214 Days: Tree sitters have blockaded the Mountain Valley Pipeline for seven months. Here’s what motivates them to persist.
It began with the 2 tree sits blocking the Mountain Valley Pipeline easement in Jefferson Nationwide Forest in West Virginia, in shut proximity to the Appalachian Trail. These two tree-sits have been soon adopted by extra acts of resistance alongside the pipeline route, together with quite a few aerial blockades and other people locking right down to gear.
In a video posted by a type of tree sitters over a yr in the past, the following statement was made:
“When the pipeline spills, when there’s an explosion, when individuals are displaced from their houses, when the air itself turns into a carcinogen, when the seas rise, it’s individuals’s lives which are at stake. We recognize that the majority of these repercussions of pipelines, if not all of them, are inevitable. It’s why we’re in these timber.
The police’s duty is to take away us from these timber– to ensure the inevitability of this pipeline. We see their free-speech zone as a tactical means of expediting this course of. So we ask again: security for whom?
Where does this depart us? Nicely one thing we know is that a lengthy historical past of civil disobedience—of deliberately breaking unjust rules and legal guidelines—precedes us. Brave individuals preventing for a new world has typically meant edging up towards all that enforces the world because it already exists.”
The Mountain Valley fracked fuel pipeline, which might transport fuel meant for overseas export, is routed to cross steep mountain terrain vulnerable to seismic activity, landslides, and sinkholes. If accomplished it will cross over 500 our bodies of water, not to point out sensitive wetland areas and a number of the largest unfragmented forests left in the japanese U.S. For a region that relies on native water sources for crops and livestock, the approaching menace of dropping entry to wash water means the lack of many individuals’s livelihoods in addition to lack of clear consuming water.
Development of the pipeline has also been delayed by means of courtroom proceedings. Tons of of landowners alongside the pipeline route are preventing the company’s use of eminent domain. Environmental groups just like the Sierra Club have additionally dealt major blows to the pipeline in courtroom instances that misplaced the MVP its Nationwide 12 allow and its approval to cross public lands.
When the Peter’s Mountain tree sits sprang up in Jefferson National Forest final yr, it induced a big shift inside native communities. People who had not beforehand engaged within the battle began to mobilize towards the MVP. The battle for Peter’s Mountain inspired more aerial blockades and acts of resistance, like these of Purple and Minor Terry. Individuals began displaying up at the tree sits with food and different supplies to point out their help.
Crystal, a mom and native resident also related to Roanoke Individuals’s Power Network, says it was a end result of her own life experiences that led her to activism and that she obtained involved within the pipeline struggle because she believes stealing land for company achieve is mistaken. “The narrative about locals needing the pipeline for lower energy costs and local jobs is all lies,” she states. “From my understanding the gas will mostly be for export and there will hardly be any local jobs.”
In areas alongside the pipeline route the place there appears to be less opposition from locals, individuals like Crystal have an evidence. She says that she was stunned that more individuals in her group weren’t resisting, but she believes that folks’s hopes of beating an enormous firm have been extinguished when locals fought for ten lengthy years towards an intermodal rail yard in Japanese Montgomery County, but finally lost. This is an all-too-common theme in a region that has lengthy suffered from a historical past of extraction and exploitation, first by coal mining and now fracked fuel and pipelines.
For many along the MVP route, hope was reignited with the Peter’s Mountain sits and all the course action that followed. Emily Satterwhite, an affiliate professor at Virginia Tech, was so motivated by what transpired on Peter’s Mountain that in June of 2018 she locked right down to an excavator situated on the pipeline easement, successfully blocking development for 14 hours. She says that probably the most inspiring thing to her all through this movement has been the best way through which individuals have proven up for each other repeatedly. “People say that the system is rigged and that there is no point in trying to fight it,” she states, “but it has been life-changing to witness the number of people willing to fight and to show up for their communities over and over again. I’ve heard a social movements historian say that before Peter’s Mountain there wasn’t really a culture of resistance here in Montgomery County, but that the Peter’s Mountain tree sitters changed everything.”
She says that climate change and recognizing who suffers probably the most because of it are the primary issues that motivated her to become involved. “The fact that there is something that I can do in my own county to significantly reduce climate emissions and to confront power and make a difference on a global scale… I can’t not become involved. For me, this is about fighting corruption and fighting industries’ capture of government.”
