Tuesday, July 26, 2011

DeChristopher's Sentence Warranted

Today Tim DeChristopher was sentenced for two years and fined $10,000 for impeding an auction for natural gas leases on public lands in Utah.  According to DeChristopher, he disrupted the auctions because he was worried about climate change and wanted to do something about it. 

While DeChristopher and his supporters are anxious to hold him out as heroic climate change fighter, for reasons I outlined a few months ago, I think it is a mistake to consider him a hero.  There were many smarter ways to fight the auction at issue (ways that have since proven successful).  Given that, DeChristopher's choice to break the law was ill advised, and his choice to continually thump his chest in the aftermath was severely misguided. 

While I feel somewhat bad for him, it is because I believe he was right in thinking climate change is a problem we need to address.  Certainly, he is going to get a lot of sympathy over the next couple of days from well meaning people worried about climate change.  While I respect the sentiment embedded in that point of view, I believe the judge in this case was right to send him to prison.  

Civil disobedience is a valuable and important tool.  However, one cannot allow for civil disobedience in a law-abiding society when there are many ways to address the problem at hand through legal means, particularly when those means are much more likely to create the desired change than the civil disobedience itself. 

Given that the judge will be blasted by many in the public, his willingness to uphold the law deserves our respect.  He has mine.

-- Brigham Daniels

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/environmental_law/2011/07/dechristophers-sentence-warranted.html

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Comments

You make a good point. I did read that part of the outcry was over another Utah court case where a man got off with no jail time despite burning two Mormon chapels. Though to a much less severe extent, the DeChristopher case reminds me of Daniel McGowan of the infamous ELF.
I would caution environmentalists who get caught up in illegal methods of protest. It does nothing for the cause and only serves the media an opportunity to label the movement as radical. As you point out, there are plenty of legitimate ways to undermine and make a change.

Posted by: LVP | Jul 27, 2011 11:31:23 AM

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