Tim DeChristopher has shot to prominence in the United States after he sought in December 2008 to protect 22,500 acres of wilderness from oil and gas mining by placing a false bid. Dressed in a suit, the activist entered a Bureau of and Management oil- and gas-lease auction in Utah and placed a bid on the land worth $1.8 million. The bid disrupted the bidding–and ended with him being charged and facing up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to $750,000.
Radical action is ‘in’
The environmental movement in the United States and in many other countries around the world is shifting to radical action. Placard-waving peaceful protest has its limits. Many activists feel such actions have their limits. “Direct action” is their mantra.
DeChristopher warns of the collapse of industrial civilization, as do others. Resources are running out. Pollution is tipping the climatic balance.
In an in-depth profile entitled The Trials of Bidder in Outside magazine, journalist Abe Streep tells us that DeChristopher is a “martyr for a newly radicalized environmental movement,” an unknown who until he place his bid had no public profile, no bestselling book, no Nobel peace prize, and no government job, just a B.S. in economics and now a criminal record.
Challenging laws, upholding laws
DeChristopher is an example of the envronmental activists who take direct action. That action tests the limits of the State and on occasion may break existing laws – or, as in the case of Sea Shepherd activists fighting the killing of wildlife my seek to uphold existing laws seldom enforced. This activism goes head-to-head with “the system” that controls societies today around the world, a system where governments are typically in the pockets of big business and the banks, one that has seen massive destruction of the environment.
At a 2011 environmental conference in Washington D.C., on a stage shared by author Bill McKibben, head of the Environmental Protection Agency Lisa Jackson, Gasland documentary maker Josh Fox and Al Gore, DeChristopher brought the largely young audience down to earth with his pessimistic assessment of the environmental struggle.
As Streep writes, the activist is for direct action. After chastising the crowd, DeChristopher switches gears. His message is simple: he wants to end mountaintop-removal coal mining in his native West Virginia. “With just these people right here,” he says into the microphone, “we could send 30 people onto a mountaintop-removal site, shut it down temporarily, cost them a lot of money, start to clog up the court systems of West Virginia. And we could send 30 people the day after that, the day after that, and the day after that”—here the crowd rumbles—“every day for a year.”
DeChristopher has become a sought-after speaker and is running a Salt Lake City-based activist group called Peaceful Uprising. His message is: “It is no longer enough to play by the rules … it is time to rush the field …”
‘Just Do It’ – The documentary
The documentary “Just Do It” looks at climate activism and the daring troublemakers who have crossed the line to become modern-day outlaws.
Documented over a year, Emily James’ film follows these activists as they blockade factories, attack coal power stations and glue themselves to the trading floors of international banks despite the very real threat of arrest.
This is another example of direct activism, where people are challenging the system to try to bring positive change. The approaches are controversial. For one eventful year, James was allowed unprecedented access to film the secretive world of environmental direct action. Two years later, Just Do It – a tale of modern-day outlaws hit the big screen.
James spent over a year embedded in activist groups such as Climate Camp and Plane Stupid to document their clandestine activities. The trailer, below, offers and insight into the types of actions covered.
Desperation and getting things changed
Whether it is DeChristopher’s action or the actions of the activists in James’ film, this form of activism speaks of desperation and a real desire to bring about change.
There are no easy answers to rescuing the planet from destruction but some people are going all out to make a positive change.
Just Do It – A Tale of modernday outlaws – Trailer
Just Do It – discussion