As of right now pipeline development is approximately 30% complete within the state of Virginia. The MVP undertaking is over a yr not on time and greater than a billion dollars over finances. Amidst falling inventory costs and the loss of two key permits, pipeline officials have issued statements admitting that the pipeline venture might never be finished. Forbes Journal lately noticed that each MVP and the Atlantic Coast Pipeline challenge “are now in peril.”
Because the Peter’s Mountain tree sits, there have been a complete of 11 aerial blockades along the pipeline route, with the Yellow Finch tree-sits in Montgomery County being the newest and at present the longest on-going blockade towards the MVP so far. This aerial blockade lately surpassed 200 days of blocking development. In a courtroom statement, MVP claimed that if the tree sitters weren’t off of the hillside by the top of March then it’s going to have value them roughly $300,000.
My very own motivation to hitch the rising pipeline resistance has advanced over time. This past fall, I occupied one of the tree sits at Yellow Finch for 38 days. After I vacated the platform, an individual named Phillip Flagg took my place in the tree to proceed the blockade. My initial causes for getting concerned began because I felt that I couldn’t ignore what was occurring to individuals in my very own group. If there was one thing that I might do in my own yard to fight the rising disaster of company greed and destruction then I felt compelled to behave. Nevertheless, over the previous yr I have realized that this wrestle is far greater than preventing a single fossil gasoline pipeline.
Instantly beneath the picket platforms of the tree sits at Yellow Finch and throughout the hillside beneath them, there are banners bearing messages that hyperlink the pipeline struggle to different points with messages comparable to “No prisons, no pipelines” and “No pipelines on stolen indigenous land.” Though media coverage has not often coated such motivations, opposing the pipeline is only one part of a much bigger wrestle to end state violence in all varieties. Most of the individuals camping out on the tree sits determine as anarchists. Their motivations towards the MVP are rooted within a broader effort to create a better world by contesting capitalism and all forms of oppression, while simultaneously strengthening communities to develop into extra sustainable and self-reliant.
The elemental concept of anarchy is the rejection of anything hierarchical, however it isn’t chaos or disorder as many have been led to consider. As Phillip places it, “It’s not a lack of organization. If anything there has to be more organization, otherwise it wouldn’t work. There’s more communication involved because there has to be. A broader spectrum of opinions are being heard. It’s not just one person telling others what to do.”
Phillip explains that, “anarchism is as much a sensibility and feeling as it is an ideology.” His start in activism began with the yr he spent campaigning for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election. Over time he turned disheartened by electoral activism and commenced displaying up at action camps the place individuals have been protesting different pipelines across the nation. Phillip goes on to say that he doesn’t view dwelling in a tree as a sacrifice. He tried regular society life and he didn’t take pleasure in it. “People have an inherent desire to do meaningful and creative things with their lives and those desires are not satisfied by capitalism,” he says. “Any type of hierarchy or domination is dissatisfying, whether that’s humans dominating other humans or humans dominating the environment.”
For many individuals, anarchism isn’t just a socio-political ideology. “It’s about building community, people helping other people, and caring for one another. It’s also about autonomy and being self reliant,” an anonymous camper explains. It’s simpler to do this stuff outdoors of the confines of the state, without the load of paperwork stopping or discouraging individuals from helping others or doing issues on their own (for instance, being prevented from donating food or offering mutual assist on account of allowing necessities or liability issues).
A Lord-of-the-Rings-inspired essay written by Phillip this previous February addresses this philosophy and more:
“What dangerous things do you search to thwart by seizing state power? When you’re concerned with individuals going hungry, go feed them. When you’re involved with individuals not having well being care, manage a clinic. Briefly, apply mutual assist. At the similar time, don’t be deceived that this is sufficient. Immediately confront techniques of power and cease them from working. Blockade weapons crops, lock right down to ICE vans, and yes, set up tree sits.
The Black Panthers understood this. Catholic Staff perceive this. Naturally, any anarchist value their salt does as nicely. Individuals are struggling at present. Any answer to that struggling that begins with “well in 2 years maybe Bernie will be president…” is at its core a waste of time. This pipeline shall be completed by then. And how many Yemeni and Palestinian individuals (to select merely two instances) could have died by then?
