Tim DeChristopher: The Next Thing to Do

May 12, 2013


The story of how DeChristopher landed in prison is well known. On December 19, 2008, he walked into an oil and gas auction in Salt Lake City, where the Bureau of Land Management was auctioning off leases to drill on public lands. When asked if he had come to bid, DeChristopher, somewhat startled, said yes. He took a paddle, labeled “Bidder 70,” and without any plan as to what he would do with it, entered the auction. But then, when he saw a friend across the room break down in tears over the potential loss of wild lands, an idea came to him. He began raising his paddle to bid. By the end, he’d amassed a total of 22,500 acres at a price of $1.8 million.

Although the Obama Administration later declared the auction illegal and DeChristopher eventually raised enough money to buy the land he had bid on, two of the felony charges against him stuck. After a trial delayed nine times by the prosecution, he finally received a two-year sentence in July 2011.

But that’s the Tim DeChristopher story you already know. What often gets overlooked in this folk hero tale of a man who went to jail for his principles is that DeChristopher didn’t want to be the only hero. And so he became one of the most consistent and strongest voices for direct action and civil disobedience in the movement, urging environmental groups to use personal sacrifice as means of becoming more effective.

By showing that people who don’t hold positions of authority can successfully confront injustice, his example helped to build the climate-justice group Peaceful Uprising, changed the tactics of the nation’s most established environmental organizations, and helped shape the mass climate movement, which turned out nearly 50,000 people on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in February.

Listen below, as DeChristopher speaks powerfully about his experience confronting the power wielded against him in court, and the power of citizens who follow their conscience.


9 Responses to “Tim DeChristopher: The Next Thing to Do”

  1. […] Truthout: The story of how DeChristopher landed in prison is well known. On December 19, 2008, he walked into an oil and gas auction in Salt Lake City, where the Bureau of Land Management was aucti…  […]

  2. rayduray Says:

    Several Canadian lakeside home owners are becoming believers in climate change probably, and global climate weirding for sure:


  3. Looks like many parts of US have pretty bad weather at the moment:

    Will be interesting to see how the sudden jump in temperatures will play out.

  4. The American legal systems is a mockery and a travesty of all things sacred. That it should stoop to the depravity of seeking jurors willing to sacrifice their morals to the odious force of the state is witness to its total moral bankruptcy. Just as in Nazi Germany, the jury that was chosen, was only following orders. What lack of moral compass has lead us to a state that says not to have a conscience? What perverse circumstance leads us to view the state as an arbiter of morality, rather than our own conscience?

    • Another way to look at it is that many American laws are a travesty of all things sacred.

    • junkdrawer88 Says:

      Our laws are becoming more and more out of step with the interests of the 99%.

      And yet, there remains the jurisprudence of English Common Law – which produces the tension Chris describes.

      So the appeal to “obey authority or there will be chaos” is the obvious strategy of the 1%.

      And a frightened population seems willing to do just that.

      Many say: “Don’t tell the public ALL the facts of Climate Change. They’ll become frightened and tune us out!”

      I say: Until they become MORE frightened of climate change than the ginned-up specter of anarchy, verdicts like this will continue.

  5. rayduray Says:

    This is news to me. The State of Utah is getting into the tar sands business:


  6. andrewfez Says:

    He raised enough money to pay for all the land he bid on?


    In the same spirit, he could probably raise enough money to be a large shareholder in one of those small cap oil/gas companies that pay 10% dividend yields. Then he could use the dividend money for green projects, or to buy more stock until he became the largest shareholder. He could be pretty disruptive in that position.

    More than likely if a small cap company saw him accumulating shares, all the other shareholders would consider the stock poison and pull out, making it cheaper for him to buy more shares.

    He’d probably wind back up in jail for something like that though.

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