climate justice

Sun, 2014-02-16 06:00Guest
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From Occupy to Climate Justice: Merging Economic Justice and Climate Activism

This article was originally published in the February 24th issue of The Nation and is republished with permission.

by Wen Stephenson 

It’s an odd thing, really. in certain precincts of the left, especially across a broad spectrum of what could be called the economic left, our (by which I mean humanity’s) accelerating trajectory toward the climate cliff is little more popular as a topic than it is on the right. In fact, possibly less so. (Plenty of right-wingers love to talk about climate change, if only to deny its grim and urgent scientific reality. On the left, to say nothing of the center, denial takes different forms.)

Sometimes, though, the prospect of climate catastrophe shows up unexpectedly, awkwardly, as a kind of non sequitur—or the return of the repressed.

I was reminded of this not long ago when I came to a showstopping passage deep in the final chapter of anarchist anthropologist David Graeber’s The Democracy Project: A History, a Crisis, a Movement, his interpretive account of the Occupy Wall Street uprising, in which he played a role not only as a core OWS organizer but as a kind of house intellectual (his magnum opus, Debt: The First 5,000 Years, happened to come out in the summer of 2011). Midway through a brief discourse on the nature of labor, he pauses to reflect, as though it has just occurred to him: “At the moment, probably the most pressing need is simply to slow down the engines of productivity.” Why? Because “if you consider the overall state of the world,” there are “two insoluble problems” we seem to face: “On the one hand, we have witnessed an endless series of global debt crises…to the point where the overall burden of debt…is obviously unsustainable. On the other we have an ecological crisis, a galloping process of climate change that is threatening to throw the entire planet into drought, floods, chaos, starvation, and war.”

These two problems may appear unrelated, Graeber tells us, but “ultimately they are the same.” That’s because debt is nothing if not “the promise of future productivity.” Therefore, “human beings are promising each other to produce an even greater volume of goods and services in the future than they are creating now. But even current levels are clearly unsustainable. They are precisely what’s destroying the planet, at an ever-increasing pace.”

Talk about burying the lead. Graeber’s solution—“a planetary debt cancellation” and a “mass reduction in working hours: a four-hour day, perhaps, or a guaranteed five-month vacation”—may sound far-fetched, but at least he acknowledges the “galloping” climate crisis and what’s at stake in it, and proposes something commensurate (if somewhat detached from the central challenge of leaving fossil fuels in the ground). That’s more than can be said for most others on the left side of the spectrum, where climate change is too often completely absent from economic and political analysis.

Sat, 2013-04-20 09:21Laurel Whitney
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Tim DeChristopher, Imprisoned For Nearly Two Years, To Be Released On Earth Day

Climate activist Tim DeChristopher is set to be released from prison on Earth Day, this Sunday April 21st, since being incarcerated on July 26, 2011.

Tim DeChristopher created quite a ripple in the activist community when he tried to buy millions of dollars of land in December of 2008 in order to stop the oil and gas industry from snatching it up at an illegitimate auction put on by the outgoing Bush administration. While the incoming Obama administration cancelled the auction, Tim was caught in the fallout, while the rest of the auctioneers presumably roam free.

He was slapped with two federal felony charges - one for making false statements and violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act.

Tim's trial was pushed back 6 times over two years and was fraught with maddening plot twists. The judge refused to let Tim use the Necessity Defense or let the jury know crucial facts, including that the auction was illegal. Tim was also prohibited from testifying on how he acted on moral convictions relating to climate change.

His prison term was no less eventful. During March of last year, Tim was thrown in isolated confinement for two and a half weeks after writing correspondence that the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) deemed potentially harmful because it contained the word “threat.” It turned out he was only “threatening” to return a potential legal fund donation from a company whose ethics weren't aligned with his own.

Rumors went around that an unnamed Congressman had put in the order, but investigations never figured out if it was true.

Wed, 2012-03-28 05:15Laurel Whitney
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BREAKING: Tim DeChristopher Moved To Isolated Confinement

UPDATE: Tim was returned to the minimum security facility on the night of Wed March 28th after the prison received thousands of phone calls,” according to a post on the Peaceful Uprising Facebook page.

UPDATE: See the email that got Tim thrown in the hole below

According to a press release sent from Tim DeChristopher's organization, Peaceful Uprising, Tim was recently moved from the minimum security camp at Federal Correctional Institute Herlong in California to Herlong's “special housing unit” which, in the parlance of our times, equals “the hole.”

Sources report that DeChristopher was moved there at least two weeks ago because of an investigation brought on by an unknown U.S. Congressman.

DeChristopher was sentenced to two years incarceration last July, with 3 years probation, after being convicted of two federal felonies for fraudulently disrupting a BLM oil and gas lease auction. DeChristopher was disturbed by the sale of federal lands for fossil fuel energy development and chose an impromptu act of civil disobedience to call attention to the illegitimacy of the sale.

Since the sentencing, DeChistopher has enjoyed limited outside contact from prison. However, one email Tim originally sent to a friend seemingly went rogue. According to today's press release, DeChristopher's email to his friend on the outside expressing potential concern about a contributor to his nonprofit group was possibly the trigger for the odd increased scrutiny and punishment.

“Tim was inquiring about the reported business practices of one of his contributors, threatening to return the money if their values no longer aligned with his own.”

How or why the email ended up in Washington DC, no one knows at this point. Questions abound, actually. Why did this one email compel an unidentified member of the U.S. Congress to make a phone call to get DeChristopher moved to a more restrictive cell. Who? What? How? Why? 

