DeChristopher and his motives.

March 4, 2011 at 11:21 pm 1 comment

via GOOD (February 8, 2011), the New York Times (March 4, 2011), and the U.S. Department of Justice (March 3, 2011):

Recently, GOOD provided some background on the spontaneous (and – in my opinion – admirable) undercover actions of Tim DeChristopher: “Back in 2008, a multi-million dollar Bureau of Land Management land auction–one that was set to turn over hundreds of thousands of acres of public lands in southern Utah to oil and gas companies–was disrupted by a quiet, 27-year old economics student who simply walked in and started bidding. Today, Tim DeChristopher, aka Bidder70, is facing two felony charges for this act of civil disobedience.”

Yesterday, DeChristopher was found guilty by jury (a ruling that many predict will be appealed again); he faces up to 10 years in prison.


SALT LAKE CITY – Tim DeChristopher thanks his supporters, 3 March, 2011 just outside the federal courthouse where he was found guilty of two felonies for disrupting a Utah BLM oil and gas lease auction in 2009. PHOTO ©2011 by Ed Kosmicki/Ed Kosmickiphotosourcewest.com801 455 5573

Kirk Johnson’s blog post “Do Motives Matter? The DeChristopher Verdict” brings up some weighty questions in the wake of this trial. After pointing out that “the American legal system tends to pay obsessive attention to a person’s motives and mental state” (which can make the difference between vandalism and a hate crime, for example), Johnson writes that “Judge Dee Benson told the lawyers that the case would not be about why Mr. DeChristopher did what he did, but only whether he did it. Federal energy policies and concern about climate change, which were in fact the core drivers of Mr. DeChristopher’s actions, as he has said in many interviews, would not be put on trial, Judge Benson ruled.”

On top of that, “whether the [Bureau of Land Management] was correct in its decision to offer these parcels for oil and gas lease sales was not the question which this jury was asked to resolve. The jury was asked to determine whether Mr. DeChristopher’s disruption of the BLM’s auction of oil and gas leases violated federal law. We believe that the jury properly found that it did,” Carlie Christensen, U.S. Attorney for Utah, was quoted as saying in the U.S. Department of Justice press release about the trial.

I have mixed feelings about admitting this, but I agree. DeChristopher did break the law, but by accepting that risk he managed to make a huge difference. DeChristopher himself even admits it: “I had signed a piece of paper downstairs [before entering the auction] saying that it was a federal offense to bid without intent to pay. But I decided I could live with those consequences, and I couldn’t turn my back on this chance to make an impact.”

March 4’s daily design idea is what would you risk to make an impact?

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Can you measure innovation? Poor little trees.

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Poor little trees. « Daily Design Idea  |  March 18, 2011 at 10:16 am

    […] the spirit of avoiding climate change and protecting nature, here’s a graphic design by Steven Burke (discovered on Graphic […]

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