Mountain News: Mountainfilm recap 

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But Patton - who was 21 at the time and a student at Tennessee State - and the other freedom riders couldn't wait. "Being young - 21, 22, 23-year-olds - we said the courts take too long," said Patton, speaking to a breakfast meeting in Telluride on Monday.

After a tense standoff, the freedom riders ultimately forced the hand of Bobby Kennedy, who dispatched U.S. marshals, ensuring safety. They had achieved success, triggering involvement by others and, a few years later, Congressional passage of the landmark civil rights legislation. Seen from today, Patton - who is now 70 - can be seen as a hero.

How will Tim DeChristopher be seen in 49 years? Organizers of Mountainfilm provocatively paired DeChristopher with Patton, asking what contemporary climate change activists can learn from the civil rights movement?

As a 27-year-old college student, DeChristopher two years ago walked into a U.S. government auction for oil and gas leases. He thought he might yell out or throw a shoe, he thought.

He proved far more disruptive, bidding for and then winning the right to leases adjacent to Utah's Arches National Monument. He had no intention of paying for the leases and no means of doing so. Prior to his studies, he had been involved in conducting tours of wilderness in western Utah. He will be tried later this year.

DeChristopher said he was driven to resist continued development of carbon fuels, to make a statement about climate change. Like the freedom riders, he felt he could not wait for the plodding wheels of government action. The freedom riders "create social tensions that forced our leaders to make a choice," he said.

There are differences, of course. The freedom riders have federal law on their side. Laws to slow the accumulation of greenhouse gases are only now being worked out. The freedom riders drew strength from the black churches. Activists such as DeChristopher who strongly believe our actions dangerously imperil future generations remain more dispersed. "It has to come from the pulpit," said Patton.

Patton also said action must come from the heart, even if strategy gets plotted in the head. That was among many other dualities. One of the most striking was the contrast of hope and despair, many speakers and filmmakers saying that both must be present to spark action.

Among the most vivid images presented in Telluride was one of both beauty and horror. Artist Chris Jordan had studied what is called the Great Garbage Patch, a place in the Pacific Ocean that is the size of Texas or larger, where Bic lighters, bottle caps, and other detritus of plastic flotsam has collected. The plastic looks like food to the albatross on nearby Midway Island, who collect the items to feed to their chicks. The birds die on the beach, the bellies filled with colorful plastic. The flesh decayed, the images in the sand that Jordan presents are of feathers, beaks, and colorful plastic innards - images both beautiful and horrific.

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