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Tim DeChristopher’s reality check for the youth climate movement

If there was any question of which direction the youth climate movement needs to go in, Tim DeChristopher answered it bluntly at the third Powershift conference in Washington DC this past weekend. The recently convicted (but yet to be sentenced) activist who disrupted a federal auction of public lands to oil and coal companies in 2008, told the 10,000 attendees that the injustices we’re experiencing “are not being solely driven by the coal industry, solely by lobbyists, or solely by the failure, of our politicians—they’re also happening because of the cowardice of the environmental movement.”

DeChristpher then went on to say that “until we force Obama into that choice between ending the war against the young, ending the war against the living, or waging it openly, then it’s our fault. Then we condone it.” Expecting that perhaps that idea might be too obtuse to understand, he layed out a straight-foward plan of action:

If we look at the 10,000 people in this room, without even recruiting another person, we could send 30 people onto a mountaintop removal site, shut it down temporarily, cost them a lot of money, clog up the court systems of West Virginia, and we could send 30 people the day after that, the day after that, and the day after that, every day for a year. And I don’t think we’d ever get to that year point because mountaintop removal would end before that. Long before we got to the end of that year. Barack Obama would be forced into a choice between ending the war against Appalachia or bringing in federal troops to continue it. And for all my disgust and disappointment with Barack Obama, I don’t think he would bring in federal troops to defend the mountaintop removal sites. I think he would end it before it got to that point. And it’s our job as a movement to force him into that position.

The audience cheered loudly and seemed enthused. Perhaps the previous talks by Al Gore and Bill McKibben, which both touched on the need for civil disobedience, prepared them for this cold tough reality check. We’ll have to wait and see. But with a rally of thousands taking place outside the White House today, hopefully the wait won’t be long.