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“Now Is Our Time to Take a Stand”: Tim DeChristopher’s Message to Youth Climate Activists at Power Shift 2011

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In March, a federal jury convicted environmental activist Tim DeChristopher of two felony counts for disrupting the auction of more than 100,000 acres of federal land for oil and gas drilling. He faces up to 10 years in prison. Last weekend he spoke at the Power Shift 2011 conference and urged youth climate activists to make more sacrifices. “We hold the power right here to create our vision of a healthy and just world, if we are willing to make the sacrifices to make it happen,” DeChristopher said. “Where is the point where our movement is going to say that stopping this injustice is more important than my career plans?” [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Tim DeChristopher also addressed the Power Shift 2011. He’s the founder of Peaceful Uprising. Tim was convicted in March of disrupting a public land auction by posing as a bidder and buying up land in one of the Bush administration’s last-minute moves to sell off oil and gas exploitation rights on vast swaths of federal land. This is Tim DeChristopher.

TIM DeCHRISTOPHER: It’s probably too late for any amount of emissions reductions to prevent the collapse of our industrial civilization. And this doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. This doesn’t mean that there’s nothing left to fight for. This means that there’s more to fight for than ever, because that collapse — that collapse that we’re on track for, there’s a huge range of what that could look like. And that collapse could be an opportunity for us to build a better world in the ashes of this one. It could be an opportunity for mass reflection and to decide that maybe greed and competition weren’t the best values to be basing our civilization off of.

We are the generation that has the task of steering our civilization through the greatest period of change humanity has ever experienced, in the most rapid time. And that’s a huge challenge. And we’re not going to meet it in a convenient way. We’re not going to meet it in a way that fits in to our school schedules. We’re not going to meet it in a way that we can avoid sacrifices. It’s going to take some real sacrifices.

We’ve never as a movement taken a stand, because we’ve always been deluded into thinking that we have to ultimately accept it, that we can express our opposition, but that ultimately we have to accept it. And that’s not true. If we look around this room today, to these 10,000 people that are in this room, with these people just right here, without recruiting another person, we could send 30 people onto a mountaintop removal site, shut it down temporarily, cost them a lot of money, start to clog up the court systems of West Virginia, and we could send 30 people the day after that and the day after that and the day after that, every day for a year. And I don’t think we would ever get to that year point, because mountaintop removal would end before that. Long before we got to the end of that year, Barack Obama would be forced into a choice between either ending the war against Appalachia or bringing in federal troops to continue it. And for all my disgust — for all my disgust and disappointment with Barack Obama, I don’t think he would bring in federal troops to defend a mountaintop removal site. I think he would end it before it got to that point. And it’s our job as a movement to force him into that position.

Mountaintop removal and climate change and all the other injustices that we are experiencing are not being driven solely by the coal industry, solely by lobbyists, or solely by the failure of our politicians. They’re also happening because of the cowardice of the environmental movement. We hold the power right here to create our vision of a healthy and just world, if we are willing to make the sacrifices to make it happen.

Where is the point where our movement is going to say that stopping this injustice is more important than my career plans, is more important than my comfort and convenience? This should be that point. Now is our time to take a stand. We’re done making statements. Let this be the last time that we come together just to make statements. From now on, our movement needs to take a stand.

AMY GOODMAN: Tim DeChristopher, founder of Peaceful Uprising. He faces up to 10 years in prison for posing as a bidder at a public land auction. He will be sentenced in June.

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