
You can get the most up-to-date news at climatetrial.com, including schedules for non-violence training, and information about legal representation. If you’re coming, bring not only your passion but also your creativity—we need lots of art and music to help make the point that we won’t sit idly by while the government tries to scare the environmental movement into meek cooperation. This kind of trial is nothing but intimidation—and the best answers to intimidation are joy and resolve. That’s what we’ll need in Utah.
We know it’s short notice. Some of us won’t be able to make it to Utah because we have other commitments or are limiting travel, and if you’re in the same situation, climatetrial.com will also have details of solidarity actions in other parts of the country. If you can contribute money to help make the week’s events possible, click here. But more than your money we need your body, your brains, and your heart. In a landscape of little water, where redrock canyons rise upward like praying hands, we can offer our solidarity to the wild: wild lands and wild hearts. Tim DeChristopher deserves and needs our physical and spiritual support in the name of a just and vibrant community.
Thank you for standing with us,
Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Terry Tempest Williams, Dr. James Hansen