The Rider News (TRN) collaborated with the Eco-Reps and sat down with Tim DeChristopher prior his lecture in the Bart Luedeke Center Theater on April 22 to discuss sustainability and his work to make a difference.
TRN: What inspired you to become an advocate for sustainability?
TD: I’ve never really considered myself an advocate for sustainability. I consider myself a climate change activist, and in a lot of ways a social justice activist. For me, it’s not about the narrow frame of where the environmental issues have normally been put, but the broader issues of the interconnected injustices that we face, a lot of which are manifesting in climate change. For me, I look at it from the system change that is necessary there. I really see it as systemic injustice, that it’s a failure of a broken democracy that got us into this position. It will take a genuinely systemic revolution to get us out of it. I think we need a political revolution; we need an energy revolution, an economic revolution and a social revolution. And I don’t think we can really detach one from the other. I think they all have to go hand in hand.
TRN: How did you feel when you were being removed from the auction?
TD: In some ways it was a very intense situation, where I knew that it was the beginning of some big consequences that I would be dealing with and that I suddenly stepped into a very controversial issue. But on the other hand, I was feeling really relaxed and peaceful and fulfilled at that time because after I had just disrupted that auction, it was really the first time that I felt that my actions were really in line with my sentiment about climate change. Up to that point, I’d been pretty focused on climate change and certainly had the sentiment that this is the biggest crisis that our civilization has ever faced. But my response to it, by in large, was changing my consumer habits and biking and signing petitions, all stuff that I knew was nowhere near the scale of the crisis. That had created a lot of internal turmoil for me, and so at that point, once I had jumped all in, I really put myself on the line standing here with this injustice. It felt really good that a lot of that turmoil was gone. So internally I really felt relaxed, at the same time that my mind was racing about the next steps that I needed to be doing at that point.
TRN: What kind of advice would you give to people like us, young college students, and people who may not have the resources to perform such large-scale uprisings, such as infiltrating an auction, other than changing our consumer habits?
TD: I don’t think it necessarily takes resources to do it. I didn’t have any resources at that time. I didn’t have any support. All that came afterwards. I was working alone. I think the important thing is to realize the institutions that we’re a part of, and realize the other roles in which we have power. And we’re taught to think as consumers and look for the ways that we can have an impact with our consumer habits, but you’re also university students that can influence that institution. We’re seeing a lot of that around the country, with the campaigns to divest endowment from fossil fuels. That’s a kind of shift from this consumer thinking to thinking as part of a interconnected web, which I think is a lot more powerful. People looking at those structures of power, and looking at what connections they have to the institutions or players within that structure, and what they can do to influence those institutions that they’re connected to. A lot of people get disempowered trying to work on the big issues, because they look at some decision-maker, like the president or Congress or some CEO. They try to petition that person or call that person, and that person doesn’t care what you think. You have no influence over that person, and so you get dismissed, and that seems disempowering. But that person in power is not isolated and you are not an isolated individual. We’re each connected to this bigger web, and when you leverage those connections that you have and start to realize the power that comes from the communities you’re a part of, which might be very small local communities, a little grass-roots group where you’re one of five people, you have a big influence over that group. Or the larger communities that you’re a part of in your cities or wherever, you might be part of 10,000. You can’t control that as well as your little group but then once you start to shift those bigger communities, then they have a lot more leverage to then shift the bigger picture that they’re a part of. So I think recognizing those connections is a really big part of finding where our power lies.
Printed in the 4/23/14 edition.