Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Impeded Stream is the One That Sings (Wendell Berry)

 Bidder 70
"At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, that 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 live on the line, this is what love looks like. And it will only grow."
Bidder 70 was a great documentary that really places civil disobedience in a modern era. When I think about civil disobedience I think about the past; slavery a women’s rights. But it is modern. Gay rights and environmental problems are happening now. And DeChristopher perfectly displays a non-violent form of civil disobedience on behalf of the green movement. I enjoyed the story. I enjoyed what he did and I appreciated his effort, but I was left disappointed when I realized that there wasn't enough outreach. This event happened in Utah and I consider myself very involved in environmental news, but I never heard of this. He often quoted MLK and Gandhi as if he were comparing himself with them, but he is not known worldwide, he is a hometown hero. I am in no way discrediting what he did or how outrageous his sentence was, but I rented this from Amazon, and there was only 5 reviews. Most movies I rent have hundreds. I appreciate his act of civil disobedience and I would like to believe that I would do the same thing.

The East
The East was nuts. I loved it. I wish I was that badass, but I am not. I am a full advocate for non-violence activism. Personally, I don't believe that guns should ever be necessary. Ever. I do see a point that is made in The East that these people are indirectly killing people, but I do not think the solution is guns. The group in the movie bothered me as their rituals, although meaningful, were very out of the ordinary. My main issue with being considered an environmentalist is that idea that environmentalists are these weird hippies that frolic naked in fields and just do drugs and weird shit. I don't do most of those things. This movie really played into that stereotype. What if The East was a bunch of completely "normal" people? The entire feel of the movie would have changed. Being a movie, not a documentary, I feel that there was a lot of different emotions that came up as opposed to the other films we have viewed. With the action and the suspense I found myself rushed and anxious about the situations as they played out. I loved the amount of news the group generated but it was not good news, it was them being pictured as terrorists, not environmentalists.

A Friend of the Earth
I read this book last summer and didn’t like it at all, but re-reading it has given me a little more appreciation for it. Although I personally understand Ty’s motives, I can see that it is probably really difficult for other readers to get the push behind his actions. Boyle doesn’t really give a lot of detail to support his personality. The world around Ty is startling with the extinctions and deforestation that has left the planet completely ravaged. I feel like there is a lot going on throughout the novel that is distracting and unimportant. Throughout the book I was waiting for the detail that Ty is half Jewish to have some relevance – it doesn’t. I like the overall idea of the novel and the impact it has on today’s readers but I think it could have been much better presented perhaps with different writing styles, not the jumping back and forth.

Communicating With Nature - Ch 10

I found this chapter to be the most enlightening. Although I really enjoy Corbett's writing I think this was the most influential to me. I consider myself an activist, or perhaps it is more accurate to say aspiring activist, and what really is activism?  If I donate money every month to the Sierra Club, is that a form of activism? I don’t really think it is, I think I am just help support an organization that fights for what I believe in. It’s almost like it’s a religion, like I am donating money to the church. The dominant social paradigm versus the environmental paradigm was a very interesting comparison in this chapter. I wrote the chart in my notebook as it reminds me of the anthropogenic versus ecocentric scale. Formal institutional environmental organizations versus informal grassroots also gave me a lot to think about as per my career. I want to be an advocate for the environment and I think that I want to lean more towards the grass roots organizations earlier in my career and eventually get to more formal organizations. It gave me a lot to think about.

Andi Burrows

Friendly Actions: Saving the Planet – A Practice for All

On the topic of activism, my mind jumbles with all of the things I want to say, so I’ve decided to start with a quote from one of the most well known civil rights leaders, Mahatma Gandhi,

It's the action, not the fruit of the action, that's important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there'll be any fruit. But that doesn't mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result (Gandhi).

