Monday, February 14, 2011

Man Faces Years in Prison After Attempting to Save Public Lands from Oil and Gas Companies

Academic and journalist, Tim DeChristopher, participated in a public auction in December of 2008 and bid $1.7 million for 22,000 acres of land that the Bush administration had auctioned for oil and gas drilling. A total of 150,000 acres were auctioned. The hitch was that DeChristopher, a student at the University of Utah at the time, did not have the funds to pay for the land.

In April of 2009, at the order of the Bureau of Land Management, which was selling the land, a federal grand jury indicted him with two accounts of felony and he was arrested. The felony charges consisted of making a false statement to the federal government and violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act which established a competitive bidding process for oil and gas leases.

If DeChristopher is convicted, he will serve up to ten years in prison and a $75,000 fine. His trial is currently set for Monday, February 28, 2011 and his legal defense team is Patrick Shea and Ronald J. Yengrich. Unfortunately, his defense has been limited and they are not allowing the necessity, or choice of evil, defense. The Choice of Evils Defense is a defense to a criminal charge based on the assertion that the act was committed in order to avoid the cost of an even greater evil. This will make it even more difficult for him to discuss the illegitimacy of the auction in the first place. In a recent interview with a blogger from the Huffington Post, DeChristopher said, “I was concerned about the state of the environment and how little people were doing. I was building up the commitment to do something to try to resist the climate crisis. I felt that writing letters and riding my bike was not enough. Part of the process was like a mourning process for my future.”

Even though DeChristopher’s actions were considered criminal, there is controversy concerning whether or not his actions were justified because he challenged a greater evil in modern society. Last year, Dr. James Hansen, Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, Robert Redford and Terry T. Williams wrote an open letter that was circulated in support of Tim DeChristopher's "creative protest against runaway energy policy.
In DeChristopher’s own words, “We need to look at ourselves to address climate change, rather than appealing to power (make phone calls and write letters). Rather than appeal to power, we need to assert power - because we have the power to enact social change.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

Britain Plans to Sell Forested Land to Developers

In order to pay off Britain’s budget deficit, the government is planning to sell 150,000 hectares of forest land. Land such as Sherwood Forest, The Forest of Dean, and The New Forest, which has been publicly owned since the Magna Carta was signed in 1215, could be sold to private developers. The developers who purchase the land will have few building restrictions. Therefore, they have the ability to transform these forested lands into property and businesses.

This forest land needs to remain public in order to remain protected and prevent the development of these precious areas. Once this land is sold to private developers, no land laws can truly guard it. Please sign this petition in order to let the government know that people are opposed to any sale of these forested lands.

Monday, February 7, 2011

International Year of Forests

This year, 2011, has been declared the International Year of Forests by the United Nations General Assembly in order to celebrate the sustainable management, conservation, and development of forests. A number of events have been planned throughout the year including many commissions, a variety of days dedicated to aspects of nature such as mountains, water, birds, food, etc., and others.

Although forests are some of the world’s most important ecosystems because they stabilize weather systems, keep climate change-causing carbon out of the atmosphere, and house a large portion of the earth's biodiversity, they tend to become part of the background in people's minds.

According to the World Bank, more than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods, but every year 130,000 km² of the world's forests are lost due to conversion to agricultural land, unsustainable harvesting of timber, unsound land management practices, and creation of human settlements. This deforestation causes up to 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Forests also provide habitats to two-thirds of all species on earth, and the deforestation of tropical rainforests could account for the loss of as many as 100 species a day.

This year, every person can raise awareness and become closer with nature by learning more about the forests of the earth, joining a campaign, and communing in nature. Websites such as connects people with news on a variety of current issues and helps them to get involved, and has a number of resources for people that wish to connect with the beauty on Earth that has been laid before us to discover.