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Tim DeChristopher: Champion of Climate Movement Released on Eve of Earth Day
Pioneering activist who inspired a new generation of civil disobedience celebrates 43rd Earth Day with freedom
Pioneering environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was released from jail on Sunday—one day before Earth Day—after serving two years for disrupting an "illegal" Bush administration auction of oil and gas exploitation rights of pristine public lands in southeastern Utah.
After being released, DeChristopher said Monday in an exclusive interview with Democracy Now! that in retrospect he was "even more glad that [he] did it."
DeChristopher's example of civil disobedience helped catalyze a movement that, up until that point, relied predominantly on the Big Green groups that resided "in the Washington bubble," as he told Democracy Now!. Citing examples such as Occupy Wall Street and the Tar Sands Blockade, DeChristopher added that the climate movement "has made a lot of progress in the past four years."
"He thought the movement already had the numbers it needed to succeed, if people would step up and act—with the belief that their actions would propel more people into motion and build the movement’s numbers," writes YES Magazine's Melanie Jan Martin.
DeChristopher “was and is a complete inspiration to all of us. His courage permeated everyone's thinking,” added 350.org founder Bill McKibben.
On December 19, 2008, DeChristopher—in a last minute decision—took part in a Bureau of Land Management auction of leases to drill on public lands. Brandishing the Bidder 70 paddle, he amassed rights to a total of 22,500 acres at at the price of $1.8 million, effectively safeguarding parcels surrounding Utah's Arches and Canyonlands National Parks from drilling.
Though the incoming Obama administration invalidated the auction two months later and despite DeChristopher raising the requisite funds to actually purchase the land parcels, officials continued with his prosecution of and in July of 2011 he was sentenced to two years in federal prison.
Prior to his sentencing, DeChristopher read a 35-minute closing statement to the court: "You can steer my commitment to a healthy and just world 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."
To celebrate both DeChristopher's release and the 43rd annual Earth Day, Peaceful Uprising, the climate justice group he co-founded , has organized nationwide community screenings of the documentary feature "Bidder 70" which chronicles how DeChristopher's example of civil disobedience inspired a resurgence in the climate justice movement.
Following the film, DeChristopher will take part in an hour long Q & A that will be streamed live to over 50 different venues.
You can see times and locations of the Earth Day screenings here.
Below is DeChristopher's interview with Democracy Now!—his first appearance since his Sunday release.