I am a poet, former teacher, licensed attorney, self-published author, progressive blogger, passionate environmentalist and aspiring permaculturist.
You can check out my first volume of poetry, A Brave New Worldview, at http://democracypress.net.
I’m a native of Northern California who grew up in the Miller Creek watershed of Lucas Valley in the 1970s amid a whole lot of protected open space and a community of great families and strong schools. I am currently living in Noe Valley with my wife and one year old son. We are hoping soon to move our nest to Palo Alto where my wife grew up, where there is more open space, hopefully room to garden, and a diverse brew of ideas and imaginations always astir in the local culture.
One of the most significant influences in my life has been the fact that my father owns eight acres of lakeside forest land in northern Wisconsin where I have spent significant time most of the summers of my life. I recently finished reading Richard Louv’s excellent book, Last Child in the Woods, which made me appreciate all the more, how incredibly fortunate I have been to have a lifelong, very personal relationship to a portion of land, a forest, a lake, and a community of critters ranging from wolves, wolverines and black bears to loons, chipmunks and palliated woodpeckers. And don’t even get me started on the elements and growth: the thunder storms, copper water rivers, white pine stands, round puffy clouds! See, you almost got me started.
The things that I have learned from this beautiful region of Earth and the spaces it has opened in my heart are too many and to deep for me to fully grasp, but I am so thankful to have as a love in my life a connection to Gaia in this way. I wish everyone to be so blessed with good fortune. One way I have expressed my love for the Great North Woods of Wisconsin is my narrative poem, The Deer, which I self-illustrated and published also at http://democracypress.net.
Subjects I like to study include: education theory, rights and politics; worldview development; democratic theory; political process integrity; politics; progressivism; environmentalism; permaculture; deep ecology; Gaia theory; animal behavior; interspecies communities, relationships and communications; the lives of progressive heroes of every kind of stripe; reading literature of all kinds; the pursuit of humanity; spirituality; meditation, Sufism; Yoga; non-violence; indigenous cultures, knowledge and wisdom traditions; science and math from the study of animals to the history of calculus to new age-y twists on quantum mechanics; and (although I must have left out many others) finally, the development of wise methods of responding to climate change/collapse and the nexus of other environmental crises facing our planet (such as the self-destructive dependency of dirty energy [coal, oil, gas, nukes], the loss of vital biodiversity in both the animal and vegetable worlds, the onset of a sixth mass extinction, ocean acidification, the insane level of toxicity permeating our bodies and our world, our addiction to warfare, the malignant rise to power of a corporate network hostile to human rights and welfare, and all the others I’m leaving out).
I have two blogs. The first one was my way of coping with the nightmare that was the Presidency of George W. Bush, "MP3-My Politics and Progressive Perspective," which you can find at http://tinyurl.com/44tnjla.
The second one is a poetry blog, "In the World Where I Live," which you can find at http://tinyurl.com/3qyhwla.
I'm planning to archive these in a bit and start a blog on environmentalism ethics, deep ecology, and the beautiful, healthy and abundant planetary ecosystem we all want to cultivate.
I have several manuscripts in various forms of completion, including a study of John Dewey’s The School and Society (revisited on its centenary), two books about the mechanisms employed by the Republican Party to take control of our democratic government while pursuing policies blatantly hostile to the rights and wellbeing of the people, a book on worldview development, a book about the right to equal education, and a book about the democratic social contract.
This last book, I also self-published and, you guessed it: it’s available at http://democracypress.net. It’s called The Declaration of the Democratic Worldview. Famed historian Howard Zinn praised my Declaration as “a thoughtful, provocative study … both sobering and hopeful.”
My book argues that, although the democratic worldview articulated in The Declaration of Independence once served as an adequate platform for overthrowing the authoritarian feudal power structures oppressing the people, today, more than two centuries later, we need much more advanced technology.
Specifically, we need to advance The Declaration of Independence’s ambiguous definition of human equality as simply “self-evident.” Ask yourself for a moment: Why do you believe all people are created equal? We should be able to support this belief logically. We simply have taken for granted for far too long this bedrock principle of our society. And we are paying the price in a big way!
My book sets forth for the first time the logical foundations of the principle of human equality and then demonstrates how these foundations (a) advance the sophistication of our democratic moral compass; (b) require a fundamentally different, process-focused, rather than content-focused, worldview; and (c) impose an ecological egalitarian ethic that requires all outward action to be counterbalanced by a corresponding inward examination.