The simplicity of acting, the innate understanding of morality – knowing the difference between right and wrong, lives deep within all of us – its just a matter of evoking that fire inside and standing up for the greater good. In Chapter 10 of Communicating Nature Julia Corbett states “When someone seeks change, it signals a dissatisfaction with the way things are now – with the status quo,” (Corbett 280) she goes on to express the urgency of communication in order to make a shift to something new and unknown, “In essence, it’s a struggle of rhetoric and persuasive argument and the ability to have your values and problem definition prevail and become the accepted cultural view point, the new status quo” (Corbett 280). With that in mind, here is my attempt at persuasion; The environmental movement is in the best interest of all inhabitants of this planet - the environmental movement is a movement for clean air, water, and soil, a movement for mutual symbiosis between humans and Earth, a movement for justice and equality for all living things, human and non. This call to action, this very call for change is the advocacy for the success of life for all - present and future generations. Corbett later states that “social change inevitably advantages some and disadvantages others,” (Corbett 285) but when it comes to the environmental movement I cant help but see that either everyone benefits, or everyone fails; Benjamin Franklin once said, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately,” Franklin said this in the light of independence, in the rebellion from the British government. Now we face a new rebellion for independence from big industry and powerful corporations.
Bidder 70’s Tim DeChristopher decided to make a stand for what was right against something that was accepted by the public only because when disguised by money and power it seemed beneficial. Corbett refers to this concept of deception as “wise use,” which is a tactic used to distinguish environmental regulations as a barrier for jobs and property rights – a claim that environmental policy is bad for the economy.  Regardless of what was believed, on the day of December 19th 2008, DeChristopher took on an action that gambled his fate and ignited a fire of civil disobedience in this generation’s environmental movement. Outbidding deep pockets and industry giants, DeChristopher won 22,000 acres of land for 1.7 million dollars and faced felonies and penalties of potential prison time and hefty fines. Even though DeChristopher was in a facing the fight to remain a free man he engaged himself in a grander fight in action against climate change in a peaceful and charismatic manner. DeChristopher’s sentence didn’t stop his actions, he gave speeches and followed practices of civil disobedience demonstrated by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King. DeChristopher’s actions saved a great deal of land in Utah and created a roar in the environmental community. All it took was a non-violent action to call the attention of the public to the grand scheme and issue at hand. In The East we see a different approach. While the movie was impacting and thrilling the message is a matter of what extremes environmentalists are willing to go to save the earth and The East organization demonstrates a violent attacks on corporations to reveal the corruption of industry. However I don’t see how successful they are in their action, just as Mahatma Gandhi said, “an eye for an eye only leaves the whole world blind.”
Although I didn’t much care for The East and its message I realized from T.C. Boyle’s A Friend of the Earth that desperate times call for desperate measures. When we are faced with a matter we consider the measures we are willing to go make a difference. Boyle mentions in an interview when questioned about the his character Tyrone Tierwater as an ecoterrorist he states, “the very fact that he considers it raises the question of how far we might go in order to prevent the destruction of the environment and how anyone can take it on himself to play God. Think ethnic cleansing.” It’s aggravating to see the consistency of ignorance toward environmental degradation in society, in Tierwater’s defense, it must be aggravating to witness the demise of the planet –the destruction of your home. Tierwater states his reason for taking action,

Friendship. That’s what got me into the movement and that’s what pushed me way out there on the naked edge of nothing, beyond sense or reason, or even hope. Friendship for the earth. For the trees and shrubs and the native grasses and the antelope on the plain and the kangaroo rats in the desert and everything else that lives and breathes under the sun (Boyle 56).

Although in the last chapters of the book when asked what he had accomplished, Tierwater responds “Nothing. Absolutely nothing” (Boyle 343) implying that his radical attempts to teach the public of the need for change is ultimately a failure, I refuse to believe that Boyles message is that the environmental movement is a hopeless dead end. I’d like to consider Boyle’s goal in A Friend to the Earth as an attempt to warn the masses of what will happen if we leave it to one individual to put an end to environmental destruction – that if the environmental movement does not grow, it will not succeed. Boyle puts the burden on the people – the ones forgetting that “the whole world is a living organism and we are but a humble part of it” (Boyle 195).

Activism grows from passion, experience, and education. Every living thing relies on this planets success, we’ve learned the science behind climate change – we’ve weathered storms. What will drive us to take action? What extremes are we willing to witness before we make a change?

Cory Tiger

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Doesn’t Matter What, Just Do Something!!!

