Climate Choir heads to Richmond to protest pipeline

A “climate emergency choir” performed in Richmond on Monday to call on Governor Northam to end the Mountain Valley pipeline and demand solutions to climate change. Reports by Randi B. Hagi of the WMRA.

More than 60 people from the Harrisonburg area marched through downtown Richmond on Monday, singing hymns and songs of protest. As they went, they delivered letters to Gov. Ralph Northam’s office and other officials, calling for a declaration of a climate emergency and a halt to construction of the Mountain Valley pipeline.

(Group walks and songs)

The singers’ march culminated in the plaza outside the State Capitol building, where organizer Earl Martin, surrounded by several young children, read their letter to the governor.

EARL MARTIN: We come this morning as cultivators of the Earth, as carpenters, students, teachers, housewives, engineers, pastors, parents and children. Many of us are Mennonites and friends of Mennonites. Many of us are from Harrisonburg. But we come from different places. We come with the deepest beliefs and aspirations for our human family. As is our tradition, we come to sing hymns of hope, sing songs of the sacredness of the Earth. Sing songs of courage and faith. Indeed, we believe that we are singing for our own life.

The pipeline has attracted criticism and opposition for years. If completed, it will transport natural gas from northern West Virginia to a compressor station in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. According to an April press release from the project, about 80% of the pipeline’s actual work has been completed, and about half of its path has been “fully restored.”

Activists who spoke on Monday looked at the pollution caused by the construction of the pipeline, potential leaks and the burning of the fossil fuel it would carry.

ACTIVIST 1: The Mountain Valley Pipeline seeks not only to worsen the global climate emergency, but also to perpetuate injustice and exploitation of the land that never was ours to begin with.

ACTIVIST 2: Truly, we are not here to protect nature, because we are nature. We protect nature… we live in a history where it is normal for the human species to take up all the space, use the resources, not think so much about future generations.

One of the organizers of the choir, Brian Bolton, is the pastor of Shalom Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg. He and other members of his congregation were inspired to lead the action after visiting a Mountain Valley pipeline construction site earlier this year –

BRIAN BOLTON: —and I just had this vision of people in our tradition, in the Mennonite tradition who love to sing and come from a tradition of singing as a form of resistance.

The Shalom delegation was joined by students from Eastern Mennonite University, Unitarian Universalists from Harrisonburg and other climate activists. Bolton described their letter to Northam.

BOLTON: Just a heartfelt and honest admission of how much we love and care for the land that sustains us, and the mountains where we live near Harrisonburg, and that we want to see ended, not just this pipeline, but any of these fossil fuel projects.

EMU student Mariana Acosta was one of five students who delivered the letter to the governor’s staff.

MARIANA ACOSTA: When I heard about this opportunity, I felt called to do so because I feel like I have a voice, and it is my responsibility to defend this issue that we know is so urgent , and yet nothing is done.

But she and her friend, Iris Anderson, felt their calls had fallen on deaf ears.

IRIS ANDERSON: It was really scary! I was a little nervous… I was a little nervous about what I was going to say, like I wanted to make an impact, and I didn’t feel particularly heard by the voter. Yeah, that was a little dismissive, which was disappointing.

Mountain Valley Pipeline, LLC did not respond to a request for comment. Last month, the Virginia Mercury reported that the pipeline is currently awaiting a decision from the State Water Control Board on a key permit they need to complete the water crossings – a verdict expected in December.

(The song fades away)

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