Mon, 2011-08-01 13:50Laurel Whitney
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The Bidder 70 26: The Catalyst That Will Ignite The Climate Movement

The night before Tim DeChristopher’s sentencing was like any other before an action - we were all up way too late, distressed about work that hadn’t gotten done, going over every last detail for the morning rally. Still somewhat fixated on our laptops, we all waved goodbye as Tim got up to go home to finish his speech for court the next day.

As I sat in the courtroom listening to Tim speak to the judge, all I could think about was what if I were in Tim’s place - what would I say, could I be as composed and articulate as Tim? Would I even be willing to put myself in the position to risk long-term federal incarceration?

During his speech to the judge, Tim could finally say what he was not allowed to during the jury trial. “The people who are committed to fighting for a livable future will not be discouraged or intimidated by anything that happens here today,” Tim said as he explained how our current destructive institution has not only threatened the planet, but taken the power to hold government accountable for unjust policies and practices away from its citizens. “You may have authority over my life, but not over my principles.” [Read Tim DeChristopher’s offiical statement from the sentencing hearing at PeacefulUprising.org.]

Tue, 2011-07-26 22:10Laurel Whitney
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BREAKING: Tim DeChristopher Sentenced To Two Years In Prison

At 3:00 pm MST today, the end of a very long and emotional saga came to fruition as the gavel banged down on the judge’s desk in a federal courthouse in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tim DeChristopher, convicted earlier this year with two federal felonies, will be spending two years in prison for his creative act of non-violent protest against an illegitimate oil and gas lease auction set up by the Bush administration in late 2008. Known as “Bidder 70”, the climate activist swiftly shut down the auction by pretending to buy millions of dollars worth of public Utah land leases originally intended to go to oil and gas companies. Tim was immediately taken into custody on Tuesday after the two-year sentence was announced.  He faces three years probation and a $10,000 fine as well.

Many have heard of his story in the three years since he picked up that fateful Bidder 70 paddle. The trial was delayed eight times and sentencing was supposed to happen last month at the end of June, but ended up being pushed back by a month at the last minute. During this time, Tim has garnered a large following as he’s traveled the country talking about his experiences with the injustices of the court system.

He’s used this platform to effectively inspire others to consider non-violent civil disobedience as a strategy for shifting power away from domineering fossil fuel industries and back into the hands of the people fighting for a livable future. Tim talked about transforming the economy into something more than a cleaner, greener version of what is currently in place - a total system change that decentralizes large energy conglomerates, emboldens the power of local community, and works for the benefit of more than the richest 1% of the country.

Sun, 2011-06-05 14:02Laurel Whitney
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Ralliers March To Preserve Blair Mountain And Stop Mountaintop Removal

This week, hundreds of marchers will convene in the West Virginian wilderness to walk over 50 miles in 5 days. Organized by Friends of Blair Mountain and Appalachia Rising, the March to Blair Mountain is a 7-day event in which participants will weather obstacles such as the outdoors, possible intimidating counter protestors, port-a-potties, and withstanding 500 people who haven’t showered in 5 days all culminating on June 11th in a protest atop historic Blair Mountain in West Virginia.

Blair Mountain is slated as a site for mountaintop removal - in which the coal companies (like Massey) literally explode the tops off of mountains to reach the coal deposits inside and leave the surrounding ecosystems and communities devastated. In fact, the the amount of explosives used each week is equivalent to one Hiroshima bomb. It would be like if your doctor were to just blow off parts of your body in order to excise a tumor, instead of carefully cutting their way through in order to later put the pieces back together in a functional form.

Fri, 2011-04-15 17:32Laurel Whitney
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Power Shift 2011- Youth Leaders Flock to DC

This weekend in Washington DC, thousands will descend upon the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for Power Shift 2011. A veritable boot camp of movement building, it will bring together the leaders of the so-called “youth” movement to converge on finding solutions to effectively fight climate change, ensure a clean energy future, and finally displace the entrenched dirty energy industries.

The jam-packed agenda includes keynote addresses from Al Gore, Bill McKibben, and EPA administrator Lisa Jackson along with a plethora of workshops, meetings, and trainings planned from morning until night each day of the conference, culminating in a day of action on Monday the 18th in which attendees will take direct action against major polluters and also participate in citizen visits to Congressional offices.

With climate threats posed by hydrofracking and unconventional gas production booming across the US, the Canadian tar sands  and dangerous proposed pipelines, and the coal and oil industries stubbornly fighting to keep their dirty energy subsidies, we definitely have our work cut out for us.

Mon, 2011-02-28 15:21Laurel Whitney
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Tim DeChristopher Trial Commences in Salt Lake City

Today in Salt Lake City, climate activist Tim DeChristopher (aka Bidder 70) finally gets his day in court after waiting almost 2 years since his original indictment for disrupting an illegal auction of oil and gas leases that would have opened pristine public lands in Utah to drilling. The district attorney has delayed the trial as many as 6 times as the government hoped DeChristopher would succumb to a plea bargain, but DeChristopher’s legal team has stood firm in demanding a public trial by a jury of his peers so that the public might hear the truth about the original BLM auction, which was a last-minute parting gift to the oil and gas industry from outgoing President George W. Bush.

Back in December 2008, DeChristopher showed up at a controversial oil and gas auction in Utah that was offering leases to companies to drill on environmentally-sensitive public lands, including Nine Mile Canyon and Dinosaur National Monument. An economics student at the time, DeChristopher was troubled by the Bush Administration’s efforts to skirt around required environmental assessments, essentially making the auction illegal in the first place.

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