Friday, March 4, 2011

Notes on a (environmental) scandal

It is no secret I am an environmentalist. By profession, no. By passion and dedication, yes. I don't need to give a laundry list of reasons why I am dedicated to making the world a better place. In all honesty, it just happened that way for me.

Having worked at a student bike center focused around sustainability and for the Utah Conservation Corp for a total of three years, I have gotten to know the environment. The simple changes we can make in our daily lives to better our bodies and the world around us make more of an impact that we think they do. For example, making meat 10 percent of your protein intake will not only help you become healthier, you are also helping decrease factory farming, one of the most unsustainable farm practices (in more than one way).

In the Spring of 2009, while on (bike) tour with the band Shake Your Peace!, I was told about a man named Tim DeChristopher who had bid on 14 parcels of BLM land that were going to be leased for oil and gas drilling. His bidding tab amounted to $1.8 million. At first I thought, "Wow, this guy is a hero! Way to stick it to the man and dedicate yourself to the environment." I did a little research on him and thought he had done the right thing, to some degree.

Last March I moved to Moab to do conservation work on BLM land with the Utah Conservation Corp. I fell in love with the beautiful landscape and often found myself thinking, "Why would anyone want to screw this land up by drilling on it?"

While living down South I was taking an environmental studies class focused around public lands. I got to know why BLM land is range land, why we drill on parts of it for oil and gas, and why it is important to protect it.

As part of the class we were required to read a number of articles on Tim DeChristopher written by different points of view. I hadn't thought about DeChristopher much since 2009 but now I was interested in what was going on. I dug a little deeper into his case and realized, he didn't bid on those parcels for environmental reasons, he bid on them for personal reasons. Though people may think that DeChristopher had done something revolutionary by bidding on those parcels of land, he is only one in a line of environmentally conscious people who have bid, and won, parcels of land headed for oil and gas drilling. The difference? He had no intention of paying for them, the others paid up.

I am extremely skeptical of DeChristopher and his "environmentalism". I am familiar with a large amount of environmentalist, extremists and none extremists, all having their own reasons for doing what they do. But they all have one thing in common, they don't show horse the work they do for the environment, they do it because they love it. Their actions are also similar, they ride bikes, plant gardens, support local projects dedicated to sustainability, and are about 80 percent vegetarian. None of them seek the lime light for their actions and they never seek out celebrities for their cause. They are all quiet riots of sustainability.

This is not the case for DeChristopher. Seeking out the support of Patagonia clothing company, Robert Redford, and other celebrities seems like only a personal ploy. If DeChristopher had really wanted to use his environmental foot hold for good, he would have got involved with grassroots organizations, marched with the people in West Virginia to end mountain top removal, and spent less of his time seeking out celebrities to back him at film festivals.

I realize that I sound angry. That is because I am. Angry that some one would use environmentalism to gain celebrity status and expect to not get the book thrown at them for breaking the law. I work hard to make sure people don't think that sustainability is a movement full of hippies. when someone like DeChristopher comes along, he makes us all look like Earth First, E.L.F (earth liberation front) freak shows and I get a little irked.

Tim DeChristopher broke the law and no "necessary evil" defense is going to change that. As far as I am concerned the only necessary evil is on public lands. Oil and gas drilling and range land leasing are necessary evils because we have made them so. If we want to protect our lands from these things, we have to change our life styles so we no longer rely on cows, oil, and gas. That is only way for more protection to happen.

I want thoughts on this. If you think Tim DeChristopher is a saint, I want to hear why.


Gina said...

I think DeChristopher's actions - buying the lands to prevent drilling are admirable in some ways, but it seems that he didn't really think it through all the way. It was very short-term in process.

It would have been better, and sensible if he sought grassroots support to actually pay for those bids he made, instead of bidding w/out intent to pay. That just doesn't make sense to me.

Sure, he temporarily saved those lands but what now? What benefit comes from that temporary "fix"/good faith effort?

I find myself getting upset about this matter as I think about it more and more. :(

punkinpants said...

Gina, in theory he would have been temporarily saving these parcels of land from being drilled on, if these parcels hadn't been canceled as part of Salazars effort to protect more of Southern Utah.
Although DeChristopher did, at one time, seek support to pay for the parcels of land, it was to late due to him previously declaring he had done it all as a protest and had no intention of paying for them. Instead, the money he received from any grass roots or private donors went to pay for his lawyers, traveling, and the purchasing of a warehouse to house protesters during his trial. Awesome.

Gina said...

Good intentions, poor execution.

That is a waste though. All that money which could've gone to the land now being used to pay for his lawyers and supporters.

It's a iffy-feely situation here. Like I said earlier- good intentions but poor execution overall. This is unfortunate.

psychenaut said...

I'm curious to know how his words just prior to sentencing have affected your POV, if at all, since you wrote this in March. If you haven't read them, here's a link: