Transcending Paradigms


Last week I was in Washington, DC to launch the new Keep It in the Ground campaign that is calling for an end to new fossil fuel leasing on federal lands.  A long list of national and frontline organizations has signed on to this campaign, and many of those groups are making this a major focus of their efforts.  

As a recent report has shown, the un-leased fossil fuels remaining under federal lands would release 450 billion tons of CO2 if they are developed, and the President has the power to stop it.  To put that number in context, Obama’s Clean Power Plan, if fully implemented, would reduce CO2 by about 5 billion tons by 2030.  So relative to what is being done, it was a bold ask.  But these resources represent about half of the remaining US fossil fuels.  Keep in mind that at least two thirds of all global fossil fuels have to stay in the ground, and in terms of global equity, the US has a special obligation to shift faster because of our historical emissions.  So relative to what must be done, this was the bare minimum. 

We launched the campaign with a press conference in front of the White House and then had private meetings with the White House Council on Environmental Quality and the Department of the Interior.  Halfway through the press conference, the Secret Service interrupted the event, shut down all of Lafayette Park, and forced us out of the area without explanation.  Before we could even complete our ask, President Obama demonstrated that he was more willing to kick citizens off public lands for exercising free speech than to kick fossil fuel companies off public lands for threatening the future of civilization.  

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Tim DeChristopher: End All New Fossil Fuel Leasing on Public Lands

On today's episode of Democracy Now! Tim discusses the #KeepItInTheGround campaign and the launch of the new Climate Disobedience Center.

Segment description via Democracy Now!
A coalition of more than 400 organizations have called on the White House to stop issuing new fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans. More than 67 million acres of public land and ocean are already leased to the fossil fuel industry. The coalition says that declaring unleased oil, gas and coal on public lands as "unburnable" would accomplish more in the global fight against climate change than any other single action taken by the Obama administration. Joining us to discuss the new campaign is climate justice activist Tim DeChristopher. In 2008, DeChristopher spent 21 months in federal prison after he disrupted an oil and gas leasing auction on public land in Utah by posing as a bidder. Tim DeChristopher is now one of the co-founders of the new Climate Disobedience Center, which is among the many organizations calling for the end to all new fossil fuel leases on public lands.

Cross posted on the Climate Disobedience Center website.

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Announcing the Climate Disobedience Center website

Big day...  Not only is Tim at the #KeepItInTheGround event in front of the White House, this morning the new Climate Disobedience Center website went live.  Below is a brief overview of the CDC by Tim and Jay O'Hara.  Make sure to visit and share! 

Climate Disobedience Center

Founded by Tim DeChristopher, Marla Marcum, Jay O'Hara and Ken Ward, the Climate Disobedience Center brings together an experienced team of climate dissidents to provide logistical, legal and spiritual resources, on the ground assistance, and advice to climate activists organizing civil disobedience campaigns across the country

The Center will deploy those assets to nurture strong, grounded communities of resistance willing to take risks of moral imagination. We are committed to supporting those who hold allegiance to a higher moral law from action design through the legal process and consequences of action.

The goal is for the Climate Disobedience Center to serve as a catalyst for direct action, creating points of vivid moral clarity, emboldening both climate activists and the unlikeliest of allies, capturing the heart and soul of the climate debate. 

Climate Disobedience Center founders O'Hara, DeChristopher, Marcum, Ward hold photo of Lobster Boat Blockade action at press conference

For 30 years environmentalists have attempted to change the United State's and world's trajectory on fossil fuel emissions through incremental reform efforts. Drawing on conventional wisdom, environmental advocates believed their efforts would lead to sufficient incremental change to avert disaster. Those efforts have failed, and in the ensuing decades the magnitude and urgency of the crisis has escalated dramatically. Drawing on current science, we recognize that what is needed is a massive, decisive end to the fossil fuel era to avert the worst cascading effects of the climate crisis.

We recognize that what is needed is a massive, decisive end to the fossil fuel era to avert the worst cascading effects of the climate crisis, and that civil disobedience will play a critical role in bringing this about.

Climate activists engaging in civil disobedience, the Climate Disobedience Center exists to get your back.  Rather than a set curriculum, we offer flexible services to help meet the needs of activists and organizing communities.  Everything we do revolves around our principles instead of a structure.  Our goal is to encourage experimentation that expands the boundaries of climate movement organizing.  We aren’t looking for foot soldiers, but partners in experimentation. 


