David Suzuki: Government of the people, by the corporations, for the corporations

In 2008, economics student Tim DeChristopher went to an auction set up by the Bush administration for the oil and gas industry. He bid US$1.8 million for the right to drill on 14 parcels of Utah wilderness, much of it near national parks, and drove up prices for other pieces of land that he bid on but didn’t win. Although DeChristopher later tried to raise money online and offered to pay for the land leases, the government claimed he had no intention of paying and convicted him in March on two felony counts.

On July 27, he was sentenced to two years in jail and three years’ probation and ordered to pay a US$10,000 fine. He was escorted from the Utah courtroom in handcuffs. Now he’s a criminal.

During the trial, the judge refused to allow DeChristopher to discuss his motivation. Because of that, and other reasons, his lawyers are launching an appeal. In his statement to the court before sentencing, DeChristopher said he had wanted “to stand in the way of an illegitimate auction that threatened my future”. The leases were later cancelled because the Obama administration found that sufficient environmental reviews had not been conducted.

In his inspiring speech, DeChristopher also spoke eloquently about the contradictions in the law around resource extraction. He pointed out that in West Virginia, where he was raised, a state investigation found that coal-mining company Massey Energy, which often blasts away the tops of mountains to get at the coal, broke the law 62,923 times in the 10 years leading up to a disaster that killed 29 people in 2010. The company, which contributed millions of dollars to elect many appeals court judges in the state, was rarely penalized for those violations.

DeChristopher argued that his mother had tried every legal method to get coal companies to comply with the law. “She commented at hearings, wrote petitions and filed lawsuits, and many have continued to do ever since, to no avail,” he said, adding, “I actually have great respect for the rule of law, because I see what happens when it doesn’t exist, as is the case with the fossil fuel industry.”

The trial, and the relatively tough sentence, hinged on the supposed damage DeChristopher caused. According to the government, oil companies were financially hurt because his actions drove the price up to an average of US$125 an acre from the US$12 an acre offered for land he did not bid on. That’s despite the fact that companies willingly paid the higher prices and were allowed to withdraw their bids after DeChristopher was charged. And the leases were later cancelled anyway.

For his part, DeChristopher argued that “the only loss that I intended to cause was the loss of secrecy by which the government gave away public property for private profit. As I actually stated in the trial, my intent was to shine a light on a corrupt process and get the government to take a second look at how this auction was conducted.”

DeChristopher’s ordeal exposes the massive power of the fossil fuel industry. Governments, including the U.S. and Canada’s, often do far more to promote the interests of this industry than to protect people’s rights and health. Those who violate the law and put the lives of citizens and their children and grandchildren at great risk through pollution and destructive industrial practices often get let off scot-free or receive a slap on the wrist, while those who use civil disobedience to challenge this imbalance are hit with the full force of the law.

Tim DeChristopher said he does not want to be a martyr; he just wants people to join him. “If the government is going to refuse to step up to that responsibility to defend a livable future, I believe that creates a moral imperative for me and other citizens. My future, and the future of everyone I care about, is being traded for short term profits. I take that very personally.”

We should all take it personally. We aren’t out to shut down the fossil fuel industry immediately. That would be impossible as well as impractical. But surely a sustainable, healthy future ought to come before a corporation's right to profit.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation editorial and communications specialist Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

Comments (25) Add New Comment
LTD.Edition
A hero.
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Dean
Your last sentence is the key question that is never answered. Who is ever going to give the honest answer "Sustain yourself pal, I want more money"?
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NoRightWingNeoConSheep
[1] Ottawa Neo-Con Majority

[2] Ottawa sends Billions Corporate Welfare to Alberta Oil Corps every year cause Big Oil needs the subsidy lol :)

[3] The Laws are being changed by Neo-Con sheep politicians for their Corporate Masters

[4] the working citizens of Canada are being made into Corporate Drones & Wage Slaves

[5] privatization of HealthCare is coming as well as Jails already for all the "unreported' crime :)

Enjoy...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qItqs4HO6hc




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GregInWpg
I believe people can donate to his legal defense fund via here: http://www.bidder70.org/
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On Tim's Side
The full statement by Tim DeChristopher is well worth reading.

"At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like. In these times of a morally bankrupt government that has sold out its principles, this is what patriotism looks like. With countless lives on the line, this is what love looks like, and it will only grow. The choice you are making today is what side are you on."

https://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/07/26-13
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Goldorak
Poor Suzuki talking about corporations and governments that do not listen to people: Australia and Gilliard and recently the Ontario Liberals making it more difficult to get rid of their green scams... Then, silence, no Suzuki cry... LOL
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Cruachan
Was a fan of suzuki until he told people to vote for the BC liberals, which flys in the face of everything he says here. If he is worried about corporations then he should open his eyes to their greenwashing puppets in the legislatures
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Justin
I am saddened by the lack of leadership that David Suzuki has displayed regarding the Fukushima disaster. Either he has been silenced (a la Pete Seeger) or he is corrupt and conflicted.

David was a ray of hope for me along with other visionaries such as Pete Seeger, Mother Theresa, and Jane Goodall. I don't know if I can hold him in such regard today ...

We need environmental heroes more than ever today to lead the people!

Green Warriors rise up ... now is the time to save our mothership ... if it is not already too late.

