An environmental idealist stops an illegal oil and gas auction by bidding for parcels he can’t possibly afford. Savaged by an exponentially accelerating climate crisis, a once-proud nation rewards him…by throwing him into a hole.
Along the vertiginous fall, he tumbles through a dystopia that denies his rights, then creates a case against him out of thin air. He fumbles through a prison complex way too in love with mind-raping solitary confinement. Eventually, he emerges a free man, resolved to wreak electoral vengeance against those who sold him out. Good thing the cameras were rolling.
But the bizarre arc of Tim DeChristopher‘s life — documented in Bidder 70, opening Friday in New York and parts outward, often with him in attendance — is sadly far from singular. Pop-cultural analogues can be found from Carroll to Kafka to Hitchcock (especially North By Northwest‘s hacked auction) and beyond. But back here in our far more surreal Reality, there are too many compromised political prisoners to count.
“One of the things I found out while I was locked up was that the injustice involved in my case was not unusual,” DeChristopher told me by phone after wrapping up a two-year sentence last month. “By any means. In fact, it’s the status quo for how our legal system works.”
But the status quo must go, or we will. DeChristopher’s climate activism has only been energized by the tumultuous experiences chronicled by Bidder 70, because he knows the environmental verdict is in: With CO2′s preventable 400 ppm limit now fading in the rearview mirror, runaway climate change is more ready than ever to put the war in global warming.
We need each other now, to save us from each other tomorrow.
“Going down a path of extremely rapid change with an ignorant, apathetic citizenry afraid of its own government, which is under the thumb of corporate power, is terrifying to me,” DeChristopher said. “That is a very dark future. However, going down that path with an educated and engaged citizenry, unafraid to hold its government accountable and corporations subservient to the will of humanity? Well, that has a lot of opportunity. That is a much brighter future.”
To achieve this ideal citizenry — argues the environmental idealist, who has likely served more time than you for his faith — environmentalists need to starting taking down our own. Republicans are a dead brand, mostly stuffed with cowards and lunatics. That leaves what’s left of the sellout Democrats and Big Green groups that thought environmentalists would chill while Exxon scored another record-breaking quarter or President Barack Obama signed off on Keystone XL.
“If we want lasting change, we have to start taking people out of office,” DeChristopher explained. “And with the power we have right now, that means Democrats.”
I spoke at length with DeChristopher about hacking the Democratic party, arcane but vulnerable processes like elections and auctions, why Americans really should spend more time in prison, and other tragicomic matters of consequence. Read up, plug in, turn out.