The environment and the world have a new hero, a reluctant hero perhaps, but someone who in good conscience could not stand by and watch a grave injustice take place without trying to prevent it. Without taking a stand at a risk to his own liberty. His name is Tim DeChristopher, and he joins the pantheon of brave men and women who have made a difference – brave men and women whose actions ricochet and multiply into widespread social change.
Known as "Bidder 70," he was sentenced on July 26, 2011, to two years in a US federal prison and $10,000 fine for a heroic and creative act of non-violent civil disobedience. Tim's sentence is a flagrant case of injustice.
This case originated three years ago when Tim bid for oil and gas leases on several parcels of federal land even though he couldn't pay for them. His bids jeopardized the Bush Admistration's firesale of valuable public land in the dying days of its time in power. Tim's was a desperate bid to prevent a greater crime, a bid to save America's wilderness for future generations and to highlight the immorality of burning coal, oil, and gas. Climate change, habitat destruction, air pollution, water pollution are ugly legacies that Tim was hoping to avert.
While the CEOs of the companies responsible for this problem — and who would profit from the sale, pocket multi-million paychecks each year — don't have to worry about even a hint of liability for their crimes against nature, those whose health is at risk from today's pollution, and future generations from climate change, Tim is paying dearly for an act of conscience.
Before, during and after the trial, Tim refused to back down and worked to inspire others around the United States and beyond to stand up for what they believe in and protect the Earth from extraction of dirty, old, and deadly fuels. Tim is a hero in the long American tradition of the Boston Tea Party, the Underground Railroad, and the Civil Rights Movement. Using simple civil disobedience he has highlighted the fact that some laws fly in the face of a higher, shared, moral principle.
Read Tim's statement before sentencing.
During the trial in Utah, many in the crowd yelled outside the courthouse "I'll join you." With Tim and the many, many others who act at great personal risk to defend this Earth, Greenpeace stands in solidarity.
His jailing is an ominous and disappointing act in a desperate bid to protect a dying industry and corrupt system that places the interests of polluting corporations before those of the earth and future generations. At this time the wise counsel of another person who acted out of conscience comes to mind:
"First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." Well, Tim, they are not ignoring you, nor are they ridiculing you. The more we take a stand the closer we come to winning!
- Kumi Naidoo
photo of Tim courtesy Daphne Hougard