A few decades ago I lived across the river from Arches National Park in Southern Utah. Arches and nearby Canyonlands National Park are spectacular in their beauty but much of the entire “Four Corners” area is awe-inspiring and filled to overflowing with stunning images, stark desert tranquility and a serene, almost mystical timelessness.
People from all over the world who have never visited the area are familiar with these canyons and mesas, haunting red rock vistas, from the movies of John Ford, from Marlboro Man ads and from more car and truck commercials than I can count.
It sometimes seems as if these towering mesas were created for the sole purpose of serving as pedestals for shiny pickups lowered from helicopters by Los Angeles ad agencies.
In my younger days I backpacked and camped in winter and summer through the west, from the mountains of the Cascades to the thermal pools of Yellowstone, I’ve witnessed up-close the depths of the Grand Canyon and the stirring heights of Yosemite. I have never been more moved and inspired by the unadorned and unmolested beauty of the Earth than I was in the desert canyons and mountains of Southern Utah.
Yesterday a young man named Tim DeChristopher was sentenced to two years in federal prison for impeding the process of granting federal oil leases at nearly two dozen sites in close proximity to Arches and Canyonlands, both pristine and protected areas.
I cannot imagine looking over the rim of Bryce or the Grand Canyon and seeing a field of oil derricks, monster trucks hauling ore from a giant strip mine, or ascending a quiet fern-covered hill to discover boom trucks loaded with redwoods being hauled from the ancient rainforest framed by the swirling dust and diesel fumes of a backwoods logging rape.
Those visions are what Tim DeChristopher sought to prevent, or at least to forestall by his courageous and solitary act of defiance (along with catastrophic climate change).
I cringe at the fact that we allow the people and interests involved in stealing the tops of our mountains, fouling our oceans and waterways with their industrial sludge, and turning our atmosphere into an un-breathable, poisonous gas to walk free among us.
That we allow them to continue to exert their influence in state capitols and the halls of congress while this decent, justifiably concerned and creatively bold young person languishes in prison is a travesty and sets exactly the wrong example.
That DeChristopher committed a crime under the “law” is beyond dispute, but the fact that his actions were taken to prevent much greater crimes must be understood and recognized by the courts and fact that they are not points directly to the degree of control that money and corporate influence have over our courts.
A symbolic slap on the wrist, a suspended sentence or probation would have satisfied the “law” and sent the proper message to those who continue to wantonly assault our common resources, while destroying our environment and threatening our lives.
For more on this case and to take action please visit: Tim DeChristopher’s Imprisonment: Our Call to Action!
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Lifelong liberal of the Tom Paine wing. Marine Vietnam vet. Have worked as a photographer, cab driver, bartender, carpenter, cabinetmaker, writer and editor. Now retired on a Veterans Disability program I spend my time writing, and complaining about politics and the environment.