A Friend of the Earth
                This cynical and gritty novel on environmental activism is a gross and real life way of being shown the true nature of man and the results of what may be the eventual outcome of our selfish behavior on this planet.  Without a way to express the harsh parts of our world we will not be able to accept all aspects of life nor are we able to truly appreciate the beauty in life.  What we see and how we perceive things are a direct result of the experiences that we have within the world and in this book Tyrone Tierwater is the protagonist that proves this idea.  In this dystopian society the climate acts in extremes swinging from long periods of drought to long periods of non-stop rain and gusting winds, the story follows Tyrone as he reflects on his life as an activist with the environmental group Earth Forever!  Set in the year 2026 Tierwater is reconnected with his ex-wife Andrea when she comes to him with the request that he help a woman by the name of April Wind write the story of his daughter Sierra who became famous for moving into a tree to save it from being cut down by a lumber company.  After living there for two years she dies after slipping from a branch way above the wooded floor and is from then considered a martyr to the trees.  Her act inspired many and it is believed that the book could bring light to many of the issues going on in the environment but Tyrone, set in his stubborn ways and old age has no interest in drudging up those memories and is resentful of the idea.  He helps retell his daughter’s story nonetheless and in doing so reveals many things about himself that allow readers to understand why he has come to be the way that he is in his old age.
                Tyrone’s inner struggles are shown in pieces throughout the novel as his ideas are told aloud and he battles to control his thoughts as well as his body.  Though many parts are flashbacks of a time passed, he in many ways seems to use these flashbacks to answer questions of the present that he may not have been able to had he not gone back and reflected on his life.  The decisions that he made were not always smart and although he loved his daughter, he out her life and their relationship at risk many times while she was alive, so many times after her death he goes back in memory to events that shaped his and her lives together and in all of them he blames himself for possibly failing her all to eventually realize that she was stronger and smarter as a result of his upbringing.  His influence may not have always seemed positive but they resonated with her and gave Sierra a way to lift up with a voice of her own, she seemed to be a greater activist than he because unlike Tyrone, she seemed to do it not for love of another, but for the love she had towards nature. 
Bidder 70
                This documentary follows Tim DeChristopher, a student majoring in economics at the University of Utah and the journey that he embarked upon after going to an auction allowing oil and gas companies to lease the land for oil extraction on a piece of land in Utah.  He had no intention of purchasing the land much less actually extracting any resources from it but the action of bidding against these companies was a form of civil disobedience.  Bidding $1.7 million dollars he won 22,000 acres of land and it is also a way for him to draw attention to the problem by causing a problem for people who have a large part in the matter.  This form of activism is one that shows people that it doesn’t matter who the person is and how much money they have, we can all do something it just depends on what your beliefs are and how far you are willing to go.  When he goes to West Virginia to see the mountain top removal he begins to understand why activism was important and his connection to what he was doing, it was like it made sense to him in those moments why these issues mattered.  It is once again a moment where environmental justice becomes important because seeing that the problems occur in your own backyard inspire people to want to make those problems go away. 
                For all of this he was indicted by the federal government and was convicted where upon such time he was sentenced to spend two years in prison, all because he sought to stop these companies from drilling on this land.  The environmental problems that we have continue to persist because we have industries that we support and with this support we as result suffer the effects of degradation.  DeChristopher’s act to save pristine lands near public parks did not win over the Bush administration but under Obama has been removed from any future sales.  This one act by this man was a way for him to do something for himself and to make a stand for what he believed in and although not everyone must take these extremes it is still our responsibility to do something.  Small changes on individual levels collectively lead to larger changes that propel progress for the better of the entire natural world.    

