Hand Me That Monkey Wrench
by Peter Shelton
Jun 10, 2010 | 1916 views | 12 12 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tim DeChristopher came to Mountainfilm representing a new generation of environmental monkey wrenchers. At least he hopes there is a growing cadre of young activists behind him.

At a breakfast panel called “Three Generations of Monkey Wrenchers,” DeChristopher, 28 (and awaiting trial for disrupting a BLM oil-and-gas leas sale in Utah), was the one with the close-cropped head and burning dark eyes.

Sitting in the middle was Dave Foreman, at 63 the gray-bearded co-founder of 1980s eco-saboteurs Earth First! And next to Foreman was 90-year-old river rat, protest singer and sometime nudist Katie Lee, who fought with all she had (and still does) the early-60s damming of her beloved Glen Canyon of the Colorado.

The passionate, uninhibited Lee, in fact, stole the show almost everywhere she went, but this morning she was equally matched. They began by talking about environmentalism movements, East and West, and how the western landscape seemed to breed radicalism. Lee, who grew up in Tucson, claimed she “never went indoors” until she had to start school. Foreman, blunt and surprisingly poetic, said that growing up in Albuquerque he had the Sandia Mountains “burned into” his brain, and that “being able to see 100 miles opens you up.”

“The flip side,” he said, “is that [out West] you can see the damage easily. It’s out in the open. In Washington, D.C.” – where he worked as a lobbyist for the Wilderness Society before becoming disillusioned with the system – topography and greenery make it “hard to see the sprawl, Westerners have a need to live up to the landscape,” he added. “We have the challenge of being worthy of the great place we live in.”

DeChristopher was reared in the East and felt the need to defend himself. “I’m a quick learner!” he smiled. But he admitted that on the east coast “everything is close in, closed in. You get this sense that ‘I’m so big in this little place.’” He went on to say that his act of civil disobedience in Moab was “more a matter of self-defense” than it was an attempt to save a certain landscape. It’s our headlong rush to fossil fuels and climate change that drive him. “My generation will suffer the effect of the decisions we make today. I take the threat personally.”

“What pushed me into action,” he continued, “was a realization that we are truly fucked. I really did lose hope. I let go of the expectation of career, old age, etc., the things my parents and grandparents had. Hope stands in the way of action.”

Hope doesn’t necessarily follow action, either, as Foreman and Lee continued the thread. “I don’t like the human race,” Katie Lee spat bitterly, “the government whores who drowned the river. Our efforts, with meager numbers, and unschooled politics, were like trying to put out a wildfire with a teacup. The Glen Canyon dam broke my heart.”

Foreman, too, expressed scant confidence in his own species. “What I do is not for me. What I do is for future generations of chickadees and mountain lions…Destroying other earthlings is a sin. We should not shy away from talking about values – what is good. The other side is good at that – ‘values.’ Although they are hypocrites.”

Lee extended her misanthropic long view. “Mother Nature is going through menopause, hot one day, cold the next. She’s going to take other actions as well. One day she’ll get rid of us. And that’s a good thing, baby!”

What to do in the meantime? “The problem,” DeChristopher volunteered, “is believing that you are a powerful agent of change. Once you act, only then do you see the opportunities. . . We’re beset by emotions. These are the end times! Anger, fear, despair, outrage – they’re for a reason.”

Katie Lee chimed in: “Anger is my ally. Anger is heavy. The heart comes up; tears come up. Channel it or it will tear you to pieces. Channel it and you do what you are supposed to do!”

Foreman encouraged everyone present to “Be creative. Be outrageous. The Obama administration won’t do jack shit about climate change…”

“Unless we force them to,” interrupted DeChristopher, with the energy of his youth. He urged everyone to see the Stanley Nelson film Freedom Riders, about an intrepid group of white and black protesters who set out in 1961 to test the Jim Crow laws throughout the South, by traveling and eating together. Attacked by mobs, arrested by racist police, they nevertheless kept going.

“The Kennedy administration didn’t want to take up civil rights legislation,” DeChristopher said. “They were forced to by a social crisis created by the Freedom Riders. How can we expect Obama to take on the most powerful corporations in the world if we aren’t willing to fill the jails? Sentiment without action,” he said, quoting Ed Abbey, “is the ruin of a soul.”

What about joy? It was a question from the audience, from filmmaker Beth Gage. Surely there is joy in civil disobedience, along with the risk and the fear, in knowing your cause is just.

