TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS
WHAT LOVE LOOKS LIKE
A conversation with Tim DeChristopher
FROM THE MOMENT I HEARD about Bidder #70 raising his paddle inside a BLM auction to outbid oil and gas companies in the leasing of Utah’s public lands, I recognized Tim DeChristopher as a brave, creative citizen-activist. That was on
December 19, 2008, in Salt Lake City. Since that moment, Tim has become a thoughtful, dynamic leader of his generation in the climate change movement. While many of
us talk about the importance of democracy, Tim has put his body on the line and is now
paying the consequences.
On March 2, 2011, Tim DeChristopher was found guilty on two felony charges for
violation of the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act and for making false
statements. He refused to entertain any type of plea bargain. On July 26, 2011, he was
sentenced to two years in a federal prison with a $10,000 fine, followed by three years
of supervised probation. Minutes before receiving his sentence, Tim DeChristopher
delivered an impassioned speech from the courtroom floor. At the end of the speech,
he turned toward Judge Dee Benson, who presided over his trial, looked him in the eye,
and said, “This is what love looks like.” Minutes later, he was placed in handcu=s and
briskly taken away.
After several transfers from three states, he is now serving the remainder of his time
in the Herlong Federal Correctional Institution in California. When I asked Tim about
his thoughts concerning prison, he responded, “All these people are worrying about
how to keep me out of prison, but I feel like the goal should be to get other people
in prison. How do we get more people to join me?” In fact, thousands of citizens are
following his lead and are choosing to commit acts of civil resistance in protest of
mountaintop removal, the construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and as
participants in the ever-expanding Occupy Wall Street movement. They recognize that
we can no longer look for leadership outside ourselves. And that if public opinion
changes, government changes.
On May 28, 2011, Tim DeChristopher and I had a three-hour conversation in Telluride,
Colorado, during the Mountainfilm Festival. We talked openly and candidly with one
another as friends. No one else was in the room. We are pleased to share this conversation
with the Orion community.