Communicating Nature Ch. 10- Communication and Social Change
                The environmental movement today doesn’t look much like it had it in the past when it was first introduced in our society.  As described by Corbett “the mainstream environmental movement in this country fits the profile of a movement that has become formal and highly institutionalized over time” (Corbett 288).  The large organization’s that started in the 1960’s and 1970’s are currently struggling to increase the membership of young adults and galvanize people to keep fighting for environmental issues and grass roots organizations are abundant, all with their own differing agendas.  It is difficult with these things going on to seek activism through just joining in with other organizations, although that is noble there are things that can be done on an individual level.  Each person is capable in their own way of being an activist as long as they are doing something whether it be recycling all that they can and reducing energy consumption or making the attempt to car pool a collective of these small acts makes a big difference.  With the many different media platforms there is a multitude of ways to deliver messages that will reach mass audiences, the trick is to figure out who the audience is and how to appeal to that group.  It is important to make people understand your message while taking care not to make them feel too guilty or bad for being a contributor to the environmental problems and also providing suggestions on how to help the cause.  The suggestions must be ones that they can actually execute in their daily lives so if public transportation or buying a smart car isn’t an option they could instead try carpooling, walking or riding a bike.  
                The beauty with activism is that it takes on many different forms and can be as little as turning off lights when a person leaves the room or getting arrested for protesting a new pipeline being built in an area.  Since “there are three possible outcomes for a movement… total failure… total success... or partial success,” (Corbett 304) then there is no harm in at least trying since we already know the only possible outcomes of action or inaction.  Today the larger constructs of society make it more difficult to get people to change because the social systems are set up in ways that do not necessarily accommodate environmental ideologies.  It seems as though the outcome of the current environmental movement will be one that is “accommodated/coopted” (Corbett 305). Because we have grown accustomed to a certain way of life, satisfying some of the more extreme ideals in the environmental movement would be hard, many people resist change so the change would probably be most accepted if it caused little interruption to regular life. 
The East
                This movie was a modern take on one part of the environmental movement and shows that not all members operate similarly in that some take more radical steps toward seeking environmental justice.  It follows an agent named Sarah who works for a firm that ensures that big companies will be able to operate without the fear of sabotage from an eco-terrorist group called the East.  She infiltrates their group and becomes one of them learning their lifestyle and eventually participating in their endeavors to stop the large firms who by way of their actions cause destruction to the environments they inhabit and thus the people who are dependent upon that land.  I believe that that the movie was an effective way of showing people that with knowledge comes power and once we know something we can’t unlearn it, because of this we are faced with the responsibility of making a choice that will determine our future actions.  By stepping into the world of the eco-terrorists, Sarah learns that all she had been taught about the industries that control the world she lives in was a lie.  Through researching and preparing for the jams (sabotage attempts) that they execute she becomes exposed to the truths that the companies hide and finds herself in a position where she must choose the comfortable life that she had always known or the life of an activist.  It becomes obvious that she cannot change what she has learned and knows that her life would be a lie if she pretended that the problems around her didn’t exist but choosing activism was not a black or white decision either.  When in the end she decides to leave her life and become an activist she is again faced with the opportunity to choose between pursuing the problems with her love interest who follows the ideals of the eco-terrorists of the East or create her own ideals of what it is to be an activist.  Although left open to interpretation it seems as though she chose the latter and used the information she gained to change other agents like her.  Instead of fighting violence with violence she looks towards combating the issues at hand with civil disobedience and tolerance. 

                This movie really moved me because it was set in today’s world, a modern society where we live our lives as though there aren’t major environmental battles that still need to be fought. The lives of the group members and their integration in society make it seems as though this group really does exist and in some place there is a cabin in the woods where they meet to plan ways to take down large corporations and make them pay for the damage they have caused to humans and the environment by giving them whatever it is they gave out.  The eye for an eye method does no always work though and many times their jams seemed to backfire on them giving the corporations more publicity than they needed as well as the ability to play the victim role, when they are the aggressors.  It shows that there are extreme ways to go about solving a problem but that those aren’t the only methods to getting things done. 

Mimi Hanson


First I must talk about A Friend of the Earth by T.C. Boyle. This book was excellent in a lot of ways. I really liked the style of writing and the way he got his points across. The fact that the book took place only 11 years from today is pretty crazy. That this author is talking about our present. The book was very suspenseful because he saved the most important aspect of the book for last, how Sierra fell out of the tree. The book ends with Tierwater in the bar admitting to Quinn, the man he fooled many years ago, that it was he who started the fire, destroyed all that construction equipment, and most importantly he admits that he accomplished absolutely nothing by doing so. It seems as if the author is trying to say that all Tierwater and Sierra went through was for nothing. Tierwater went to prison and Sierra died all unjustified. 

Though I believe that, no matter what, they both had a huge impact on the environmental activism in their own way. Even if they simply slowed the destruction they did what they believed what was right. I found this book to be similar to the movie The East because that movie and this book both kind of question how far one should go in order be an environmental activist. Both stories exhibit acts of violence that are shamed upon by most environmentalists. Most believe that non-violent acts of rebellion are more proper and when you abide by the law you have a better shot at winning over some politicians, though your shot is still pretty slim, unfortunately. 

The East wasn’t particularly one of my favorites. I do not think violence should be a part of activism because then all that will come of this is war. I do not deny that sometimes force is necessary to get a point across, maybe even violence, but majority of activism MUST be non-violent. The East was a cool film and all but people really are affected by what they see on the big screen. Now their s going to be people going out doing crazy stuff and killing people for a cause when there is a much more civilized approach. I also disliked the “weirdness” of this film. I thought the idea of bathing each other, feeding each other with straight jackets, and that weird twist on spin the bottle were all very weird scenes. I think movies like this give environmental activists a bad name.

Nicholas Cochrane

Activism: Where do we draw the line?

