Prison turned out to be not nearly as bad as I expected… We have a vastly different justice system today than we had a generation ago, with an order of magnitude of more people in prison, and one of the things that people don’t stop and think about, is that one of the consequences of mass incarceration is that our prison are filled with really normal people. Mass incarceration did not happen because of some drastic shift in human nature. It happend because the private prison industry was able to change our laws that allows us to lock up a lot more normal people.
—  Climate activist Tim DeChristopher on Letterman

Tim DeChristopher knew exactly what he was doing when he slipped into a federal auction in Utah in 2008 and bid $1.8 million on oil and gas drilling leases that he didn’t have the money to pay for: He was, in Western parlance, risking his own hide in order to take a stand against fossil fuels and environmental destruction. DeChristopher ended up being sentenced to two years in prison for his brave, bold act, and in the process he became a folk hero to many fellow environmentalists.

Tim DeChristopher was chosen as an Utne Reader visionary in 2011. Each year Utne Reader puts forward its selection of world visionaries—people who don’t just concoct great ideas but also act on them.

Keep reading …

Tim DeChristopher Backs Huntsman for President?

Climate advocate Tim DeChristopher (currently serving jail time for an act of civil disobedience) wrote an op-ed to Grist.org encouraging other environmentalists to “play dirty” and throw their support behind Jon Huntsman instead of Barack Obama. 


The climate movement could also rock the boat by campaigning for Jon Huntsman right now. Aside from playing dirty, I genuinely believe that Jon Huntsman would make a better president than Obama. While Huntsman was my governor, I saw him show integrity in the face of a Utah state legislature that makes the U.S. House look sane. Huntsman took very public steps to address climate change even while the legislature passed a bill that literally said the science of climate change was a U.N. conspiracy to limit human population. He has guts, which is more than anyone can say for Obama, who has demonstrated the wisdom of Edward Abbey’s words, “Without courage, all other virtues are worthless.” If Huntsman wanted an endorsement from a lefty activist felon in prison, he would have it.

I don’t think Huntsman particularly cares for DeChristoper’s endorsement, but this still brings up an interesting idea. Would the environmentalist movement really begin to gain some political clout if withdrawing their support for Obama causes him to lose the election? 

DeChristopher seems to think so:

Of course Huntsman can’t win his party’s batshit crazy primary. But building political power is all about looking beyond the next election. Very public support for Huntsman from the climate movement could create some interesting public discussion about how the Dems have failed to address the climate crisis. Campaigning for Huntsman might also scare Obama enough that he takes some steps over the next year to try to win us back..

But come 2012, the climate movement will still face that arrogant taunt, “Whaddaya gonna do? Let a Republican win?” If this movement is ever going to get serious political power, the answer needs to be yes. This is where things get dirty. Like any abusive relationship, this movement will always be taken for granted if it’s not willing to turn its back on Obama. He needs to lose, and everyone needs to know it was us.

Definitely an interesting tactic, although I don’t know how many participants of the climate movement would willingly abstain from supporting the Democratic presidential nominee to play dirty politics. 

Maybe Obama will get scared and do some last minute pandering to secure the environmentalist vote. Rolling Stone has already laid out 10 things Obama could do to help the environment without waiting for congress. (Coincidentally, one of them happens to be pardoning Tim DeChristopher for posing a bidder to prevent the federal auction of land in Utah’s national parks for oil drilling.)

We have much higher levels of consumption, and that’s how people have been oppressed in this country, through comfort. We’ve been oppressed by consumerism. By believing that we have so much to lose.

Tim DeChristopher What Love Looks Like: A conversation between Terry Tempest Williams and Tim DeChristopher. Orion Magazine, January/February 2012

Tim DeChristopher is the only person to have been named an Utne Reader visionary while in prison: He’s serving a two-year sentence for disrupting a federal oil and gas lease auction in Utah in an act of environmental protest.

One reason we nominated DeChristopher as a visionary is because he became a hugely inspirational figure to other environmentalists as he wrote and spoke about his principled act of civil disobedience right up until he was led to his cell. But make no mistake: He is in prison mainly because he dared to continue speaking out.

Keep reading …


Bill Moyers Interviews Tim DeChristopher

“We have a two-tiered justice system in this country. We don’t really have a rule of law, we have two justice systems. The division is not necessarily strictly between rich people and poor people, the division is between those that promote the concentration of power in the hands of the elite versus those that threaten to distribute that power, or take away some of that power. I think part of the mistake that a lot of people make is thinking that the law, or words like ‘legal,’ are synonymous with 'moral’ or 'just,’ and that’s not the case. Most of our great examples of morality throughout history are people who broke the law.”

