Tag Archives: Britney

Britney’s whale experience

A friendly whale that visited our boat

I had been whale-watching before, but that is exactly what it was—“watching.”  There was no human-to-whale contact the first time I went in Australia.  We took a big commercial boat out that time, and they packed so many of us on there.  And when we finally got to the whales there in Hervey Bay, they were few and far between, as well as far from us in distance.  We paid a lot to get a few glimpses, and then it was back to the mainland.  So I guess that’s why I had no expectations for my whale-watching here in Ojo de Liebre.

Deb had told us about different whale behaviors and funny stories about their personalities and sense of humor, but I still expected to use the binoculars Tom had brought for bird-watching.  I noted the obvious differences for this first whale trip in Baja—younger boat-driver, smaller boat.  Honestly, I didn’t expect to get very close—I had heard our naturalist friend, Shari say that Fernando was not as aggressive in pursuing the whales as the other lancheros were.  I did not expect the whales to actually want to hang around the boat of curious humans.  I assumed we’d have to impose ourselves and chase them to get close enough.

The first trip out, Fernando slowed down soon before we approached the whales.  We saw a couple of mama and baby duos for a short time before we were visited by “Snarky.”  I don’t know if it was a he or a she, but Snarky was probably an adolescent boy…he sure acted like it.  Snarky first greeted us with an arching of his back and a flick of his tail—what Shari said was the whale-equivalent of flipping us off.  Snarky got a little jealous of the attention we paid to a mama and baby that came up to us, so he tried blocking us from them.  Then he kept us on our toes with his constant tail action—trying to scare us into thinking that he’d knock our boat over.  He even followed us on our way back to the dock, showing up to crash our party.

Snarky was a bit rough around the edges.  Literally.  His tail had obvious bite marks from being attacked by orcas, so he probably had a good excuse for why he was such a badass.  He took a particular liking to Deb, who saw him as a misunderstood outcast.  But his behavior even made Shari a little nervous.  It was then that I realized how powerful an animal the gray whale was and how vulnerable we were as a group on that tiny little boat.  Snarky could take our boat out with one swipe of his massive tail, if he had a mind to.  But he didn’t.

And yesterday, our second time out was with Luis.  After our first trip with Fernando, I was worried that a more aggressive driver would put the whales off, after all.  But Luis had that certain je ne sais quoi with the animals as well.  En route to the ‘whale party/breaching school’ we were visited by dolphins—I’m not sure how many there were.  They swam right up by the boat and jumped in front of its bow.  Luis played with them, driving the boat in circles so they could surf our wake.  We left the dolphins and woke up many sleeping whales on our way out to the action.  While idling the boat to watch some whales breach, we were visited by an especially friendly whale.  Shari was sure she was the same whale as one she had taken a liking to a dozen years ago.  This one swam right up to our boat and popped her head up to us—spraying us with her snot in the process.  Shari gave her a kiss on the nose and then the whale rolled to her side to look at us.  While we took turns petting her long nose, she looked at each one of us—taking us all in—“like she was videotaping us with her eye,” Shari said.

Here we were, nearly tipping over our tiny boat to touch this enormous wild sea animal and I felt no fear whatsoever; at least not for my own safety.  I did not feel threatened in the least by her, but I did worry she would get too close to the boat’s propeller and add more scars to her body.

I am not quite sure how to articulate the feeling, the connection I had with the whale at that moment.  It was one of those rare instances of ‘oneness’ that most of us experience far too seldom, if at all.  When the ego—the talking head that it is—just goes away and there is no separation between the whale and I.  It was one of those moments that you remember that there are no separate forms of ‘life’—only variations of itself, or rather “ourself.”  Life was just life, sort of wandering around, looking at itself, loving itself, and unfortunately, killing itself.

I think it was such an epiphany, or close to it, that manifested itself to people like Shari and Fernando and Luis.  They probably can’t put it into words, but they have a genuine connection with other forms of life, yet they don’t put that perspective into a commodity that they can take to the bank.  People like that aren’t in it for the money.  It’s a nice bi-product of the job, but they could make a hell of a lot more if they commercialized the experience to the extent that the Australian company I’d first whale-watched with did.  They could probably invest in bigger boats to pack in more people to make more money, but they don’t.  They keep the groups small and intimate, guided by people with real rapport with the animals.  And it makes all the difference in the world.



