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.
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.
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.