Along the way, my book also identifies limitations on the exercise of power by both the people and authoritarian alliances and establishes the ultimately superior strength of egalitarianism over authoritarianism. In addition, my book asserts an unorthodox definition of the social contract in the process of urging that we advance this social contract with the same energy and sophistication we bring to all our other high-tech enterprises. Finally, the entire Declaration is framed by discussion of the activism, rhetoric, and politics that elected President Obama to office and the relationship of this movement to our need for a stronger culture of democratic principles in order to immunize our nation against growing authoritarian tendancies and to cultivate and sustain instead a truly democratic way of life.
Here is a look at my most recently blogged poem:
A list of my articles published on print and online outlets other than my blog may be viewed at: http://tinyurl.com/42p9c8z.
Below is a piece about the Prosecution of Tim DeChristopher that was first published at http://tinyurl.com/4xgxj43
on March 1, 2011.
Thanks for taking the time to read about me! I’d love to hear from you and about you if you care to include me in your network or just to send a note.
All the best,
The Case Against Bidder 70
Is an Abuse of Prosecutorial Discretion
by Hank Edson
The trial began yesterday of an environmentalist civil dissenter who, as a student in 2008, disrupted a government fire-sale auction of oil and gas leases near Arches and Canyonlands national parks. At 27 years old, Tim DeChristopher disrupted the auction by bidding nearly $2 million on leases he did not have the money or intention to actually purchase. He is now known as “Bidder 70,” and he is a true hero of the environmental movement.
This course of action was more than just civic minded in its desire to prevent the people’s wildlands from being forever injured by development of these oil and gas leases. It was also an act of intervention on the side of due process and the law. It was civil disobedience resorted to by a graduate student as a rogue president in his final days in office rushed to give away more of the American commons to an industry that brought him to power.
At the time of Tim’s actions, the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and a number of other environmental organizations had filed suit against the Bush administration, alleging that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) failed to comply with requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act concerning preparation of Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) before moving ahead with its plan to auction off oil and gas leases in some of Utah’s most splendid and even sacred wilderness areas.
Even President-elect Obama’s incoming administration in December 2008 described the Bureau of Land Management’s plan to lease prime parcels of its land as improper, and a federal judge eventually agreed, holding that the BLM "cannot rely on EISs that lack air pollution and ozone level statistics,” which is what the BLM did in pushing the auction forward. Ultimately, Obama’s Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar, dismissed 87 of 116 leases auctioned by the Bush administration largely based on the wilderness value of the leased land.
Another important aspect of Tim DeChristopher’s civil disobedience was that it did not cause any meaningful injury precisely because the auction was deemed illegal by the court. As quoted in the Huffington Post, one prospective lease purchaser who participated in the 2008 auction reacted to being outbid by Tim, saying: “We were hosed. It was very frustrating.” The Huffington Post failed to make explicit the fact that since the auction itself was improper, the prospective purchaser’s sense of injustice should have been directed at the misconduct of the BLM, not Tim’s act of civil disobedience. Had the BLM prepared its EIS correctly, the prospective purchaser, a consulting geologist, would have had grounds for seeking to recover the opportunity to bid on the lease in a new auction, provided, of course, that the lease was not inappropriate for development due to its wilderness and cultural value. No one was hurt by Tim’s non-violent, selfless intervention to halt an illegal, permanent injury to the American people and the environment.
Given these considerations, one cannot help contrast the prosecution of Tim DeChristopher with the lack of prosecution of those culpable on Wall Street for the 2008 financial crisis.
On one hand, DeChristopher’s conduct was civic minded, selfless, and harmless in its intervention against a government stubbornly insisting on illegal action injurious to the environment and the entire nation. If convicted, the penalty for Tim’s heroic conduct could be as much as ten years in prison and a $750,000 fine.
On the other hand, Wall Street’s conduct has been glutinously greedy, not just selfish, but callous in the extreme and incredibly injurious to the nation as a whole and to every single citizen individually. Yet, just this weekend Charles Ferguson, the maker of the documentary Inside Job, had to remind us in his acceptance speech for the Academy Award for best documentary feature that “three years after our horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong.” Certainly, the maker of the best documentary of the year, which happens to be about the 2008 financial crisis, speaks with credible authority when he describes that crisis as resulting from massive fraud demanding criminal prosecutions.
What is implicit in Ferguson’s comment, but should be made explicit here, is that what makes the absence of prosecution against these executives so wrong is the executives’ motive in committing this massive fraud. Even though, as a group, these executives are absurdly wealthy compared to the average American, they still were compelled by their greed to enrich themselves further with their deceit, and as they did so, also to scoff at the average working stiff left to deal with the ruinous consequences of their conduct.