Foreman allowed that he had never been afraid, not “since I got run over by a truck” early in his activist career.

Katie Lee, only slightly off topic, described the deep sensual and spiritual relationship she has with sandstone: on her bare skin, her fingertips, her tongue.

DeChristopher said, yes, at the auction, while he was (fraudulently) outbidding representatives of the natural gas industry he felt “a really deep calm. When you resist, when you fight back, it’s a way to heal the trauma, the depression, in a world of injustice.”

“Oh, and by the say,” he said in wrapping things up, “you know those solar panels on the gas rigs you see everywhere? Those could probably be easily disconnected. I’m just saying.”

Peter Shelton’s blog is:
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Plastic
June 12, 2010
Bags at the Grocery store either.

Makes us Tellurider's feel good and we know we are better than any of you right wing types.

Just better people. We is. Period.
uh huh.
June 12, 2010
why you gotta bring stoners into this? Very entertaining read though, thanks Rev.

Here's one: Ya'll eco-obama bush alternative fuel in the socks of environmental assessments and it's for the kids oil slick save the whales and Huge SUV!!! ......just to really piss people off - Muslim Jew Bible thumpin' Babtists all hangin' out wit Jeeeezus. Environmental bark beetles. There IS some topics, run with it.
not obamamamama
June 12, 2010
i guess you have to be black with big ears and a liar who is in bed with bp and wall street to get away with saying a$$ these days. no one ever said libs were honest and consistent. anyone in telluride protesting obamamama's wars? nawwww, he is tooo cool and hip to hold accountable. silly libs.
June 12, 2010
ah "same argument"--such language from a "moderate."
June 12, 2010
I just post to see the reaction...thank you for entertaining me with your energetic response.
same argument
June 12, 2010
you used that dumbass argument before and it was shot down on this very board by people who actually use their brains. nice try though. if you think moderation was jim crow laws, then you missed alot of education while staying stoned in high school.
June 12, 2010
I guess the moderate stance between slavery and freedom was Jim Crow.
The Spitting Llama
June 12, 2010
I've read more crap on these so-called "freedom of speech" comment boards, but nothing as totally ignorant than Bear Creeks! statement.

Anyone can take a portion of the Bible, the Koran or the Iching out of context and justify childish and dangerous actions. This is what creates radical religious nuts like the Westboro Baptist Church bunch. Is Bear Creek! a hate-monger too? Sure looks that way. Intelligent moderates are the ones that keep things in balance. They are the ones who don't allow anger and uncontrolled passion to override their brains which if not done turns the individual into a raging maniac like the frail ass kicker wannabe we have in the White House.

Extemists like the goober below actually think bullying others to get their way is something to be proud of...until they get caught and convicted. Bullies (extremists) are unable to morph a thought into discussion so they end up breaking the law and brag about it. I found it quite enlightening that the same bully that misintrepreted Revelations and encourages law breaking is worried about undocumented aliens. Aren't they entitled to break the law to come to America if this eco-terrorist is also allowed to make up his own laws based on a misguided thought? Say no to bullies, no to extremists and no to lawbreakers.
June 11, 2010
Speak or sign? I'm angry: Grrrr! .....Yawn.
moderat e
June 11, 2010
I am useful.

Bear Creek!
June 11, 2010
From Revelations: because you are lukewarm, neither hot or cold, I will spit you out.

The world is full of moderates. They are useless.

We need action on Climate Change, Action on Gulf of Mexico Murder, Action on continued despoiling of the West.

Locally, Our Beloved Bear Creek Is In Danger!

Speak Up Now! Sign the Petition Now!

Just sayin
June 11, 2010
“I don’t like the human race,” Katie Lee spat bitterly"

I think radical environmentalism is as bad and unhelpful as radical religions and gives common sense environmentalists like me a bad name. By sabotaging stuff you are unable to tell who exactly you are hurting which is akin to shooting blindly into a big crowd of innocent bystanders trying to hit a target you can't even see clearly.

I get disillusioned with humans too sometimes but still love my fellow man in addition to the planet and the rest of it's beings and will never turn my back on them like you radicals apparently have. How can you really hate someone you don't even know? Where do you draw the line on choosing who is working with or against the planet? What if you sagotage something and one of your own dies because of it and you don't even know it?

If you really are that repulsed by humans then do us all a favor and off yourself. I'm just saying.