February 9, 2010
The epic fight to ward off global warming and transform the energy system that is at the core of our planet's economy takes many forms: huge global days of action, giant international conferences like the one that just failed in Copenhagen, small gestures in the homes of countless people.
But there are a few signal moments, and one comes next month, 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. The situation is still fluid--the trial date has just been set, and local supporters are making plans for how to mark the three-day proceedings. But they are asking people around the country to flood into Salt Lake City in mid-March. If you come, there will be ample opportunity for both legal protest and civil disobedience. For example:
- Outside the courthouse, there will be a mock trial, 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.
- Demonstrators will be using the time-honored tactics of civil disobedience to make their voices heard outside the courthouse in an effort to prevent "business as usual"--it's business as usual that's wrecking the earth.
- There will be evening concerts 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.
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, climatetrial.com 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, 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,
Terry Tempest Williams
Dr. James Hansen
Naomi Klein is author of the #1 international bestseller The Shock Doctrine; Terry Tempest Williams is a world renowned wildlife author; Bill McKibben is founder of 350.org and author of The End Of Nature; and Dr. James Hansen is author of Storms of my Grandchildren, and is regarded as the world's leading climatologist.