Bidder 70 is a documentary about a University of Utah economics student, Tim DeChristopher, committing peaceful activism in the name of environmental justice. On December 19, 2008, DeChristopher disrupted a Utah BLM Oil and Gas lease auction, in attempts to preserve the thousands of acres of untouched Utah land that were for sale for future oil and gas exploration. Some of these land parcels lie next to beautiful, pristine, and even well known natural, iconic American features such as the Canyonlands National Park. Tim joined the auction and registered, hence being granted the number 70. He outbid industry members, which enabled him to protect the land that was up for grabs. However, following DeChristopher’s winnings two months later, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar annulled the auction. Under the threat of possibly going to prison, Tim ramped up his activism to get his message across, and decided to speak and empower others on behalf of his values. He became a leader of the climate justice movement, co-founding “Peaceful Uprising,” a grass-roots organization dedicated to achieving a sustainable future through civil disobedience. DeChristopher states, “The choice you are making today is what side you are on.” Tim was found guilty and is now serving a two-year sentence in prison, but continues to remain the passionate, climate justice leader that he is, indefinitely shedding inspiration amongst others through his action. This is very close to my “ideal” and respectable type of environmental activism. I believe that this kind of peaceful, non-violent, civil disobedience will create the most positive, effective outcomes and gain the respect of others as opposed to violent means of activism.

The movie, The East is a drama/thriller based on true events, telling the story of an operative for a private intelligence firm, who joins an anarchist, eco-terrorist group called “The East” as part of her undercover work. Bound by loyalty and trust with one another, The East partakes in “jams,” in which they use destructive and violent attacks as a means of their activism.  For example, a jam including the use of environmental vandalism, shown in the opening scene of the movie in which surveillance cameras capture the sight of crude oil pouring out of the vents of a home owned by the CEO of an oil company responsible for a major oil spill.  The East was attempting to hold the CEO accountable for the disaster created in the ocean, by bringing the disaster to him. Another jam included attending an event being thrown by a pharmaceutical company, who is responsible for creating a new drug that is toxic to humans. Throughout the party, members of The East distribute the drug in the drinks being served that night, henceforth giving the company a taste of their own medicine. In a later jam, they hold two people, one being the father of the character played by Ellen Page, at gunpoint, making them go into a lake that their company has polluted by their industrial plant that is situated right next to it. Although this is overall a fictional movie, it is based off of a real group that did exist. Other eco-terrorist groups similar to The East exist today. While the passion of groups such as these is extremely inspirational, I do not agree with the extreme measures taken, where they put the lives of others at stake. To me, this can totally destroy the message they are trying to convey, and they may become acknowledged for the harm being done to people rather than what they are trying to achieve. It is up to us to demand government and industry accountability, but it is also up to us on how we demand it.

            In the novel, A Friend of the Earth, a story of environmental degradation is depicted. The story takes place in a futuristic setting, during the year 2025. The Earth is now in a post-apocalyptic-esque world, as climate change and deforestation have dramatically transformed the earth. Many species have become extinct, the weather is constantly violent, and modern science has made it possible for humans to prolong their lives in this barren world. This novel follows the story of the main character, Tyrone O’Shaughnessy Tierwater. He becomes an activist to “Earth Forever!” which is a fictional organization modeling the radical group known as “Earth First!” He later gets locked up in prison for eco-terrorism (or “ecotage”). Stylistically speaking, I think the novel is written beautifully. I felt as if I was living in the setting of the book, and got pulled out of reality with the author’s imaginative words. I also really enjoyed the changes from past to present, which added a creative assortment of events to the book. In terms of the content, I was 50/50 on how I felt Earth Forever! performed as an environmental group. I appreciated the passion as I did while watching The East, but I think there needs to be a limit on how demanding and sabotaging an environmental group with an important message should be.

            In Chapter 10 of Communicating Nature, Corbett states, “what most distinguishes a movement group is how formally organized it is, which affects how it operates and communicates. This in turn affects a host of other factors, such as the role of leaders and members, group communication with members and the larger public, and the tactics utilized.” Perhaps violent vs. peaceful groups differ based on how they organize themselves and how they communicate. Perhaps groups choose which path they want to take, some choosing to be more abrasive and direct than others for a reason. Whatever it may be, I think it is wise for environmental groups to evaluate which type of action creates an aggregate benefit for both the earth and the public, learning from past mistakes, allowing themselves to be inspired by groups with similar messages, and being open to change. The time for our voices to be heard (and effectively spoken) is now. We are all Bidder 70—we all share the earth with one another, and we are all in this together.

Ashley Smalley