It seems to me that the only humane answer is to work instantly to relieve individuals’s suffering. At the similar time, the source of their struggling – capitalism and the state – have to be vigorously and ceaselessly confronted.”
The world across the tree sits has turn out to be a group area of types where individuals camp out on the hillside and the place individuals from the area people incessantly go to and convey supplies. Individuals help the tree sitters in any method that they will.
Numerous time at camp is spent sustaining the area by doing chores corresponding to chopping firewood or cooking meals for the the tree sitters, however a whole lot of the time can also be spent reading, writing, and having partaking conversations with others around a campfire. The culture around camp additionally encourages individuals to study new expertise and to turn into extra autonomous. Campers either already know or study tools for self-reliance resembling building a fireplace, working power tools, or working on their very own automobiles.
Individuals go to the camp to help direct motion towards the pipeline, but they’ve concurrently created a group where individuals deal with each other and share information and assets with each other. Not everyone identifies as an anarchist, however the struggle towards the pipeline has brought individuals collectively and allowed individuals to study and grow from each other’s experiences. It has introduced collectively individuals of many various backgrounds and beliefs, however most individuals agree that systemic modifications urgently must be made. The rule of regulation that we’re presently dwelling beneath isn’t just or truthful when individuals are being harmed by pipelines, fracked fuel, or unclean water. It isn’t sufficient to battle inside the confines of this damaged system. If not for the efforts of both direct motion and battles gained in courtroom, this pipeline probably would have been accomplished by now.
A related observe from the tree sitter within the White Pine says this:
“We are living in these trees because the accepted avenues of action within the system present zero chance of stopping this pipeline. If the Democratic Party would adequately confront the climate crisis, I would just come down and vote. Unfortunately, the Democratic Party is a facade; presenting a myth of opposition to this regime while existing in conspiratorial conjunction with the Republicans. Red team, blue team, it’s all one regime: the capitalist regime. “Let this radicalize you rather than lead you to despair.” These phrases (credit score: twitter.com/prisonculture/status/890778726140706818) turn out to be increasingly more applicable as we see this disastrous financial system destroy itself, taking all that we love with it.”
Many long-time residents strongly help direct action towards the pipeline and really feel grateful for the group that has advanced around the help camp. Emily Satterwhite expresses gratitude for the prospect to study and to return to a greater understanding of what anarchism is by being part of this motion. She continues to be politically lively and says, “For me, I just can’t not try to hold the system accountable. For as long as they hold power over people I have to at least try,” however she is grateful to those who have shown her that it is potential to reside outdoors of the normative constraints of working jobs and capitalism. “That people can choose not to opt in is a revelation to me,” she says. She additionally states that she has discovered from anarchists to acknowledge colonialism as something to think about and analyze each day and not just each occasionally in a classroom.
Crystal says that she sleeps higher at night time figuring out they’re close by defending the timber on Yellow Finch. “I try to be as active as possible while balancing being self employed and a single mom,” she says. “There’s never enough hours.” She goes on to say that she has found hope in the best way that she has seen individuals show solidarity for one another. “During this fight I have found that the anarchists are seen as the enemy, but they will fight for the oppressed more than any Republican, Democrat, or liberal,” she says. As somebody who has witnessed and skilled injustice throughout her life, she expresses, “things aren’t getting better and we need more people to get involved and be vocal about it.”
An nameless particular person camping at Yellow Finch displays about how a lot progress there has been inside the group by means of the resistance to the pipeline: “Look at what has happened because of the tree sits. People who never would have met each other have now met and are taking care of each other. There’s a more established community here than before and there will be long after this blockade is gone.” What has had the most important influence on this wrestle towards the pipeline hasn’t been anybody particular person and positively not any lawmakers or elected officers. It has been unusual individuals taking good care of each other, connecting with one another, improvising methods, and arising with options together.
This won’t be the final pipeline ever attempted to be built. Nor will it’s the final time the fossil gasoline business tries to take from the land the assets we need to stay. No matter whether or not this pipeline will get built or not, the group that has developed around the tree sits will proceed to carve a path for future generations.