If you and your community want to do civil disobedience but aren’t sure where or how to start, the CDC can facilitate trainings that help you pull off a successful campaign.

If you have already taken action and gotten into some good trouble, the CDC can help you make the most of it.  We can help you craft your strategy inside and outside the courtroom.

For activists who are taking bold, creative and principled action against the fossil fuel industry, we provide our services, from phone consultation to extended on-the-ground organizing, free of charge.

Visit the Climate Disobedience Center

District Attorney Sam Sutter makes history siding with Lobster Boat Blockade protesters, Jay O'Hara and Ken Ward.

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Sunny Climate Nonsense

Somehow, Jonathan Chait’s New York Magazine article entitled “The Sunniest Climate Change Story You’ve Ever Read” left me feeling pretty dark.  I knew why I was angry at Chait’s blatantly ahistorical article that attempted to erase the climate movement from the struggle against climate change.  He was devaluing the people who have actually been fighting to stop climate change in order to make his point that we should all relax because capitalists and Democratic Party politicians have it all under control.  

Chait’s timeline is that in 2010 Obama “tried to pass a cap-and-trade law that would bring the U.S. into compliance with the reductions it had pledged in Copenhagen.”  When that failed, “environmentalists sank into despair — where many of them have stayed slumped ever since, having decided the battle is lost.” 

Never mind that the cap and trade bill had no connection to the Copenhagen goal of no more than 2 degrees Celsius, but rather was a corporate welfare bill that would have had little or no impact on climate.  The whole notion that the cap and trade bill was in response to Copenhagen commitments, when the bill actually passed the House of Representative six months before Copenhagen, reveals that Chait was not paying attention.  

Most importantly, Chait’s assertion that “environmentalists” gave up after 2010 is insane.  The very fact that he still thinks the activists fighting climate change are “environmentalists” indicates that he is completely oblivious of the actual climate justice movement, which has been consistently growing in scale, diversity and aggression since 2010.  That growth was on display a year ago when 400,000 people marched through New York City.  The 200 coal plant closures which Chait celebrates as progress did not magically shut down because of the invisible hand of the market or because of Obama’s yet-to-be-implemented Clean Power Plan.  Every single one of them was shut down under pressure from local, frontline activists supported by a national movement.  That same movement of interconnected, grassroots communities of resistance have fought off countless new power plants, pipelines, coal and gas export facilities, fracking and other new fossil fuel projects over the past five years.


(This is what 400,000 activists slumped in despair looks like.)

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John Huber, Obama's New Hammer

Obama just made the lead prosecutor in my trial, the one who freaked out at the possibility of empowered citizens interfering with his marching orders from fossil fuel corporations, the new US Attorney for Utah.  I commented on this yesterday on Facebook and people wanted to hear the full story.  Here it is.

The most important, and for me, most enlightening, point in my entire legal case happened during the jury selection process.  About halfway through the process, a juror mentioned that he had received a pamphlet from the Fully Informed Jurors Association before entering the courthouse.  The judge asked the rest of the jury pool how many of them had received a similar pamphlet.  About three quarters of the 70 potential jurors raised their hands.  

These pamphlets said nothing about my case, but they did talk about jurors’ rights to use their consciences when making their decisions.  It discussed why we have juries, which is to protect our fellow citizens from the government.  It quoted the nation’s founders about juries being arbiters of fact and of the law.  The evolution of our legal system has led to the minimization of the role of citizens and the concentration of power into the hands of judges and prosecutors, but the inherent, though unknown, power of juries is still intact.

The lead prosecutor immediately requested a meeting in the judge’s chambers.  As soon as we entered the room, the prosecutor erupted into panicked and desperate outrage.  He demanded that the judge declare a mistrial and get a whole new jury pool.   He said that I should either be prosecuted or held in contempt for jury tampering.  With his hands shaking and his face red, he was nearly spitting when he read from the pamphlet and said, “This…this notion of voting your conscience is out in space!”

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A Lesson from Katrina

In climate movement circles, folks often ask, “When are people going to wake and do what is necessary to really address the climate crisis?”  There was a time when the nearly constant answer to that question was that people would only respond when there was a disaster that puts a human face on climate change.  The logic went that climate change was too abstract, and people needed a clear picture of what the human impacts of climate change would look like in order to be sufficiently motivated.  Once people had a tangible picture of how climate change hurts human lives, surely they would connect emotionally to the crisis and demand the drastic action necessary to avert such suffering in the future.

