There's been a quiet protest happening in the trees of Appalachia. Now, it's catching on.

When Abigail peeks out from her perch — a wooden platform dangling high in a tree on a mountain ridge in West Virginia — she sees a nearly picture-perfect landscape.

She points out roaming farm animals and watches cars drive the few country roads that border the Jefferson National Forest. "The sunsets are incredible," Abigail describes. "And it’s pretty peaceful when the winds aren’t too strong."

The view from Abigail's tree platform. Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.


‌The 22-year-old Virginian (who asked us not to disclose her last name because of the risk involved in her protest) has called this sweeping landscape around Peters Mountain — and this one tree — home since she and others climbed up its branches on a mission on Feb. 26, 2018.

She chose the tree she’s in for a reason: It sits right where the Mountain Valley Pipeline is slated to carry natural gas through the fragile limestone terrain beneath its roots.

The construction of this pipeline would mean the destruction of this landscape, and Abigail is determined to stall that as long as possible.

The Mountain Valley Pipeline was first proposed in 2014 and has been met with community resistance every step of the way.

The route moves from north of Clarksburg, West Virginia, down to just southeast of Roanoke, Virginia — where it's been proposed it will continue another 70 miles south into North Carolina. The 42-inch-diameter pipeline will carry fracked natural gas, and residents like Becky Crabtree — who lives along the route and whose sheep Abigail can see from her tree — fear for their health, communities, and land.

Pipeline route map created by Upworthy.

"We can’t find record of a pipeline of this size ever being built on such a steep grade," Crabtree says. "There are so many questions we have, and no one is answering any of them for us."

Crabtree's property at the base of Peters Mountain is intersected by the pipeline, and her concerns about it are endless. She worries about sinkholes, about the quality of water reservoirs in the area, and about the construction traffic planned on her little one-lane road. She worries about the fence around her sheep field that she’ll have to pay to rebuild once MVP widens that road for their use. She worries about the effect the pipeline will have on the Appalachian Trail, which it will cross under just a couple hundred feet from Abigail’s tree.

The ridge of Peters Mountain from above Abigail's tree. Photo courtesy of FightingFox Photography.

Armed with many of the same concerns as Crabtree, over 400 landowners along the pipeline’s route refused to grant MVP easements on their property. These landowners were sued by MVP in 2017 for access to the land; eventually, a federal court will grant the private company access by condemning each person’s land through eminent domain, claiming that the pipeline serves a public good.

Upworthy reached out to MVP for a comment, but has not heard back.

Just a few dozen miles from Abigail, a 60-year-old woman nicknamed "Red" has also taken to the trees to stop pipeline construction on her family’s Virginia land.

"When I saw the tree sits on Peters Mountain," Red Terry says, "I knew what we had to do." Her husband’s family has lived on the Roanoke County land for generations, preserving the streams, wetlands, and an historic orchard that the pipeline will run right through.

"Everyone wants MVP’s money," she quips. "But there are some things in life worth a hell of a lot more than money."

Red's tree-sit, like Abigail's, has been surrounded by tree-felling in recent weeks. But the presence of the tree-sitters — along with dozens of supporters on the ground — has prevented MVP from cutting many trees in the pipeline's path. Although the community supporting these protests is vast, the threat of legal consequences has kept many, like Abigail, from disclosing personal information.

A protester blocks a MVP access road in Virginia. Photo courtesy of FightingFox Photography.

As construction ramps up, Red and Abigail aren’t the only ones taking direct action.

In Giles County, Virginia, a blockade was erected by pipeline opponents on an MVP access road. A single protester has been perched atop a 50-foot log placed vertically in the road for three weeks and counting, effectively halting construction of both the access road and the pipeline. She has not come down once, despite the continued presence of law enforcement preventing supporters from replenishing her supply of food and water. The banner hanging with her aptly reads: "The fire is catching: No pipelines."

Back in West Virginia, Crabtree says she was "jumping up and down delighted" to learn about the folks who climbed into the trees on Peters Mountain.

"We hadn’t noticed them until we read about them," she says. "But the more people that learn about them, the more admiration there is in the community. The more sense there is that we support people that ‘lay it down’ for our environment. That takes courage and wherewithal. It takes some extra teeth."

Photo courtesy of Appalachians Against Pipelines.

Local supporters have been so grateful for the tree-sitters that just a couple weeks ago, they held a spaghetti dinner fundraiser in support.

That evening, dozens of folks gathered in a church basement to eat, talk with friends and neighbors, and contribute to the cause on Peters Mountain. Crabtree’s granddaughters ran a table complete with markers and construction paper where well-wishers could write thank-you notes to be delivered up the ridge.

Up in her oak tree, Abigail recounts tales of the past three years, which she has spent opposing this pipeline.

“It got to the point where we had tried all these options to fight this,” she reports. “We talked to our representatives. We tried running our own candidates. We wrote letters to the editor. We had people sign petitions. Didn’t work, didn’t work, didn’t work. This is the only thing I feel like I have left.”

