Going Behind ‘Bidder 70′

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This weekend’s guest on Moyers & Company is Tim DeChristopher, an environmental activist who, in 2008, went to an auction during which drilling rights for the natural gas and oil beneath stretches of pristine Utah wilderness were being sold off. DeChristopher decided he couldn’t stand by and watch the process, so he signed on as a bidder. He purchased plot after plot, knowing he had no way of paying for them, in order to keep the land out of the hands of the oil and gas companies. His act of protest landed him in jail.

A documentary film chronicling his lengthy legal battle, imprisonment and his personal development as an activist, called Bidder 70, opened May 17 in New York. The film, The New York Times says, “nails the way that a spontaneous act of courage can focus the mind and clarify an ideology.” Reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis writes “Observing [DeChristopher] as he ponders nonviolent protest, quotes Edward Abby and visits mountaintop-removal coal mines in West Virginia, where he was born, we hear not the legal machinery humming inexorably in the background but the mental gears of an activist clicking into place.”

Watch the trailer.

In this clip from his interview with Bill, Tim DeChristopher explains why Americans concerned about the environment need to think beyond their role as consumers and consider themselves players in a democratic society.

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  • Vincent Pawlowski

    As one of the 26 people arrested at Tim DeChristopher’s sentencing hearing, I believe I can speak for all of us in expressing our gratitude in bringing Tim to your program.

    Tim’s ordeal has done more than anything else to help me deeply understand how our society is corrupted by cheap fossil fuels. This is not (only) a corruption that occurs in the shady back halls of business and government, but also happens every time our furnaces turn on, when we eat our 2000 mile meals, and, especially, at the pump.

    Our complicity in this invisible corruption is an inextricable part of our daily lives. We participate because we have failed to put a price on the greenhouse gas emissions of our daily lives. We participate because our carbon pollution knows no bounds, traveling around the world, flooding innocents in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and low-lying islands, drying deserts where people have been eeking out a low-impact living for milennia, and taking away a livable future for our children.

    As I witnessed Tim’s trial, it became obvious to me that Judge Benson, the prosecution, and the jury were all complicitous in invisible evil. The literal invisibility of greenhouse gases, the near-invisibility of the subtle damage caused by global warming, the foggy uncertainties the climatic chaos that result allow us all to continue our polluting ways without compunction, and the diffuse nature of our participation all add up to make action like Tim’s necessary to awaken our senses in time to stop. If indeed there is time left.

  • Fred Drumlevitch

    While I am very pleased to see that Bill Moyers will feature Tim DeChristopher, I believe that Mr. DeChristopher deserves much more, a formal national honor — and I would suggest that his courageous actions merit a national award such as the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, or the Presidential Citizens Medal. Of course, the chances of that are nil, given that in recent decades all three branches of the U.S. government have served as the handmaidens of corporate rapaciousness. Not only will Mr. DeChristopher not receive any such award, but the mainstream media will either ignore him entirely, or slant coverage of him to brand him as an eco-terrorist.

    Finally, we must also remember that the changes needed in this country extend beyond the environmental and span a wide range of areas, including social and economic justice, the protection of civil liberties, and a reduction in militarism — but they are all highly interconnected, as Martin Luther King Jr. and others understood. I recently wrote a lengthy piece, at over 4,000 words far too long to detail here, on this topic:


  • maria

    Oh the courage! What a brave man. Thank you for reminding me of what is important.

  • mamikel

    I have often wondered if instead of seeking ways to accommodate ever-increasing numbers, we focused our energies on ensuring people globally have access to education and family planning should they want it. If a global awareness emerged with this as the primary goal, we may even avoid 8 billion (yes I’m an optimist) and start turning the corner on our expansion. This coupled with a move back to a needs based type of consumerism may just help us avoid the worst.

    I am also a pessimist as our whole economic system of growth wants ever more customers and cheaper labour and insists that our current and worsening situation has nothing to do with the fact that there are 7.1 billion of us and we’re increasing by 84 million a year – and while the global fertility rate has decreased ever so slightly by about 0.1% since 2004, there are more of us every year meaning it will take some time before we actually stop growing by 10s of millions every year if we remain complacent on family sizes.