This letter was co-written by five leaders of social and environmental justice. All recognize the trial of Tim DeChristopher to be a turning point in the climate movement:
- Dr. James Hansen, author of Storms of my Grandchildren, and who is regarded as the world’s leading climatologist
- Naomi Klein, author of #1 international bestseller The Shock Doctrine
- Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and author of The End Of Nature and Eaarth
- Robert Redford, actor, director, environmental activist, and founder of The Sundance Institute
- Terry Tempest Williams, author of The Open Space of Democracy
A few months back, you likely heard about a vitally important court case involving the prosecution of a principled young environmental activist named Tim DeChristopher. After several delays, that trial is back on and we are asking for your support on its openings days starting February 28th.
Why is this trial so important to the fight against catastrophic climate change, even in light of recent ecological disasters like flooding in Pakistan and the BP oil spill? As we all know, this fight takes many forms: huge global days of action, giant international conferences like the one that failed in Copenhagen, small gestures in the homes of countless people.
But there are a few signal moments, and one will come in February, when the federal government puts Tim DeChristopher on trial in Salt Lake City. Tim—“Bidder 70”—pulled off one of the most creative protests against our runaway energy policy in years: he bid for the oil and gas leases on several parcels of federal land even though he had no money to pay for them, thus upending the auction. The government calls that “violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act” and thinks he should spend ten years in jail for the crime; we call it a noble act, a profound gesture made on behalf of all of us and of the future.
Tim’s action drew national attention to the fact that the Bush Administration spent its dying days in office handing out a last round of favors to the oil and gas industry. After investigating irregularities in the auction, the Obama Administration took many of the leases off the table, with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar criticizing the process as “a headlong rush.” And yet that same Administration is choosing to prosecute the young man who blew the whistle on this corrupt process.
We cannot let this stand. When Tim disrupted the auction, he did so in the fine tradition of non-violent civil disobedience that changed so many unjust laws in this country’s past. Tim’s upcoming trial is an occasion to raise the alarm once more about the peril our planet faces. Local supporters are asking people around the country to flood into Salt Lake City in February. If you come, there will be ample opportunity for both legal protest and civil disobedience. For example:
•Before Tim’s trial, Peaceful Uprising will be hosting events starting February 25th with the Countdown to Uprising Empowerment Summit. This is a people’s movement that draws power from around the globe; for a few days at the end of February its headquarters will be Salt Lake City.
Outside the courthouse, there will be a mock trial, (or, “real trial” as organizers are calling it) with experts like NASA’s Jim Hansen providing the facts that should be heard inside the chambers. We don’t want Tim on trial—we want global warming on the stand. [UPDATE: the "mock" climate trial was staged outside the federal courthouse on November 5th. It was a great success. Watch it here.]
• There will be evening concerts, film screenings, and gatherings, including a “mini-summit” to share ideas on how the climate movement should proceed in the years ahead. This is a people’s movement that draws power from around the globe; for a few days its headquarters will be Salt Lake City.
You can get the most up-to-date news here, including schedules for the Countdown to Uprising Empowerment Summit activities and much more. If you’re coming, bring not only your passion but also your creativity—we need lots of art and music to help make the point that we won’t sit idly by while the government tries to scare the environmental movement into meek cooperation. This kind of trial is nothing but intimidation—and the best answers to intimidation are joy and resolve. That’s what we’ll need in Utah.
We know it’s short notice. Some of us won’t be able to make it to Utah because we have other commitments or are limiting travel, and if you’re in the same situation, peacefuluprising.org will also have details of solidarity actions in other parts of the country. If you can contribute money to help make the week’s events possible, please click here. But more than your money we need your body, your brains, and your heart. In a landscape of little water, where redrock canyons rise upward like praying hands, we can offer our solidarity to the wild: wild lands and wild hearts.
Tim DeChristopher deserves and needs our physical and spiritual support in the name of a just and vibrant community. Thank you for standing with us,
Dr. James Hansen,
Terry Tempest Williams