Out of the Pen and Unrepentant

From In These Times:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/15081/out_of_the_pen_and_unrepentant/

Environmentalist Tim DeChristopher on the future of climate activism.

BY Rebecca Burns
June 4, 2013

When climate activist Tim DeChristopher was released from federal prison on April 21, he emerged to find a movement transformed. The action that landed DeChristopher in prison—posing as a bidder in order to disrupt an oil and gas lease auction in 2008—came at a time when the environmental movement typically shied away from such acts of civil disobedience.

Then a college student at the University of Utah, DeChristopher went on to found the group Peaceful Uprising, a climate-justice group that trains volunteers in nonviolent direct action.

The auction that DeChristopher interrupted—which would have seen the drilling rights to thousands of acres of Utah wilderness sold off to corporations—was eventually invalidated by the Obama administration. But that didn’t stop the U.S. attorney’s office from pressing charges against DeChristopher. In March 2011, he was convicted of two felonies and sentenced that July to two years in prison. But far from dampening the spirits of other activists, DeChristopher’s example helped create a groundswell of popular resistance to the fossil fuel industry. Now that he’s a free man, DeChristopher, 31, has rejoined the movement and resumed his work to help embolden others “to take the actions we know need to be taken.” He spoke to In These Times from his home in Salt Lake City.

Before you went to prison, you gave a speech where you said that we’re being pushed closer to climate catastrophe not only by the fossil fuel lobbies, but by “the cowardice of the environmental movement.” Do you feel this way now?

We’re moving in the right direction now. Grassroots climate-justice groups have grown to the point where they’re no longer waiting for the Big Green groups to take action. As a result, we’re also starting to see some of those big groups start to move a little bit—the Sierra Club engaging in civil disobedience [for the first time in its history] during a February demonstration against the Keystone XL pipeline, for example.

What’s next in the battle against Keystone?

The Keystone fight could prove to be a defining moment politically for the climate movement. Typically, we see a big divide between those who are doing grassroots organizing in frontline communities and those who are trying to work for political change in Washington. The Keystone fight has combined those elements, and I think we’ve seen a stronger result because of it.

Continue reading at:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/15081/out_of_the_pen_and_unrepentant/

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