In Bidder 70, climate activist Tim DeChristopher commits civil disobedience to save 22,000 acres of Utah’s red rock wilderness. Beth and George Gage direct this film about a young man’s heart, courage and patriotism.
In the final days of the Bush administration, Utah’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held a controversial auction to sell oil and gas drilling rights for public lands in southern Utah. The wilderness is known for its beauty, and borders on several national parks.
DeChristopher became Bidder 70 at the auction on December 19, 2008. He knew he risked prison. Yet his mind was clear. A deep sense of peace filled him. The University of Utah economics major won a dozen bids worth about $1.8 million.
Direct action saves wilderness
It was “an ethical, necessary and direct action to protect our planet, our democracy and my fellow human beings,” DeChristopher said. Motivating him were the “exploitation of public lands, the lack of a transparent and participatory government, and the imminent danger of climate change.”
Climate change is a “big weight that our generation is bearing on our shoulders.” He met with Terry Root Ph.D., winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. She confirmed that the worst effects of climate change are now unavoidable. “This is human lives at stake,” he said. “Massive amounts of human lives and human well-being.”
Finding a new path forward
Incoming Interior Secretary Ken Salazar later cancelled drilling leases on public lands in Utah. DeChristopher was still indicted on federal charges.
As hearings and delays continued, he co-founded Peaceful Uprising, a movement known for its lively art, music and street theater. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico underscored the urgency of climate change. He spoke at national rallies, including PowerShift 2011.
Activism is “not a one-day deal”
Visiting his native West Virginia, DeChristopher was stunned by its poverty. Environmental activist Larry Gibson showed him areas decimated by mountaintop removal for coal mining. “The movement is not a one-day deal,” Gibson noted.
“Time is hard to do,” anti-war activist David Harris advised DeChristopher. “They got your body. No way around it. But they only get your mind if you give it to them.”
“A movement of the heart”
Actor and activist Robert Redford, a Utah resident, praised DeChristopher. “He just did what he thought was his constitutional right. In the meantime we have all these guys on Wall Street sending this country into the tank. And no one’s going to jail. No one’s even being brought to justice.”
Civil disobedience starts as “a movement of the heart,” said John Schuchardt, attorney and peace activist. “It’s always a matter of conscience, and conscience only operates through an individual.”
As DeChristopher and his friends hike the Utah wilderness, he observes: “To see this land and this view, there’s no way that I could ever regret what I did.”
DeChristopher told the court: “In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow.”
Bidder 70 is an excellent film for peaceful protestors and the Occupy movement. It offers hope that “we’re going to completely overhaul our system and create a more just world.”
Bidder 70: Take Action
DeChristopher was released from prison in April 2013. He continues his activism.
If you like Bidder 70, you might enjoy: The Last Mountain.
Bidder 70 2012 / NR / 1 hour, 13 min
Cast Overview: Tim DeChristopher, Terry Tempest Williams, Robert Redford, Patrick Shea, Dennis Willis, Terry Root, Ron Yengich, John Schuchardt, David Harris, Larry Gibson
Director: Beth and George Gage