Tim DeChristopherTim DeChristopher.Photo: (C) 2011 Daphne HougardClimate activist Tim DeChristopher, who was put on trial in Salt Lake City, Utah, this week for his interference with an oil and gas auction held at the end of the Bush administration, on Thursday was found guilty by a jury. He faces a sentence of up to 10 years, to be determined by a judge.

After finding out the jury’s decision, DeChristopher spoke to supporters outside of the courthouse. “We now know I’ll have to go to prison. That’s the job I have to do,” he said.

In a recent interview with Grist, DeChristopher talked about the power of nonviolent civil disobedience and the role it can play in fighting climate change. He compares the need for action in the climate movement to the action taken by the Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights Movement. Watch the interview here:

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

DeChristopher hopes his sentencing and the act of “going to jail for justice” will give people perspective on our dire climate situation. In our interview, he said:

Climate change is a war against people and especially young people. People’s lives are being traded for the profit of others. That’s a war. And yet it doesn’t look that way, it doesn’t feel that way to most people. It just looks like businessmen making a profit. It looks like congressmen not doing their jobs very well. So when we make ourselves vulnerable and invite that reaction against ourselves, whether it’s a physical reaction or a reaction of the legal system, it starts to reframe that perspective for people.

Climate hawks and environmentalists are voicing their support for DeChristopher and calling him an example for the rest of us. Henia Belalia of Peaceful Uprising, a group cofounded by DeChristopher, responded to the verdict with this text message: “Heartbreaking, outrageous and yet not surprising with a limited defense. Justice did not prevail today — our response: resolve and a massive call to action.”

A sampling of reax from the Twittersphere: 

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Bill McKibben:

  • “Tim has shown the power of civil disobedience to shine a light — the government should be giving him a medal, not a sentence.” (Author and activist Jeff Biggers agrees.)
  • “If the Feds think this will deter protest, they couldn’t be wronger. Tim was brave alone; we need some mass bravery.”
  • “this is precisely the sort of event that reminds us just why we need a real, mass mobilization to stop the climate crisis.”

Rising Tide: “We will continue to stand w/ DeChristopher and take the guilty verdict as encouragement to act in the name of climate justice.”

Post Carbon Institute: “Tim is one of an exceedingly small handful of activists who walk the walk and now he’s on the shelf.”

talonpoint: “A society with its priorities straight would be talking about Tim DeChristopher instead of Charlie Sheen.”

brianwholt: “let’s hope @DeChristopher gets the same treatment as the bankers profiled in #InsideJob

Read more from Bill McKibben on DeChristopher.

Watch the full DeChristopher interview.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!