“We are on this path of rapid change. We know we’re going down this path of unprecedented change, and so it’s really important who is calling the shots during that time. The collapse of industrial civilization with an ignorant, apathetic citizenry that’s afraid of their own government and feels like they have to accept whatever corporations want to do, that’s really scary, that’s really ugly, and that’s, I think, the big challenge that we face now.”

Why I organize

Tim DeChrisopher: (Interview)

I met Terry Root, one of the lead authors of the IPCC report, at the Stegner Symposium at the University of Utah. She presented all the IPCC data, and I went up to her afterwards and said, “That graph that you showed, with the possible emission scenarios in the twenty-first century? It looked like the best case was that carbon peaked around 2030 and started coming back down.” She said, “Yeah, that’s right.” And I said, “But didn’t the report that you guys just put out say that if we didn’t peak by 2015 and then start coming back down that we were pretty much all screwed, and we wouldn’t even recognize the planet?” And she said, “Yeah, that’s right.” And I said: “So, what am I missing? It seems like you guys are saying there’s no way we can make it.” And she said, “You’re not missing anything. There are things we could have done in the ’80s, there are some things we could have done in the ’90s—but it’s probably too late to avoid any of the worst-case scenarios that we’re talking about.” And she literally put her hand on my shoulder and said, “I’m sorry my generation failed yours.” That was shattering to me.

I think this is why people are skeptical about climate change: Because it’s fucking scary. And when thinking about this quote even I find myself thinking “If this is true…”. Because if it is true then everything I’m working on is pointless. And what’s the point of trying? Our minds want give ourselves an out that it’s not true, so we can keep living like nothing is wrong.

There’s also the other end of skepticism: Those who have accepted climate change as unavoidable and have given up trying. It’s impossible to have a sense of urgency when there is literally nothing we could do to stop complete global climate destabilization. So we retreat to smaller communities, and wait for the inevitable.

The way I see it, we have a few decades of relative calm. Once the shit really hits the fan there will be widespread war and government oppression like we haven’t seen in years and a counter mass awakening and revolution. Who wins depends on what we do now.

It's done: Climate activist Tim Dechristopher was sentenced to two years today.

As a protest, he bid on an oil lease, won, and couldn’t pay

Environmental and leftwing campaigners, from actress Daryl Hannah to film maker Michael Moore and writer Naomi Klein, immediately denounced the sentence as excessive.

At a vigil outside the Salt Lake City courtroom where sentencing took place, supporters of DeChristopher’s Peaceful Uprising civil disobedience movement shouted: “Justice is not found here.”

As Bidder No 70, DeChristopher disrupted what was seen as a last giveaway to the oil and gas industry by the Bush administration by bidding $1.8m (£1.1m) he did not have for the right to drill in remote areas of Utah. He was convicted of defrauding the government last March.

In a phone conversation with The Guardian, a day ahead of sentencing, he said he was expecting jail time: “I do think I will serve some time in prison. That is what I think will be the next chapter in my life.”

DeChristopher’s lawyers had argued that his actions in December 2008 were a one-off, and that the judge should show leniency. They argued DeChristopher had not intended to cause harm.

However, Judge Dee Benson said DeChristopher’s political beliefs did not excuse his actions.

Once I realized that there was no hope in any sort of normal future, there’s no hope for me to have anything my parents or grandparents would have considered a normal future-of a career and a retirement and all that stuff-I realized that I absolutely nothing to lose by fighting back. Because it was all going to be lost anyways.
—  Tim DeChristopher What Love Looks Like: A conversation between Terry Tempest Williams and Tim DeChristopher. Orion Magazine, January/February 2012

MUST WATCH! The Necessity of Civil Disobedience: Bill Moyers Interviews Tim DeChristopher

DeChristopher—who was released less than a month ago—joins Bill Moyers to talk about the necessity of civil disobedience in the fight for justice, how his jury was ordered to place the strict letter of the law over moral conscience and the future of the environmental movement.


Climate Campaigner Tim DeChristopher Released From Prison | Common Dreams

Activist Tim DeChristopher, who was jailed for the past 18 months for disrupting a leasing auction for federal oil and gas exploration, has been released from prison. He is due to serve the remaining six months of his sentence at a halfway house in Salt Lake City, reports Deseret News.