Shame on your David we need you to do more in our greatest time of need.
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Nurdles
Geez, Justin, instead of expecting a 75-year-old guy who already devotes his entire life to science, education, and environmental issues, including Fukushima, why don't you stop whining and get off your ass and do something yourself for the environment? Could it be that you're really a fake environmentalist, just out to discredit people who really are making the effort? Don't expect "heroes" or "leaders" to do all your work for you.
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Murray
I agree with Cruachan above that Suzuki has lost much of his credibility by supporting the BC Liberals. Maybe if Suzuki started to point out that class warfare is behind corporate power that leads to the undemocratic exploitation of the environment he might redeem himself.

The fact is that the BC Liberals are a small but essential pawn in the wealthy's project to rob us blind. If they do take a stance that is good for the environment it is to gain or hold on to votes only so they can continue to rob workers blind.

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Judy Cross
I used to trust dear David...until he continued to push human originated climate change long after it was shown to be at best ignorance, or more realistically, a UN/government sponsored scam. Once the IMF got involved in trying to collect 2% of GDP from ALL nations...rich and poor alike, supposedly to prevent climate change, only the brain dead could continue to believe it was all being done for Mother Earth.
http://www.imf.org/external/np/exr/facts/enviro.htm

Darling David is the reason 71% of Canadians still believe the hokem, as it falls apart elswhere ...
http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/e...
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PR Cross
Judy Cross: you have never trusted David Suzuki. It's just another one of the lies that come so easily to you. Everyone knows by now that you are an anti-science, anti-environment shill for the fossil fuel industry.

Only a fool or a shill would now reject the overwhelming science behind human-caused climate change. There is no credible, peer-reviewed science that raises any question about it. So peddle your wingnut conspiracy theories to your friends in the Heartland Institute / Koch Industries / Tom Harris fossil fuel echo chamber.

http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php
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Rob Kwon
The government has turned into a central planning politburo for the corporations. In this system, we have the stinky fingers of politicians and bureaucrats trying to control the economy, which only attracts lobbyists seeking favors in the same way that dung attracts flies.

The green economy will thrive and gain momentum naturally if we remove all financial and legislative subsidies, and the accommodating of corporate society and the fossil fuel industry.

The only role of government is to make sure that people play fair with no high sticking, no running interference, and no spilling oil on the rink . Free market means an economy and society free of manipulation, free of coercion, and free of acts of negligence by others. We have to eliminate the tax, spend, and re-distribute politburo economic central planning bureaucracies, not just tame their bloated salaries and cut back their pension entitlements. The politburo is not only instrumental, but also the cause of economic, social, and environment negligence and dysfunction.
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Nicklyfront
Cruachan and Murray: Would be astounded if you and your fellow anti-enviros would ever muster the shred of intellectual acuity required to present a coherent argument about the topics Suzuki writes about, rather than resorting to the usual ad hominem lies.
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Linda
Just you try and stop, Harper peddling the Alberta dirty tar sands, to every country he can persuade, to buy the filthy crud. Harper and Campbell work hand in hand, to force the Enbridge pipeline and the dirty oil tankers from China, onto the BC people and the province. Harper and Campbell also work on, drilling oil and gas wells off BC's coast. Harper also left the back door open on the expansion of the Prosperity mine.

Campbell's reward for doing Harper's dirty work, netted him a cushy job, as High Commissioner to England. Campbell is to encourage Europe, to buy the dirty tar sands oil. Europe has a ban on the dirty oil.

Harper is frantic, to be the energy giant of the world. He wants that power and glory, and to hell with the environment. He will pollute the entire world, to achieve his kingship, of vast energy resources. Harper wants the world to kowtow to him. And, to hell with his Canadian citizens, we are only for Harper to exploit.
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Shepsil
Sacrifices are required by us all. Writing another op-ed piece is the easy way out for Suzuki. Does he have the conviction of his ways to do something like Tim DeChristopher did or is he just another bag of hot air?
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Mark Fornataro
Justin, Nurdles is right. Are you aware that David Suzuki and his wife Tara Cullis have both worked WITHOUT PAY for 20 years at the DS Foundation.
What have YOU done to rival that.
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ursa minor
@ Mark Fornataro - Most people who can afford to establish their own foundation aren't paid by that foundation. I'm sure Dr. Suzuki is well taken care of with the income he'd made from his books and television series.

In fact, he made enough to forget about people who actually are living at the margin and mercilessly dump on the NDP during the first week of the 2009 election campaign.

The New Democrats were rightfully criticizing the B.C. Lieberal Carbon Tax as a meaningless, useless greenwashing stunt. Suzuki wanted us to believe that symbolic gestures were actually more important than correcting the imbalance between corporate power and people power in British Columbia.
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darryl
i want to burn everything down more now than ever before
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NicklyFront
ursa minor: "New Democrats were rightfully criticizing the B.C. Lieberal Carbon Tax". You're kidding, right? They were using the issue for cynical political opportunism, which backfired - something the party itself has now realized. Adrian Dix and other NDPers admit that "Axe the tax" was a mistake.

"We as a party got it wrong on climate change and the carbon tax,” Farnworth said.
http://www.straight.com/article-384788/vancouver/carbon-tax-position-was...

John Horgan: “We collectively made a mistake in the 2009 election by opposing the carbon tax.”

NDP spinmeister Bill Tieleman probably summed up the cynicism behind the strategy best to the Tyee: "The carbon tax is a made-to-order election issue for the NDP and they should seize it. You have to drive it and drive it mercilessly," he said. "They have the opportunity to make Campbell wear not just the carbon tax, but the market increase as well."
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