The tree-sit in Montgomery County against the Mountain Valley Pipeline is now almost a week old. Over the past week, there has been a variety of updates on Appalachians Against Pipelines, including the following statements from those that have taken to the trees.
Statement from Lauren before starting the tree-sit:
It would be remiss of me not to start this off by giving credit to those who have inspired and uplifted me in joining in on this fight against the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The presence of the tree sits and monopod blockade not too far from here in Monroe, Giles, Franklin, and Roanoke county gave hope to communities throughout the region. I am immensely grateful for their actions against this pipeline, as I know that many people in this region are.
I am compelled to fight back against this pipeline because I cannot sit back and ignore what is happening to my home and to the mountains that I have known and loved since I was a child. These mountains have shaped who I am today and are a large part of me. Memories of my childhood are primarily of time spent outdoors, exploring the very forests that are now being threatened by the Mountain Valley Pipeline. I cannot sit back and watch as an extractive industry threatens this region, my family, and my community… but there are much larger issues at play here. This is not just about me or about how this pipeline will solely affect me individually.
The pervasive issues in our society that have allowed this pipeline project to come to fruition in the first place must be put to an end. We must fight against legislation that is allowing a corporation to turn a profit at other people’s expense. We have put our trust in a system that has consistently failed to protect people. Government agencies are being manipulated by people wielding power and money to make the system work for them. The fossil fuel industry is being allowed to steal shared resources from the rest of society.
This industry has historically taken advantage of low-income and minority communities and as a result has perpetuated cyclical poverty and oppression in Appalachia and beyond. Government regulations are being enforced in a discriminatory manner and are disregarded when it benefits those who stand to profit in some way. This has left countless individuals to suffer in affected communities, many unable to pursue legal action against these wrongdoings. Policies and regulations need to be upheld by government officials to protect the rights of all people, not just those with money and power.
Furthermore, I cannot sit back and watch as one of the most biodiverse regions in North America is lost to greed and corruption. We must prioritize protecting natural ecosystems for their intrinsic value, but also because we cannot survive without the important ecological services they provide. Through my background studying wildlife science and conservation, I have come to understand the ecological importance of the Appalachian region. The wide range of landscapes, climate, and soil has resulted in one of the most diverse arrays of plants and animals found in North America. The Appalachian Mountains are one of the richest ecosystems in the world and they are irreplaceable.
The destruction of the natural world began with the idea that we were separate from it, but nothing in this world exists in a vacuum. We are connected to the earth and when we deplete the soil and pollute the air and water, we are also causing harm to ourselves. We cannot survive in a world without functioning forest ecosystems. Choosing to protect the natural world is not a choice against job prosperity or “progress” as some people call it. Environmental health and sustainability is not separate from the economy and our survival, but is an integral part of it. We are not separate from the environment and we would be nothing without it. The opposition against this pipeline, fracking, and other destructive practices is so much more than a “political issue.” It is the health and prosperity of everyone and every living creature on earth.
By standing up against this pipeline and this unjust system, I hope to inspire and spark hope in people who have given up. The fight is not over – far from it! There is still so much left to fight for. At times it may feel easier to look the other way, especially when we realize the full scope and magnitude of the environmental and social issues we face today, but if we look throughout history we will see countless examples of small, but dedicated groups of people who managed to create change against seemingly insurmountable odds.
I hope that my actions will call others to join in the fight. Maybe not everyone is able to climb up into a tree and act as a physical barrier as I am right now, but there are so many different ways to contribute. It will take a diverse range of strategies to overcome the Mountain Valley and other pipelines and it will take a widespread, collective effort to put an end to extractive and exploitative industries once and for all.
If you oppose this pipeline, fossil fuels, eminent domain for private gain – do something about it! Recognize that being able to sit back and ignore these issues is a privilege that is afforded to you perhaps temporarily, but eventually it is something that we will all have to face and that many are already facing.
I haven’t been at this long. I want to be explicit about this —I am no expert.
Just like millions of people around the world, I am struggling to find new ways to live for the end of life as we know it. It sounds melodramatic, but this is the truth.
My friends who live in Norfolk, VA (the second most at-risk city to sea level rise in the United States, where floods are already threatening people’s lives) know this well. Anyone in the Philippines, the Pacific Islands, Puerto Rico, Siberia, Nigeria, Madagascar, or a billion other places around the world facing the effects of climate change, knows this well.
In the so-called ‘third world,’ billions already know the unsteady arts of self-reliance. In Honduras, ordinary people build roads, houses, electrical grids, and water treatment centers. In Brazil, where the government is powerless to prevent deforestation, poor farmers and Indigenous tribes face off against loggers.
In prisons across the U.S. right now, people are bonding together to fight a myriad of abuses. From poor prison conditions to “prison slavery” wages, incarcerated people in at least 11 states are finding ways to communicate and rise up collectively. Through hunger strikes and commissary boycotts, even from inside solitary confinement, prisoners are standing strong in the face of the oppressive state. We cannot forget about those who are currently locked up in cages.
We must fight for ourselves.
No one else will come to our aid in these times. The cops will arrest us for our actions of self defense. The courts will side with private property and corporate greed, and every politician will continue pretending that the fate of the world on fire is up to bills, filibusters, votes, and campaign donations.
Fuck them. It’s time for us.
No prisons, no pipelines!
A note from Lauren:
Day three up here in the tree canopy. We’re getting settled in and getting more comfortable as the days pass.
Living in the tree canopy is quite a unique experience. I have gotten visits from two different bird species that came over to check out me and my platform. The first one was a hummingbird and the second one a flycatcher that landed on a branch right in front of me. We both sat and looked at each other for a few moments before it finally flew away.
Being up here and taking all of this in day by day makes it that much harder to deal with the reality it all could be destroyed. But that’s why I’m here.
A lot of people have asked me how they can help. If you would like to support our actions and future efforts to stop this pipeline, please donate at bit.ly/supportmvpresistance.