This weekend we’ll be performing our new song Bidder 70 at a benefit concert to raise funds for Peaceful Uprising’s new complilation CD Folk Songs for Climate Justice. The song tells the story of Tim DeChristopher who was sent to prison for disrupting an auction of Oil and Gas leases near Utah’s National Parks that had been rushed through without proper review at the tail end of the Bush administration.
Listen to “Bidder 70” or read the lyrics.
Both Mary and I have been fans of Tim since his act of civil disobedience however I have found that rational people certainly disagree on whether his actions were warranted or admirable. I did a lot of soul searching while writing the song. I read, re-read, and read again Tim’s statement at his sentencing. His story, and what he was trying to tell the world is in many ways too large and too complex a subject for a simple song of three verses. In the end, I settled on a phrase he uttered at his sentencing: “I’m not saying any of this to ask you for mercy, but to ask you to join me.”
The power I find in Tim’s story is not defiance, it is his love. What if everyone loved the planet so much they were willing to go to prison to defend its future? Whether or not I agree with his actions, his story inspires me to ask myself that question. That is the cause our song and Tim’s story is inviting you to join. It is not always in our nature to ask ourselves this kind of question and add to our workload, or tolerate the discomfort of knowing we are contributing to a potential disaster. Our nature has primed us to seek comfort and it is easy to trade an uncertain amount of disaster in the future for the satisfaction of happiness in the present, but our nature has also gifted us with foresight in the ability to want a safe and secure life for our children and our grandchildren, and that safety and security can only come from examining the long term impacts of our daily actions.
For me, this means I ride my bike when I can instead of driving. I make sure we use most of the plastic bags that come through our home at least twice before they are discarded. Sometimes I take a little extra time to separate out recycling from trash. I use my own coffee mug instead of disposable cups when possible. None of these small actions is particularly significant on its own. I’m well aware of that. Yet when I am tempted to do differently, that question is always lurking, “what if everyone does what I am about to do?”
I do things too that I’m not proud of. I sit with the discomfort of knowing that I’m mowing my lawn with a very dirty gas mower instead of trying to use a people powered option. For that matter, I probably have more lawn at my place, and use more water keeping it green that is wise. I’m not overly fond of riding public transportation and don’t always use it when I could. I’ve found that allowing that discomfort, over time, moves me to take small actions I might not have considered in the past.
I’m not asking anyone to do anything they disagree with. I know reasonable people can completely disagree on what action is needed, possible, and useful. I know people have vastly different ways of expressing their love for the planet. I’m simply asking you to join with me in this one question, “What if everyone does what I’m about to do?” I wrote Bidder 70 not to suggest we all do what Tim did, but to suggest we love our planet, and our progeny the way he has demonstrated, with a passion, intensity and devotion great enough to risk prison. His closing words were “this is what love looks like, and it will only grow.” I’m “asking you to join” in growing that love, wherever, and whatever it looks like for you.
You can start by coming to hear 14 different visions of that love at the benefit concert as some of our favorite local and national songwriters including Ann Kelly, Cambriah Heaton, Chris Orrock, Dana Hubbard, Jen Hajj, John Paul Spehler, Kristin Erickson, Marv Hamilton, Otter Creek, Raven Spirit, Shaney McCoy, Steve Bassett, The Hollands!, and Utah Slim play their songs that will be included on the album.
Let us know what your love looks like by posting about it below!