According to a 2010 PEW Economic Policy Group report, every US household lost approximately $5,800 in income due to reduced economic growth during the acute stage of the financial crisis, another $2,050 in taxes to cover the $230 billion government response to the crisis, $30,300 in depreciated home values, and $66,000 in stock market losses. There are approximately 110 million households in the U.S.
All this is important because in the eyes of the law, or at least in the eyes of the law as understood by the judge overseeing Tim DeChristopher’s trial, no evidence of Tim’s motive is admissible at his trial.
Furthermore, it remains unclear whether the absence of any harm caused by Tim’s civil disobedience will be viewed as a mitigating circumstance warranting a lesser sentence if the jury that doesn’t get to hear evidence of Tim’s good motives finds him guilty.
If the opinion of the U.S. attorney’s office is any indication, the absence of harm is irrelevant. In 2009, when it filed charges against Tim, acting U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman justified its prosecution by saying: “Our nation is a nation of laws, and we live by the rule of law. …there are ways to express viewpoints and to press for change without violating the law, disrupting open public processes, and causing financial harm to the government and to other individuals.”
Tolman’s justification is dishonest and disgraceful on several levels. First, a court has ruled that the public process Tim disrupted was not “open” because it illegally relied on improperly prepared environmental impact statements. Second, as already stated, no financial harm flowed to any individual as a result of any of Tim’s conduct. If any such harm occurred, it was caused by jamming through the government process a lease auction in the eleventh hour of the Bush presidency by avoiding requirements of environmental law that would have established that the proposed leases were not proper based on their value as wilderness areas. Third, as the government would have had to unwind the auction as a result of its illegality, the only costs to the government resulting from Tim’s conduct are illusory because such costs arise from the government’s unnecessary insistence on prosecuting him, and this gets down to the heart of the matter: Prosecutorial Discretion.
The Obama administration simply has no valid justification for persisting in its abusive prosecution of Tim DeChristopher when it has failed to meaningfully prosecute the extraordinarily criminal conduct responsible for the 2008 financial crisis. Acting U.S. Attorney Tolman's quoted justification for its prosecution of Tim loses every last shred of credibility and dignity in the light of this failure. Tim’s allegedly illegal conduct was well motivated, beneficial to the people of the United States, and caused no injury. The massive fraud committed by Wall Street executives and that caused the 2008 financial crisis was by contrast malicious, knowing, injurious, and without any redeeming virtue.
It also must be said that the sanctity of law and order also fails as justification for the government’s prosecution of Tim DeChristopher because there are so many other ways to protect “the system” from environmental protestors without resorting to cruel and disproportionate punishments.
Oil and gas lease auctions could be designed to require advance registration and advance deposit into escrow of immediately verifiable purchase funds. The law Tim is charged with violating could be modified to take into account motive, injury, necessity owing to political and legal process failures (the defense Tim has essentially been denied by the court), and beneficial “mitigating” aspects of the violative conduct. In short, any U.S. attorney who claims that sending a hero student to jail for ten years with a $750,000 fine is necessary to protect law and order and the system is simply a sadist. Any amount of imagination applied to the law would produce a better vehicle for responding to Tim’s heroic conduct than the proposed punishment.
When all is said and done, then, one must ask: Why is the administration proceeding with this prosecution? And what is Obama’s responsibility for his administration’s abusive conduct?
The administration will likely explain that it has offered many plea bargains and Tim has refused them all. But there is no reason Tim should have to accept a plea bargain for modeling to the country effective, well motivated civil disobedience that avoids injury and succeeds in stopping a corrupt government from harming the people. Tim deserves a medal, not a ten-year stretch and a fine he never can repay.
As for us, the people, we should be able to venerate Tim as a hero; we should not have to see him made into a martyr. If Obama thinks he’s doing environmentalism a favor by making a martyr out of Tim, he doesn’t understand what the people really need, and that is a sad statement about our president.
We don’t need an environmentalist made into a martyr; we need our president made into a leader. As many have already suggested, Obama could show us some of this leadership by publicly encouraging the U.S. attorney to reconsider its exercise of prosecutorial discretion in its case against Tim DeChristopher. He could go a step further by using Tim’s case as an opportunity for acknowledging that, given the corrupt influence of money in our political process, people ought to be celebrated, not punished, who use civil disobedience to break bad laws, selflessly prevent harm, and benefit society. As things stand today, Tim, a great many of your fellow Americans are very proud of you, and very disappointed in our so-called “leaders.”