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VOICES

Young Environmental Hero Serving Two-Year Prison Sentence To Be Released Next Month

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Tim DeChristopher at Powershift 2011.

CREDIT: Flickr/Chris Eichler

Utah is an embattled state. Long revered for dramatic, remote scenes of unreal natural beauty, it is also a favorite among the oil and gas companies, who see nothing but dollar signs in the hardscrabble landscape. This is the land Edward Abbey held so dear—the high mesas and bottomless canyons, the pinyon pines and juniper, the scorpions, snakes and solitude.

Tim DeChristopher isn’t a name most people know, but he is something of a hero among environmentalists, in Utah especially. In 2008, DeChristopher, in his mid-20s, blocked an illegal auction of public lands by posing as a bidder. His act of civil disobedience delayed and ultimately cancelled the auction, but it also landed him in jail. In 2011, DeChristopher was convicted in federal court, and sentenced to two years in prison. 

The young man, suddenly thrust into the national spotlight, made the following closing statement at his sentencing:

"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."

DeChristopher is currently serving the remainder of his sentence in a halfway house in Salt Lake City, Utah, and is not permitted to speak to the media. He is scheduled for release on April 21, but his story and his mission have continued to spread through Peaceful Uprising, a Utah-based climate justice collective he helped found.

Rachel Carter serves on the organization’s advisory board. “Our mission is to empower bolder action,” she told Campus Progress.

Carter said PeaceUp works to promote an atmosphere of “resilient resistance,” pairing nonviolent direct action with sustainable solutions for “a livable future.” One of the organizations key principles is blending the fight against climate change with the struggles of marginalized populations.   

“Social justice and climate justice are completely intertwined,” Carter said. 

PeaceUp is currently campaigning against tar sands mining in Utah, with major actions planned between now and the end of July. Before then, they are looking forward to DeChristopher’s release.

The documentary “Bidder 70,” which follows DeChristopher’s legal battle and the protests surrounding it, will have nationwide screenings on April 22, based on demand. Carter said DeChristopher will attend the Salt Lake City screening, and will host a live-streaming Q-and-A afterward.   

Bidder 70 – Trailer from Gage & Gage Productions on Vimeo.

Cody Bond is a reporter with Campus Progress.

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