Tomorrow, I’ll join a crowd of peaceful Keep it in the Ground protestors at another Bureau of Land Management auction. Don’t feel bad if you haven’t heard about these auctions or what they mean. It took a while for me to understand their details, and the powers that be are rather secretive about these “public” events. (If you’d like more information on what happened at the last BLM auction in Salt Lake City, I recommend watching Amy Goodman’s interview with Terry Tempest Williams on Democracy Now.)
Why am I protesting these auctions? The BLM is auctioning off the rights to destroy public lands. They can’t technically sell the land, because it belongs to everyone. Our tax dollars make each one of us partial owners. The oil and gas companies buy large parcels of land for prices as low as $1.50/acre. When a company or investor owns the right to these public lands, they put up No Trespassing signs and determine whether or not they want to drill on the land they’re leasing. This means that you can be prosecuted for walking on land that you partially own.
The media has made this into a political issue, but it’s really just common sense. Let’s look at the same problem with a more neutral example. Let’s pretend a group of college roommates decide to put their money together and buy a power drill. While they live together, it belongs to each of them equally. One roommate decides to loan it to a classmate without asking his roommates for permission.
The classmate breaks the drill while using it. She returns it, saying it was already breaking when she got it, and that it would have broken on anyone. She refuses to replace it—because she gave the drill back, and it’s not her fault it broke. The lender decides to hide the drill from his roommates, hoping they won’t notice it’s broken until after he moves away. When he moves away, he will “generously” give up his drill ownership rights. By the time the roommates discover the broken drill, he will have no accountability or attachment to it. This is the same shady behavior happening at BLM auctions. The gas and oil companies give the land back to the BLM after it’s destroyed, and they pretend us “roommates” are crazy extremists for being angry about our land having been returned broken.
I don’t only want to preach to the choir on this one. I know not everyone identifies as an environmentalist, and I understand there are social injustices everywhere worth protesting. What makes this protest especially important, and why am I devoting an entire blog entry to recruiting supporters? I believe what happens at these BLM auctions shines light on pure human greed. Life is almost always more complex than good vs. evil. I believe we all have good and evil inside of us, but I have trouble finding good in those willing to exploit the land—and all of it’s life—while doing further harm to already vulnerable populations (predominantly the poor and people of color).
Dark times are already approaching. The recent oil spill only confirms the urgency for us to break away from fossil fuels. For your own health, for your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, students, etc…, join the Keep it in the Ground movement. If you live anywhere near Salt Lake City, please join us tomorrow morning in making a statement that we refuse to sit by silently while witnessing such corruption.