Without question, one of the high points of the 12-day Walk for Appalachia’s Future, now in its 8th day, was the visit a big group of us made to the site of the 932-straight-days, heroic Yellow Finch tree sit on land in Elliston, Va. where the Mountain Valley Pipeline destroyers planned to put an essential part of their more than 300 mile, fracked gas pipeline. The MVP destroyers were able to finally bring the tree sit down about 14 months ago, but soon after that time all of the other actions and organizing and lawsuits made it impossible for the MVP’ers to do any more destruction or construction at this site or any others.
As some of us sat in downed trees where the tree sit had been, listening to people who had taken part in it, it was impossible not to be awed by what they had accomplished through their sacrifice. The Mountain Valley Pipeline is in deep trouble.
Another high point of the Walk was the memorial service Sunday morning, May 29 organized by leading pipeline fighter Maury Johnson with Russell Chisholm and Donna Pitt of Preserve Giles in Newport,Va. Rev. Morris Fleischer of the local Methodist church led a service on a village green. The service commemorated the many fighters against the MVP, mountaintop coal removal and other injustices in West Virginia and Virginia who are no longer with us. Rev. Fleischer’s words connected us to Biblical history and the Hebrew prophets, and the pictures and words about each of those no longer with us made the connection to the recent past: Mirijana Beram, Judy Bonds, Diane Brady, Mary Pearl Compton, Beth Covington, Robert Dilday, Earl Echols, Warren Ellison, Lauren Forman, Tim Fullen, Larry Gibson, Clarence Givens, Chris Hale, Bill Hughes, George Jones, Sandy Miller, April Pierson-Keating, Timmy South, Fred Vest and Karen Yolton.
There were many other things of note on this Walk so far:
-the West Virginia Rising, 30 foot long beautiful banner saying, “Manchin Stop Burning Our Future” unfurled on the steps of the West Virginia state capitol building and across the river from Sen. Joe Manchin's Charleston home;
-the magnificently informative presentation made by Autumn Crowe of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition in White Sulfur Springs about the multi-colored and in danger of extinction Candy Darter fish found in the area where the MVP wants to do their damage to streams, fish, insects, animals,mountains, land, air, water and people;
-the heartbreaking scenes of MVP-caused destruction at pipeline resister Maury Johnson’s farm near Hans Creek, WV;
-the unplanned direct action at an out-in-the-open, corroding pipeline site, of which there are many in the area, along the Greenbrier River, with 20 or so of us crossing the deteriorating boards on the ground to get to the pipes to show media people along with us up close how big a 42 inch in diameter really is;
-the presentation by Alyssa Carpenter, president of a group fighting to stop the massive, open air burning of toxic waste at the Radford Army Ammunition Plant near Roanoke, Va., a practice which is clearly the cause of significantly higher thyroid and cancer rates than the state average; and,
-the presentation by Roanoke Black community leader Jordan Bell about the decades of “Negro removal”, deliberate neglect and racism practiced by the local and state power structure, as well as his stories about those community leaders who have fought these practices and for their community to be treated justly. Following this presentation local pipeline fighter and community activist Crystal Melo led us to a demonstration at the local jail protesting the maltreatment at that institution, including 10 deaths over the last few years.
The Walk for Appalachia’s Future is primarily about the Mountain Valley Pipeline. We are following its projected route from central West Virginia through southwest Virginia down to north central North Carolina.We will end the Walk with actions June 3 and 4 in Virginia’s capital city, Richmond. But in addition to demanding “Cancel MVP,” we are also calling for “Jobs and Justice” and “Renewable Energy.” In the leaflet we are passing out by the thousands along the way we say it’s time to “get serious about creating good jobs for working people in Appalachia in 21st century industries like wind and solar energy!” We are trying to connect the dots between the issues, calling for “corrupt politicians to stop doing the bidding of the coal,oil and gas industries” and all the rest of the big money interests that dominate governments everywhere.
Our children and grandchildren need leadership for the just and sustainable future that is possible if we fight for it. Learn more, including about the June 3/4 actions, at Facebook: WalkForAppalachiasFuture.
Ted Glick is an organizer with Beyond Extreme Energy and president of 350NJ-Rockland. He is the author of Burglar for Peace and 21st Century Revolution, published in 2020 and 2021. More information can be found at , and he can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jtglick (https://tedglick.com).