Student group hosts outdoor movie showing for Earth Day

The documentary “Bidder 70” features Tim DeChristopher’s story of disrupting a federal auction in protest against it selling oil and gas drilling rights in Utah. The film will be shown on the Quad near Anniversary Plaza on Tuesday from 8 to 10 p.m.

By Bridget Hynes

Tim DeChristopher was a 27-year-old college student at the University of Utah in 2008 when he disrupted a federal auction under the Bush administration. 

According to the documentary detailing this event, the auction aimed to sell oil- and gas-drilling rights to under 150,000 acres of Utah wilderness, including areas near Arches National Park. DeChristopher originally went to the auction to protest it, yet, upon arriving, he was asked whether he was a bidder. He said yes and proceeded to win 12 bids in a row for parcels worth more than $2 million. 

Before anyone learned of who he really was, DeChristopher had already won so many bids and pushed up the prices of others during the auction that the entire event had to be canceled. 

“We’ve always been told that things are just beyond our control and that corporations have all the power, and we don’t often get reminded that we’re citizens of what was once the greatest democracy on the planet. And that we’re human beings with the power to inspire others with our actions,” said DeChristopher in the documentary about his protest: “Bidder 70.”  

On Tuesday, Students for Environmental Concerns, a registered student organization, will hope to spread DeChristopher’s message of environmental protection by hosting an outdoor showing of “Bidder 70.” 

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The showing will be on the Quad near Anniversary Plaza at 8 p.m. as part of SECS’ Earth Day Week initiative. If it rains, the group plans to have the showing at the University YMCA on Wright Street in Champaign. 

Michaele Strauch, project chair of Earth Week for SECS, said the group always tries to show at least one environmental movie during Earth Week. 

Strauch said the organization thought this movie in particular would resonate with students because DeChristopher was a college student at the time of his protest.

“We are here for four short years. The best thing to do while we’re here on campus is to get involved in something, whether it’s an RSO on campus, environmental or not,” Strauch said. “Getting involved is the way to realize how your individual changes can make a bigger difference.” 

By the time 30 days had passed after the auction — the mandated time period between a canceled auction and the new auction — the Obama administration had taken office. 

The new Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar found the auction to have broken rules set by the Bureau of Land Management, the auction’s host. The rules involved the legality of auctioning off public land for energy purposes without thinking about the impact it would have on the environment. 

However, DeChristopher was still indicted by the federal government on two charges: making a false statement and violating the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act.  

After nine delays in trial and two years, DeChristopher was found guilty on both counts and sentenced to two years in federal prison in 2011. 

The documentary “Bidder 70” was released in 2012 and not only features the story of DeChristopher and his protests of the auction, but also highlights some of today’s environmental concerns, such as the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide rates, which currently stand at 400 parts per million as compared to the normal 350 parts per million, according to the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. 

Bullfrog Films cofounder John Hoskyns-Abrahall, the film distributor that worked with SECS to arrange a showing of “Bidder 70,” said his company caters to all groups but finds success with high school and college audiences.

“The great thing about a film is that everybody’s watching the film simultaneously; they all get their awareness and knowledge raised simultaneously,” he said. “And that’s such a big thing if you can take that energy right at that moment and put it into action, you’ve really got something.” 

Bridget can be reached at [email protected].