Don't go back to sleep: Why I am one of the 'Bidder 70 26'
Civil disobedience puts a human face on the climate crisis. Our stories and our personal sacrifices awaken others to the fact that the climate crisis has immediate, visceral, painful human consequences.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011 - 18:18
Photo courtesy Salt Lake Tribune
Based entirely on Tim DeChristopher's dedication to awakening the widest possible audience to the urgency of the climate crisis, on July 26 the federal government sentenced him to two years in prison for one simple reason: to deter others from taking action.
Tim co-founded Peaceful Uprising to encourage and empower nonviolent direct action. Peaceful Uprising recognizes the need for direct action and civil disobedience to create an effective movement, and to create strong, empowered communities — both of which are necessary to combat the climate crisis. So much around the issue of climate change is scientific: difficult facts and opaque, clinical information. Many of us are comfortably unaware of the effects of human-caused climate change already disrupting vulnerable areas of the planet. Direct action puts a human face on the climate crisis. Tim, along with other like-minded, dedicated people, recognizes that our stories and our personal sacrifices awaken others to the fact that the climate crisis has immediate, visceral, painful human consequences.
After Tim was sentenced, and immediately taken into federal marshals' custody, many of us — activists as well as ordinary folks who know Tim and are members of his community — felt we needed to communicate a message to the prosecution, to the federal government, and most importantly, to the climate justice movement Tim is dedicated to encourage and empower: we will not be intimidated by an unjust system. In the fight for a livable future, we will not be deterred.
We used sturdy plastic zip ties to bind our wrists to one another and to the railing of the courthouse steps. Others saw what we were doing, and joined us in a peaceful blockade. When we learned the police intended to "wait us out" and make no arrests, the group decided to escalate the situation. We moved our occupation to the adjacent intersection and spread out to block traffic, including a TRAX train. I was deeply moved when a family who stepped off of the train we blocked joined our circle, as soon as they recognized why we were demonstrating.
The day that Tim DeChristopher was sentenced and taken to prison, 26 of us were arrested outside the courthouse. We were honoring Tim's selflessness and his sacrifice. We were also showing the world that ordinary people are ready to do whatever it takes to protect a livable future. As Tim said in his final statement to the court, "When people stand together, they no longer have to be exploited by powerful corporations. Alienation is perhaps the most effective tool of control in America, and every reminder of our real connectedness weakens that tool."
When asked what he wants to see from other activists in this movement, and from the ordinary people he has awakened and inspired, Tim often quotes the poet Rumi: "Don't go back to sleep." We must not go back to sleep; we must cultivate everyday commitment to sustained, effective action if we expect to effect the change we need. We must continue to fight. At the end of August, I am traveling to D.C. to participate in the Tar Sands Action. Targeting the Keystone XL pipeline proposed by Secretary Hillary Clinton (with intention to fuel the United States with the toxic fruits of the nightmarish Canadian tar sands), the action could turn out to be the largest ongoing collective civil disobedience in the name of climate justice in history — an incredibly crucial step for our movement, and not a moment too soon.
From D.C, I am going to Appalachia to support friends and allies at The RAMPS campaign. On Coal River Mountain, two brave women, Catherine-Anne MacDougal and Becks Kolins, recently caused the longest cessation of mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia, ever, as a result of a direct action.
I will not go back to sleep. I am committed to facing the whole, unvarnished truth about the climate crisis. I am committed to awakening others to the urgency of our fight, and to the hope and joy that principled nonviolent action can bring to their lives. I hope that you will join me.
Stay awake. Together we can create the just and healthy world we want and need to see.