The dock from where we boarded to watch the whales

Photos by Annabelle

Letter to Tim

March 6, 2011

Dear Tim,

I am writing to thank you for being such a great example to our generation.  I’m an intern at the Finding the Good Traveling Semester Program in Nevada City, California.  I first heard of you when I arrived to start the semester.  The other intern, Annabelle, gave me a briefing of who you are and what you did, and mentioned that our group had interviewed you for the past three years at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival.  Then she told me our directors, Tom and Debra, were considering taking our group to Utah for your trial.  Let me tell you, I pushed so hard to make sure we went, especially after watching your interviews and being so impressed with your resolve to make our future a livable one.

Peaceful Uprising was great—they put on a phenomenal summit, organized a peaceful march and rally, and found us a couple willing to let us stay in co-housing.  I really commend Peace Up’s efforts in working tirelessly to make the week a success.  It is not an exaggeration to say that the ten days I spent in Salt Lake City were some of the most intense days I’ve ever experienced.  On Monday, during the singing at the march, I felt such solidarity and strength with the rest of your supporters.  I even joked to our group that this particular rally was the solution to our energy problem—if we could just harness all of the energy that crowd generated, we could sell it to the grid!

On Thursday, I also felt strong solidarity.  I’ve never had such an intense emotional experience before.  The courtroom was charged with anticipation.  I felt as though it were me and my future standing on trial, and in a sense it was.  Before the jury even reached a verdict, I was grieving at the unfairness of it all: the judge so restricted your defense, as to allow the prosecution to try to paint you as a villain, out to “harm others.”  The idea was laughable.

I grieved because the twelve jurors of our future were largely not our “peers.”  There were a couple of younger jurors, but the majority of them were from an older generation—the very ones from whom we’d inherited such a messed-up world.  And that was unfair.

I grieved because I live in a country that punishes a man for standing up to protect his future, while allowing a few bureaucrats to continue to pillage the land for their own profit.  And that was not fair.  That is not justice.

I had braced myself for a guilty verdict, but it still pained me to hear it.  But when we all gathered outside afterward, and we were all singing, I felt that solidarity again.  And when you gave your speech, you gave us all hope again, because there will be many more after you.  It’s no easy walk to freedom, but you’ve paved the way.

I want to thank you again for your courage to act and to do the right thing.  I have no doubt that your story has, and will continue to inspire others, including myself, to take control of our future.  We’ll do great things, because we’ll respond to intimidation with joy and resolve.  Best of luck, and much love from the social justice movement!



Britney Schultz

Climate Trial

It was the tail end of the Bush administration in December 2008, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was hurriedly auctioning off oil and gas leases in Salt Lake City.   The land up for grabs bordered on three national parks—Canyonlands National Park, Dinosaur National Monument, and Arches National Park.  Outside the BLM office, 200 protesters were opposing the illegitimate sale.  One protester, Tim DeChristopher, was a twenty-seven year old economics student at the University of Utah who was not satisfied with just holding up signs and chanting slogans to no effect. Not having a plan, Tim walked into the auction with every intention of somehow disrupting it. When asked if he was there to bid he said, “Yes I am,” he was given a placard and thus became bidder number 70. He sat in the auction room for a bit not knowing what to do and then it hit him that he needed to start bidding on the parcels. Initially, he just intended to drive up the prices to reflect the true costs of drilling.   Soon, Tim realized he could really protect the lands if he actually won the bids.   With no money to back up his bids but every intention of throwing a wrench into the system, Tim outbid all of the private companies for thirteen straight parcels of land—totaling 22,500 acres worth $1.8 million.  Suspicious, the BLM paused the auction and Federal agents detained Tim for several hours.  During the questioning, Tim gave his reason for disrupting the sales—to derail further effects of climate change that would have been exacerbated by more drilling.  Not buying into his defense, the government slapped Tim with two felony counts—making a false statement to the government and violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act—which could carry a sentence of up to ten years and a fine of $750,000 if he is found guilty.  Tim’s trial has received a great deal of media coverage, and what has been come to be known as “The Climate Trial” has been postponed eight times already.  Finding the Good is heading out to Utah February 24th to attend weekend workshops and civil disobedience training held by Tim’s supporters at Peaceful Uprising.  The students are anticipating the outcome of Tim’s trial February 28th.


