activism

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.

Thu, 2011-06-16 14:15Laurel Whitney
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Stories From the March on Blair Mountain - Part 1 The March

I arrived a few days early to headquarters in Marmet, WV with an overly large pack that threatened to topple me over with one slightly unbalanced step. A sleeping bag, multiple changes of clothes, a bottle of Listerine, and ample bug spray would have to last me through the long and arduous journey of marching 50 miles along highways careening through the West Virginian Appalachians.

Over the next week, hundreds walked along the path of the original 1921 miners who rose up against the tyrannous coal companies in an attempt to unionize. In the 2011 March on Blair Mountain, community leaders, union members, and conservationists rallied to save the historical labor icon of Blair Mountain, sentenced for destruction via mountaintop removal mining (MTR).  We marched to protest against MTR and to advocate for safer working conditions and sustainable jobs for West Virginians, whose economy and proud natural landscape have been eroded by greedy coal barons.

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.

Tue, 2011-05-17 17:32Laurel Whitney
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WPI Students Protest ExxonMobil Speaker at Graduation

After four grueling years of late nights studying and more Ramen noodles than any one person should ever consume, most students don’t find themselves protesting their own graduation. Yet on Saturday, a group of graduates from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) did just that as a row of seats towards the back were left empty for them. No, they weren’t protesting the abhorrent prices of graduation gowns they would never wear again or the absence of top-shelf champagne at the ceremony: they were protesting its speaker.

As soon as WPI announced Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, would be this year’s graduation speaker, many students suddenly were “left confused, even betrayed,” graduating senior Katrina Crocker told DeSmogBlog. It didn’t make sense that WPI, a school recognized as one of the greenest universities in the nation, would invite the CEO of one of the largest dirty energy companies on the planet to address the class of 2011. In contrast to WPI’s green priorities, ExxonMobil reaps billions in dirty energy profits while polluting the environment and contributing to global climate change, all while simultaneously funding front groups to attack climate scientists and confuse the public.

Wed, 2011-05-11 16:07Laurel Whitney
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New Coal Cares™ Campaign Targeting Link Between Coal And Asthma Leaves Viewers Breathless

Peabody Energy seemed to have a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day yesterday as they started to receive curious phone calls from consumers asking just how many Justin Beiber inhalers they were planning on giving away, and how courageous it was that a coal company was stepping up to acknowledge the role that pollution from their coal plants makes people sick, especially kids with asthma. Alas, the PR team at Peabody was quite confused on both accounts.

Around 9:00 am eastern time, a new “market-friendly public health initiative” hit journalists’ email inboxes announcing the launch of Coal Cares™, a campaign from Peabody Energy that would give away free novelty-themed inhaler actuators and also generously offer a $10-off coupon for the actual asthma medication, but only if you lived within 200 miles of a coal plant (news flash, you probably do).

Tue, 2011-04-19 15:22Laurel Whitney
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Power Shift 2011 Round Up

I was sitting outside the DC Metropolitan Police Station last night at 11:30 pm when the last arrestee out of 21 for the day came out to cheers from the supportive crowd. The weekend of Power Shift 2011 ended with quite a bang, with the final day of the conference leading up to a massive day action to say no to big polluters.

I’ve been attending the Power Shift conference, in which 10,000 climate youth leaders descended onto Washington DC. It is always reaffirming to be around thousands of people that don’t think you’re some kind of nerd or radical hippie when you say you’re associated somehow with the environmentalist/climate change/clean energy/climate justice movement. There’s still such a stigma associated with climate change and environmentalism, especially with the right-wing denier machine pushing out tropes that we’re all communists wrapped in a blanket of radicalism vying to “kill the parents”.

It’s uplifting to remember at least once in a while there are thousands of people committed and passionate about working to establish a clean energy economy and promote meaningful climate legislation. And the climate justice movement isn’t just geared toward saving the planet, this movement also works toward helping to improve racial and social justice issues too.

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.

Fri, 2011-03-04 15:54Laurel Whitney
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Tim DeChristopher stands tall despite guilty verdict

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.” Henry David Thoreau on Civil Disobedience

A collective gasp was heard late afternoon yesterday as Tim DeChristopher was found guilty after only 5 hours of jury deliberation. Officially charged with one count of False Statement and one count of violating the Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act, suddenly everyone was left thinking- did they convict the real criminal?

Much of the last two days of trial had focused on DeChristopher’s intent when bidding for BLM land leases. Prosecutor John Hubert argued that DeChristopher intentionally “disrupted, derailed, and sabotaged” the auction. However, defense attorney Ron Yengich painted a different picture:

“He wanted to raise a red flag,” he said. “He wanted to make a statement. That’s what he wanted to do. His desire was not to thwart the auction. … He wanted people to think about the consequences that the auction was bringing to bear on other people. But it was never his intention to harm anyone.”

Maybe if Tim had run into the auction using his paddle to feverishly whack participants to prevent them from bidding, then that could be seen harmful.

But let’s put this into context:

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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