[permaculture] Democracy Now! | "One Mans Bid to Aid the Environment"
rigot.3 at osu.edu
Sat Jan 3 10:18:49 EST 2009
The story below is a great example of direct action activism.
December 24, 2008
One Mans Bid to Aid the Environment
By Amy Goodman
Tim DeChristopher is an economics student at the
University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He had just finished his last
final exam before winter break. One of the exam
questions was: If the oil and gas companies are the only ones who bid on
public lands, are the true costs of oil and gas
exploitation reflected in the prices paid?
DeChristopher was inspired. He finished the exam,
threw on his red parka and went off to the controversial Bureau of
Land Management land auction that the Southern
Utah Wilderness Alliance called the Bush administrations last great
gift to the oil and gas industry. Instead of
joining the protest outside, he registered as a bidder, then bought 22,000
acres of public land. That is, he successfully
bid on the public properties, located near the Arches and Canyonlands
National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument,
and other pristine areas. The price tag: more than $1.7 million.
He told me: Once I started buying up every
parcel, they understood pretty clearly what was going on
they stopped the
auction, and some federal agents came in and took
me out. I guess there was a lot of chaos, and they didnt really know
how to proceed at that point.
Patrick Shea, a former BLM director, is
representing DeChristopher. Shea told the Deseret
News: What Tim did was in the
best tradition of civil disobedience, he did this
without causing any physical or material harm. His purpose was to draw
attention to the illegitimacy and immorality of the process.
There is a long tradition of disrupting land
development in Utah. In his memoir, Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey, the
writer and activist, wrote: Wilderness. The word
itself is music.
We scarcely know what we mean by the term, though
the sound of it draws all whose nerves and
emotions have not yet been irreparably stunned, deadened, numbed by the
caterwauling of commerce, the sweating scramble for profit and domination.
Abbeys novel The Monkey Wrench Gang inspired a
generation of environmental activists to take direct action,
disrupting development. As The Salt Lake
Tribune reported on DeChristopher: He didnt pour sugar into a bulldozers
gas tank. He didnt spike a tree or set a
billboard on fire. But wielding only a bidders paddle, a University of Utah
student just as surely monkey-wrenched a federal
oil- and gas-lease sale Friday, ensuring that thousands of acres near
two southern Utah national parks wont be opened to drilling anytime soon.
Likewise, the late Utah Phillips, folk musician,
activist and longtime Utah resident, often invoked the Industrial
Workers of the World adage: Direct action gets the goods.
More than just scenic beauty will be harmed by
these BLM sales. Drilling impacts air and water quality. According to
High Country News, The BLM had not analyzed
impacts on ozone levels from some 2,300 wells drilled in the area since
nor had it predicted air impacts from the
estimated 6,300 new wells approved in the plan. ProPublica reports
that the Colorado River powers homes for 3
million people, nourishes 15 percent of the nations crops and provides
drinking water to one in 12 Americans. Now a rush
to develop domestic oil, gas and uranium deposits along the river and
its tributaries threatens its future.
After being questioned by federal authorities, DeChristopher was released.
The U.S. attorney is currently weighing charges
against the student. DeChristopher reflects: This has really been
emotional and hopeful for me to see the kind of
support over the last couple of days
for all the problems that people
can talk about in this country and for all the
apathy and the eight years of oppression and the decades of eroding civil
liberties, America is still very much the kind of
place that when you stand up for what is right, you never stand alone.
His disruption of the auction has temporarily
blocked the Bush-enabled land grab by the oil and gas industries. If
DeChristopher can come up with $45,000 by Dec.
29, he can make the first payment on the land, possibly avoiding any
claim of fraud. If the BLM opts to re-auction the
land, that cant happen until after the Obama administration takes over.
The outcome of the sales, if they happen at all,
will probably be different, thanks to the direct action of an activist,
raising his voice, and his bidding paddle, in opposition.
Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
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