Then, ten years ago, Hurricane Katrina gave us that picture in stark human terms.  The picture turned out to be black people on a rooftop.  Given that poor people and people of color disproportionately suffer the impacts of the climate crisis, it was a picture that is likely to continue to accurately reflect the human face of climate change. 

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Tim DeChristopher Speaks at Utah for Bernie Sanders

TimDeChristopher at Utah for BernieSanders
Photo courtesy Utah for Bernie Sanders

Watch the live stream recording of the August 14, 2015 Utah for Bernie Sanders  event at the Impact Hub Salt Lake City, UT.

Event Description: Utah for Bernie Sanders, a grassroots organization, is excited to present a night of music and educational discourse of  current environmental and climate change issues facing our nation and the world. Tim DeChristopher, prominent environmental activist and founder of Peaceful Uprising, will speak at the Salt Lake Impact Hub, 150 South State Street, #1, Salt Lake City, Friday, August 14, 2015. The free event will begin at 7:30 p.m. Mountain Time and can also be viewed via livestream. Read full event  press release.

Connect with Utah for Bernie Sanders

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Utah for Bernie Sanders Hosts Climate Activist Tim DeChristopher



 Watch Live Stream Here


Utah for Bernie Sanders, a grassroots organization, is excited to present a night of music and educational discourse of  current environmental and climate change issues facing our nation and the world. Tim DeChristopher, prominent environmental activist and founder of Peaceful Uprising, will speak at the Salt Lake Impact Hub, 150 South State Street, #1, Salt Lake City, Friday, August 14, 2015. The free event will begin at 7:30 p.m. Mountain Time and can also be viewed via livestream at

In addition to Mr. DeChristopher, musician Pablo Blaqk will perform. Pablo Blaqk is also an environmental activist and founder of the GreenCity Music Festival, an Eco friendly fest which features huge acts to support green ideas in energy, food, clothing, and re-purposed designs.

DeChristopher will discuss his experiences with climate justice that began in 2008 when he single-handedly prevented the controversial sale of Utah public lands for oil and gas leases through a spontaneous act of civil disobedience. For his civil protest, he was sent to prison for 21 months.  His creative and effective approach received wide media coverage, and was the subject of the independent film, Bidder 70.  DeChristopher went on to co-found Peaceful Uprising, a nonprofit collective committed to action to combat the climate crisis and build a just, healthy world. It works toward achieving climate justice and illuminating the relationship between the destruction of the planet and social oppression and inequality.

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The Value of Protest

As a strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, my first reaction to hearing about yesterday’s Black Lives Matter protest at Netroots Nation was disappointment.  This looks bad, I thought.  Bad for Bernie, who is the only presidential candidate with any chance of challenging structural injustice.  And bad for Black Lives Matter, who could easily be interpreted as shutting down progressive discussions about immigration and economic inequality to make people focus on their priorities.  I’ve had my share of mistakes during protests, as have all the activists I respect most, so I certainly had some sympathy.  But I thought their protest was just that: a mistake.

Then I watched the video of Sanders responding to the protest, or should I say, failing to respond and instead just speaking over and past them.  He tried to just continue with his stump speech and seemed annoyed with the disruption.  Several times he looked at moderator Jose Antonio Vargas as if he expected Vargas to control these women, once asking, “Are you in charge here?”  The closest he came to discussing policing issues directly was mentioning his success with community policing in Burlington, VT, a city that was pretty much all white and pretty much irrelevant to the discussion of racist policing.

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Tim DeChristopher keynote at the 2015 Waterkeeper Conference

Watch Tim DeChristopher's talk at the June 2015 Waterkeeper Conference in Boulder, Colorado. 

Since its inception, the Annual Waterkeeper Conference has been the cornerstone of our movement.  The conference educates, inspires, and energizes individual Waterkeeper organizations and strengthens their fight for clean water. As the Waterkeeper movement increases its global presence, the annual conference becomes increasingly important as a way to keep Waterkeeper organizations connected, to maintain the unique Waterkeeper identity, and to increase the effectiveness of the individual organizations.

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