Three years ago, he attended an auction in Utah for gas and oil leases on public lands — and spontaneously joined the bidding.
The misadventure landed him a two-year jail sentence and national recognition as an imaginative, principled activist.
Monday night, at a talk at University of Vermont, the 31-year-old Harvard Divinity School student urged environmentalists to abandon the movement’s well-worn path of “political expediency.”
And do what?
Get radical, DeChristopher urged: Dismantle an industry that mines an ever-more scarce (and climatically dangerous) commodity.
Earlier in the day, sitting around a table with a small group at Billings Library, DeChristopher said investors in fossil fuels, by neglecting the long-term societal (and planetary) cost of burning fossil fuels, are enabling accelerated, even more costly climate change.
A question arose: What about the southbound pipeline extension planned by Vermont Gas Systems?
Stop it, DeChristopher advised: Even relatively economical and relatively clean-burning natural gas is delaying more meaningful steps toward renewable energy.
“We’re in a position now where every fossil-fuel development should be blocked until we have a national energy plan. Until we have a serious response to climate change — because there’s no end in sight right now,” he said.
Gov. Peter Shumlin has responded to this argument in the past by saying the development of renewable energy already is underway in Vermont and across the country, and would be unaffected by the availability of natural gas.
DeChristopher counters that Vermont’s prohibition against fracking (passed last year in the legislature) should extend to the sources of the natural gas that is piped into the state.
“Building a pipeline in this state that transports fracked natural gas is not only immoral, but it’s short-sighted,” he said Monday.
He continued: “Unless we draw the line now and say we want systemic change — that we won’t accept fracking anywhere — unless we draw the line, then places like Vermont are just waiting for their turn. They’re next.
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