Tim DeChristopher grew up in the beautiful mountains of West Virginia. As a child he watched his mother unsuccessfully fight corporate outlaw Massey Energy's destruction of his magnificent surroundings, and as a young man became an environmental activist. At age 27, during the closing days of the Bush Administration, DeChristopher submitted bids at a Bureau of Land Management auction of public lands to fossil fuel companies, even though he had no intention of purchasing the properties, in order to stymie what amounted to a gift to the oil and gas industry. The uproar that followed DeChristopher's sabotage derailed this collusive theft of public property and saved 130,000 acres of wilderness from destruction.
Last week a Federal Judge sentenced Tim DeChristopher to two years in prison for his heroic action.
DeChristopher's lengthy pre-sentencing statement to the Judge in his case, which includes a cogent analysis of corporate dominance in America and the enormity of the approaching environmental calamity, is worth reading in its entirety, but I only have the space to quote his closing paragraph here. (See it in full at http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/26-13.)
"I'm not saying any of this to ask you for mercy, but to ask you to join me. If you side with Mr. Huber [the prosecutor] and believe that your role is to discourage citizens from holding their government accountable, then you should follow his recommendations and lock me away. I certainly don't want that. I have no desire to go to prison, and any assertion that I want to be even a temporary martyr is false. I want you to join me in standing up for the right and responsibility of citizens to challenge their government. I want you to join me in valuing this country's rich history of nonviolent civil disobedience. If you share those values but think my tactics are mistaken, you have the power to redirect them. You can sentence me to a wide range of community service efforts that would point my commitment to a healthy and just world down a different path. You can have me work with troubled teens, as I spent most of my career doing. You can have me help disadvantaged communities or even just pull weeds for the BLM. You can steer that commitment if you agree with it, but you can't kill it. This is not going away. At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow. The choice you are making today is what side are you on."
"Which side are you on?" It is a refrain many in the RFC community grew up with. It was always a potent command, a call to action that was hard to ignore. The difference I see between the struggles of the 1930s and the 1960s, and the environmentally-related ones of today, is that those earlier struggles did not contain a looming planetary deadline. I don't say this to belittle their importance. Those struggles impacted millions and involved efforts to improve the quality of human life across the globe. But if you believe, as I do, that the world's militaries, corporations and the governments that serve them are engaged in a course of conduct that threatens to decimate the productive capacity of our world in the coming decades, then we have a limited amount of time in which to alter that conduct.
Tim DeChristopher hit the nail on the head when he said "this is what hope looks like." The odds seem long and the road looks steep, but Tim DeChristopher, and others like him, give me hope. And I know whose side I'm on.
[Tim DeChristopher is a climate activist and board member for the climate justice organization Peaceful Uprising. For more information about his case and his related activism, or to contribute to his legal defense go to either http://www.tarsandsaction.org/tim-dechristopher-legal or http://www.peacefuluprising.org.]