I think our economic model, in a big sense-our whole economic system-protects itself by making people dependent upon it. By making sure that any change, any departure from that system, is going to be hard. And it’s going to lead to hardship, both individually and on a large scale as well. We can’t change our economic system without it falling apart, without things crashing really hard. Just like as an individual you can’t let go of your job and all that stuff without crashing pretty hard.
—  Tim DeChristopher What Love Looks Like: A conversation between Terry Tempest Williams and Tim DeChristopher. Orion Magazine, January/February 2012
Unnamed Congressman Has Tim DeChristopher Moved into Solitary Confinement | The Dissenter

This is truly shameful:

Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher, who was given a two-year sentence in prison for making fake bids in a Utah public land auction that was later found to be corrupt, has reportedly been moved to solitary confinement after a member of Congress contacted the Bureau of Prisons.

Peaceful Uprising, a climate change activism group which DeChristopher co-founded, states in a press release posted on March 27:

On the evening of Friday March 9th, Tim DeChristopher was summarily removed from the minimum security camp where he has been held since September 2011, and moved into the FCI Herlong’s Special Housing Unit (SHU). Tim was informed by  Lieutenant Weirich that he was being moved to the SHU because an unidentified congressman had called from Washington DC, complaining of an email that Tim had sent to a friend. Tim was inquiring about the reported business practices of one of his legal fund contributors, threatening to return the money if their values no longer aligned with his own.  According to Prison officials, Tim will continue to be held in isolated confinement pending an investigation.There is no definite timeline for inmates being held in the SHU — often times they await months for the conclusion of an investigation.

In the SHU, Tim’s movement and communications are severely restricted. In the past two weeks, he has been allowed out of his 8 X 10 cell (which he shares with one other inmate) four times, each time for less than an hour. The SHU could have been designed by Franz Kafka. Tim is allowed one book in his cell, and four in his property locker.  His writing means are restricted to a thin ink cartridge which makes correspondence extremely difficult.  He can still receive mail from the outside, but has no other form of communication other than 15 minutes of phone calls per month. [emphasis not added]

First off, this congress person who ordered DeChristopher into solitary confinement is a coward and should be unmasked. DeChristopher is powerless in prison. He is already being punished.

If the description is correct, it seems like a congressman is trying to intimidate DeChristopher for wanting to return money. To amplify the punishment because of an email is cruel. That the punishment is to place DeChristopher into solitary confinement is even more inhumane. In fact, it is what a fascist country would do to a political prisoner.


The identity of the member of Congress who is doing this to DeChristopher is still unknown. Peaceful Uprising hopes “investigative journalism and public pressure” will lead to the member’s identity becoming known.

And, the Associated Press provides additional confirmation that DeChristopher was moved to solitary. They spoke to DeChristopher’s lawyer Pat Shea, who told AP “prison officials in California, where DeChristopher is held, told the jailed activist that a congressman complained about an email he sent to some of his supporters.” Because of the complaint, he is now being held in isolation.

Read the rest here.

More on the story from Common Dreams.

In December of 2008, The U.S. Bureau of Land Management under the presidency of George W. Bush tried to auction over 150,000 acres of land in Utah, land that surrounded Canyonlands, Arches and other landmarks, to oil and gas companies. 

Many environmental groups activated, protested, and tried to block the auctions and debate their legality.  The auctions were rushed in order to be completed before the Obama presidency began.  The bureau broke it’s own rules and did not complete climate change studies and other environmental impact studies before pushing the auction.  Because of the speed of the auctions and federal backing of the sale… protest groups were unsuccessful in stopping the auction.

A 27-year-old student went to the auctions, registered as a bidder and used paddle #70 to place bids, winning on over 22,000 acres of land for over one and a half million dollars, and driving the prices up on many, many other acres until the auction was stopped as people became aware of what he was doing.

He had no intention of paying for the auctions he won.  He had no means to do so.  He committed fraud, and by doing so, forced the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to postpone the sale of the land until after the new administration took command.  At that time the new head of the interior overturned the leases on all of the land and deemed the auction illegal.  

Today the oil and gas companies have been unable to develop the land and the acres remain pristine.

Today, that student, Tim DeChristopher was sentenced for two years in jail for his actions. 

This one goes out to you Bidder70. 
Thank you, Tim.