Sun is out and our batteries are happy. Hope you all are getting some ☀ too!bit.ly/supportmvpresistance

Posted by Appalachians Against Pipelines on Sunday, March 18, 2018

This fight comes at a time of widespread and increasing resistance to pipelines and other destructive fossil fuel projects around the country and the world.

Just east of the MVP route, folks are fighting the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a natural gas pipeline that — among a multitude of other issues — has a compressor station planned for Union Hill, Virginia, a community built by the descendants of freed slaves.

Down in Louisiana, the Bayou Bridge Pipeline is scheduled to cross 700 bodies of water, including a reservoir that supplies drinking water to the United Houma Nation and 300,000 Louisiana residents. This is the tail end of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which thousands protested last year at Standing Rock.

The list goes on: Mariner East 2, Rover, Line 3, Trans Mountain. But so do the stories of people rising up in the face of this ongoing destruction of land and communities.

"I don’t have a lot to lose being in this tree," Abigail shares, as she settles into her sleeping bag for another night on the mountain. "But as a young person and person from this region, I do have a lot to lose with this pipeline."

Peters Mountain treesit in path of Mountain Valley Pipeline - with drone footage

Check out this drone footage of the tree sit! There's also footage here of trees being felled in the snowstorm on Monday right up to the base of the sit.Currently, the only thing physically standing in the way of pipeline construction is the treesit on Peters Mountain. People in trees are doing what our "representatives" and "regulators" refuse to do — they're protecting land, water, and communities of Appalachia from corporations that believe their money gives them the right to pillage this land and pollute our water.Please donate to support pipeline resistance in Appalachia: bit.ly/SupportMVPResistance

Posted by Appalachians Against Pipelines on Tuesday, March 13, 2018

For updates from resistance to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, follow Appalachians Against Pipelines and Farmlands Fighting Pipelines on Facebook. To learn about some of the other pipeline fights mentioned here, follow No Bayou Bridge, Makwa Initiative, and Camp White Pine.

True

Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less

Empathy. Compassion. Heart-to-heart human connection. These qualities of leadership may not be flashy or loud, but they speak volumes when we see them in action.

A clip of Joe Biden is going viral because it reminds us what that kind of leadership looks like. The video shows a key moment at a memorial service for Chris Hixon, the athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018. Hixon had attempted to disarm the gunman who went on a shooting spree at the school, killing 17 people—including Hixon—and injuring 17 more.

Biden asked who Hixon's parents were as the clip begins, and is directed to his right. Hixon's wife introduces herself, and Biden says, "God love you." As he starts to walk away, a voice off-camera says something and Biden immediately turns around. The voice came from Hixon's son, Corey, and the moments that followed are what have people feeling all their feelings.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Pete Buttigieg is having a moment. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana keeps trending on social media for his incredibly eloquent explanations of issues—so much so that L.A. Times columnist Mary McNamara has dubbed him "Slayer Pete," who excels in "the five-minute, remote-feed evisceration." From his old-but-newly-viral explanation of late-term abortion to his calm calling out of Mike Pence's hypocrisy, Buttigieg is making a name for himself as Biden's "secret weapon" and "rhetorical assassin."

And now he's done it again, this time taking on the 'originalist' view of the Constitution.

Constitutional originalists contend that the original meaning of the words the drafters of the Constitution used and their intention at the time they wrote it are what should guide interpretation of the law. On the flip side are people who see the Constitution as a living document, meant to adapt to the times. These are certainly not the only two interpretive options and there is much debate to be had as to the merits of various approaches, but since SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett is an originalist, that view is currently part of the public discourse.

Buttigieg explained the problem with originalism in a segment on MSNBC, speaking from what McNamara jokingly called his "irritatingly immaculate kitchen." And in his usual fashion, he totally nails it. After explaining that he sees "a pathway to judicial activism cloaked in judicial humility" in Coney Barrett's descriptions of herself, he followed up with:

Keep Reading Show less

The English language is constantly evolving, and the faster the world changes, the faster our vocabulary changes. Some of us grew up in an age when a "wireless router" would have been assumed to be a power tool, not a way to get your laptop (which wasn't a thing when I was a kid) connected to the internet (which also wasn't a thing when I was a kid, at least not in people's homes).

It's interesting to step back and look at how much has changed just in our own lifetimes, which is why Merriam-Webster's Time Traveler tool is so fun to play with. All you do is choose a year, and it tells you what words first appeared in print that year.

For my birth year, the words "adult-onset diabetes," "playdate," and "ATM" showed up in print for the first time, and yes, that makes me feel ridiculously old.

It's also fun to plug in the years of different people's births to see how their generational differences might impact their perspectives. For example, let's take the birth years of the oldest and youngest members of Congress:

Keep Reading Show less