Why We Want to Go to the Climate Trial

In a way Tim flipped my view of life upside-down.  I went to the Wild and Scenic Film Festival with the Finding the Good Traveling Semester Program with the assumption that I would be getting to know all of the people that were going to be on the trip, and watch a whole lot of films.  Which we did, but Debra surprised me with all the interviews that were planned for the weekend; it hit me with a BAM, “Tyler, I would like you to interview Tim DeChristopher because I think you will really connect with him.”  After that I scrambled to dig up any information I could on Tim.  Which was very little. I read about what he did at the auction and how the trial was going but knew next to nothing about him as a person.  Throughout the whole fifty-minute interview I was so captivated by him and his story that I only asked a few short questions. After we concluded the interview he came to shake my hand and thank me for MY time. By that point I was completely hooked on how this man sees me on equal footing with him in this ever-evolving fight for our future. After the interview, I had come to the conclusion that this was a man who deserved my support and I half jokingly said we should go and support Tim at his up coming trial in February. Then, much to my astonishment, when Finding the Good started I was told that we were in fact going to support Tim at his trial in Utah.  I was completely floored that they had listened to me and that we were indeed going to be able to help this man who is doing so much in an ongoing attempt to preserve OUR future.

– Tyler

The first time I heard about Tim DeChristopher and what he did was at this year’s Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival. We were going to be interviewing him and I wanted to know about his background and what he had done that was sparking our interest. I was briefly told something about the disruption of an auction, civil disobedience and a trial, before he showed up to be interviewed. What I heard over the next fifty minutes completely blew my mind. It was the first time I had met this man and I didn’t know that much about him but his articulate way of speaking and the way you could tell how passionate he was about what he was doing, really drew me in and made me want to learn more. Tim and what he did is an inspiration for me. To willingly make the choice to sacrifice potentially a large chunk of your life for what you believe in and to hold true to it, is an amazing thing. Just as Tim said, there are not enough people taking action to protect the things that need to be saved. After our interview with Tim at the film festival we were talking with him as a group and someone mentioned the idea of Finding the Good attending his trial at the end of February. It was said with a bit of sarcasm at the time, since we didn’t think we could pull off going to Utah and Baja. As time went on after the interview, the idea of attending his trial turned into an actual possibility as Tom and Debra thought more about it and realized how relevant it was to our semester program. They decided that we could travel both to Utah and Baja, so we will be attending his trial. In the weeks since the program has started we have been intently learning more about the details of Tim’s trial and as each day goes by I get more excited to see how this whole thing will unravel. I am so excited to be participating in the protests, interviewing, reporting, and to really be immersed in the very heart of this trial that has been postponed eight times and that is now finally going to play out.

– Shona

I’m excited to go to Utah. I think Tim’s trial will be a landmark in the environmental movement. It will be interesting to see what tactics Tim’s lawyers will try to use.  His judge Dee Benson was appointed by George Bush Sr., which means he could be quite conservative and may not be very lenient on Tim.  I’m not sure how the fact that the auction was deemed illegitimate will effect how the trial will play out, or if the judge will even let that influence the final verdict.  There will be a jury selection happening in a few days and this can really affect the outcome.  The jury could be very right-winged and most right wing conservatives view environmentalism as something that is crazy and obstructive.  On the other hand, they could be a jury that is somewhat liberal or concerned about preserving the environment and/or the future.  This should be irrelevant because a jury is supposed to go into a trial open minded, but we all have our biases.  Tim’s trial has drawn a lot of attention as the “climate trial” with Tim’s actions showing how we can create change. There will be hundreds of people marching and supporting him, including some big name activists like Terry Tempest Williams, and Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary. I think the result of this trial will lay the groundwork and inspire even more people to go out and stand up through civil disobedience for what they believe in. Maybe we can create real change.


