Jackson Phillips reports from the frontlines of the growing Hellbender Autonomous Zone, as blockades and tree-sits are stopping the construction of two pipelines.
In the hills of Appalachia, two humans in the sky persist, constituting a formidable blockade against the proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). For 92 days, the aerial resistance squadron has prevented destruction, and the flames of pipeline resistance are spreading.
“We need direct confrontation with those who would destroy this world.”
Last week, “Nutty” came down from her monopod in Jefferson National Forest after 56 days. She was blocked from receiving supplies for at least the last six weeks by the Forest Service. Her action helped encourage a fire of resistance, inspiring other folks to take action and even take to the trees.
“When I started, I couldn’t have imagined this. People who aren’t sure what to do should reach out, because trying to do stuff alone is hard. Direct action is really important. Appeals to authority won’t get what we need. Hopefully, more will happen to make this pipeline impossible,” Nutty said.
Luckily for Nutty, another member of the tree squad took to the skies nearby on May 21, two days before Nutty descended. Fern MacDougal is continuing the blockade of an access road that MVP wishes to use for transporting drilling and extraction equipment up Peters Mountain. For one week she has been perched in a “skypod,” which consists of a 30 foot-high platform held aloft by complex rigging of ropes to nearby trees.
“This pipeline could shift hydrology, and it will be unstable because of regions it goes through. In karst areas, there can be collapses that could lead to contamination of groundwater and surface water. We need to vehemently oppose all fossil fuel infrastructure at this point,” Fern said.
At the top of the Appalachian Ridge, “Deckard” continues the original tree-sit into its 92nd day. From Fern up to Deckard, an entire area has been reclaimed by environmentalists and renamed: The Hellbender Autonomous Zone. Although he has been blocked from resupply, Deckard said on day 84, “I’ve got plenty of food and water. Mentally, I am fine and I can’t complain.”
This resistance has already significantly delayed the MVP, and costs are piling up for the corporation. When asked what this action could accomplish, Deckard told us that the tree-sitters hope to inspire more unified direct action, as other avenues of resistance have been somewhat exhausted.
“Many people have become completely disillusioned with the system and have no faith in their elected officials. You have to resist in diverse ways, and it is going to take a multipronged effort. When we unite, it puts maximum pressure on the regime,” continued Deckard.
One interesting aspect of this resistance is that the activists have been predominantly women. Deckard was asked about female influence on the front lines of this fight.
“I am happy to take leadership and direction from marginalized groups, including women. These struggles should be led by marginalized communities. I am humbled by the amazing women leading this movement,” said Deckard.
Early Monday morning, “Ink” descended 75 feet from their sit at Little Teel Crossing in Franklin County, Virginia after 38 days. Last week, an MVP worker climbed into a tree Ink was clipped into with a chainsaw and began cutting branches, injuring the sitter.
Here is the video of an MVP worker cutting branches in a tree I was clipped into. He knew he would hurt me if he kept going. Today was an aggressive move to intimidate the resistance. MVP is desperate and willing to threaten human life to have their way. MVP private security screamed from below "this isn't a game! This is real life!" Right on. #noMVP #noACP #noPipeline #Wegonbealright
Posted by Little Teel Crossing on Friday, May 25, 2018
“They know the June first tree-cutting deadline is coming up and they are worried. They are getting desperate, so they are trying to intimidate me,” Ink said after the incident.
“We cannot maintain the delusion of: ‘If I call the right politician’, or post the right words on a status, will get what we need. We need direct confrontation with those who would destroy this world,” Ink added.
Early this morning in the face of contempt of court charges, Ink came down from the remaining sit at Little Teel Crossing. Attached below is a video of their descent. For those of you intending to come support our resistance today at LTC, please plan on still coming to celebrate Ink & all of our work to stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline. Below is a statement from ink about their experience at Little Teel Crossing: "After 38 days, the tree sit at the little teel crossing has come down. And i have come down with it. i don't care to say much about why. Instead i'll tell you, as honestly as i can, why i chose to be here. i do not see "me" and then the "environment." What i see is a world that I am moving through. That i inhabit. One that creates me as i create it. i am made just as much up by the rustling leaves, the cool flow of the creeks, the smell of rain, the misty nights, as i am made up of any definable self.So this was never about "protecting" the "environment." The separation implied in such a relationship is both the cause and the outcome of the destruction that has surrounded me these past weeks. This is about the relationships, the consistency of experience, pain, love, uncertainty, perception, that has provoked little decisions that became bigger ones that led me to this sit. What i see is a world in collapse. It's been going on for a while now. They are taking everything from us. And i know that I can't comprehend fully how bad it can get. But without massive transformation we will surely find out. There is no point in waiting for the right moment or the right conditions. There is no front line to watch from afar or wait to find. The front line cuts through the middle of all of us. So, if i leave you with any impression after all that has gone down, let it be this: i am more than the electromagnetic impulses you have been experiencing me as through this online medium. i am a fleshy, conflicted, living being. The only real difference between the two of us is that we are on opposite sides of the screen (and i learned some knots). Do not wait. Get going.–ink"Please consider donating to support ink and all resistance at Little Teel Crossing: http://bit.ly/Donate2LTC#NoMVP #NoACP #NoPipelines #belikenutty #belikeink #Littleteelcrossing
Posted by Little Teel Crossing on Monday, May 28, 2018
Although Ink came down on Monday, workers could not immediately dismantle the sit, as a new anonymous tree-sitter had arrived in the night through the air. The new tree sitter, “Sprout,” was tethered to multiple trees in the pipeline path that MVP could not then cut.
On Memorial Day, Judge Elizabeth Dillon quickly signed a warrant ordering Sprout to come down, and Sprout descended as well. Judge Dillon has repeatedly ruled in favor of MVP in related cases.
One thing that all blockaders have stressed is that each action is part of a larger resistance. What resembles a call to action has been repeated by each tree-sitter.
“To anyone who is reading this: Try to find the courage to resist, to come out of your comfort zone. Put one foot in front of the other,” Deckard said.
Those wishing to help can contact the Appalachians Against Pipelines facebook page.