I arrived in California almost a month ago to be a staff intern for Finding the Good.  I knew we’d be traveling to the Baja Peninsula for about a month, but I had no inkling that we’d be traveling to Utah for a Federal trial.  As Annabelle drove me from the airport, she gave me the run-down on Tim DeChristopher, and had mentioned that FtG had interviewed him at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival for three years in a row.  She said that we were considering attending the trial and covering the outcome, but nothing was set in stone.  Having heard only the shortest summary of Tim and his actions, the journalist in me was already intrigued with the story and committed to going to the trial.  The deeper I dug into Tim’s interview archive footage and researched the case, the more respect I had for Tim and others like him in our generation who do more than spout rhetoric about “living green” while they drive SUVs that get 10 miles to the gallon to Starbucks.  I admit, I used to be one of those people, before I came to Finding the Good.  But Tim set an example the rest of us need to follow if we are to continue living on this planet.  In one interview, Tim was asked whether he was worried about the risks he was taking in breaking the law.  And in his usual composed manner, he responded something to the effect of “My future was already at risk… What choice did I have?  I could live with the consequences of going to jail for a few years, but I couldn’t live with myself if I were given this opportunity to make an impact and I didn’t take it.”

It’s easy to fall into the trap of being bombarded with all of the problems in the world and to feel so overwhelmed that you feel powerless to make any difference, let alone a significant “single-handedly saving the world”-type of difference.  Bad news is everywhere.  The media tells us about it.  Politicians argue about it.  Cynics joke about it.  It’s time that we do something about it.  That is why I want to cover Tim’s trial.  Regardless of the verdict, his very actions send a message to all of us; we are all activists in some respect.  The story I want to tell everyone, but especially young people, is that we are all capable of affecting change in some way, and that the whole is only as great as the sum of its parts.  John Wooden once said: “I may be only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”


I met Tim for the first time three years ago, at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. I was a student in the Young Filmmaker’s Documentary Project, and we had lined up an interview with him. Undoubtedly, after hearing his story from Debra, I was incredibly excited. I pictured him as a bold revolutionary, letting nothing get in the way of the fight to save our future; willing to preserve it whatever the cost might be. Finally, when I actually met Tim, he was everything I thought he was going to be – except that he was also one of the most humble and positive people I have ever met. Unlike many other filmmakers and activists we interviewed that weekend, Tim has always stuck out in my mind because of his unique outlook on the climate crisis, as well as the situation he was in. He was fully aware of the legal consequences that he was to face in court, as well as the more devastating environmental consequences for our planet, if no action was taken. However, he was also well aware that in a time of crisis, one person could make a difference.  Tim clearly articulated that even though at times the world seems bleak, people can rally together by supporting one another in their decisions to have a positive impact on the earth.  Over the next few years, I got to know Tim more in depth by annually interviewing him at the film festival. His message endured, growing stronger and attracting a larger following. As his trial date was pushed back multiple times, he was presented with the opportunity to speak at different events and reach out to more people. During this time, Tim also established Peaceful Uprising, a non-profit organization committed to defending a livable future through empowering nonviolent action. I am overjoyed that people like Tim exist, people who see the world’s potential and are dedicated to shape and mold it into a better place.  Knowing him has inspired me to be extremely conscious about the world around me and to do my best to defend the causes I believe in. I am really looking forward to being part of a demonstration dedicated to supporting Tim’s selfless effort to take a stance on the impending climate crisis.

Luz Brown, Feb 2011

Luz Brown is joining the Finding the Good crew on our trek to Salt Lake City for Tim’s trial. She is a junior at Nevada Union HS and has participated in the Young Filmmaker’s Documentary Project since 2008. The YFDP is a collaboration between Finding the Good and Wild and Scenic Film Festival.