From May 24th to June 4th, climate justice and social justice activists will be walking and riding from Charleston, West Virginia into southwest Virginia, down to Rockingham/Alamance counties in North Carolina, ending up in Richmond, Virginia. For most of the time the Walk for Appalachia’s Future will take place along the route of the planned but deeply troubled, 303 miles long, fracked gas Mountain Valley Pipeline.
This action is happening first and foremost to kill the MVP, but it also calls for jobs with justice, for renewable energy, and for mobilizing the resources so that the people of Appalachia can exercise control over their lives and communities. In the words of West Virginia farmer, activist, and one of the Walk leaders Maury Johnson, “There is no reason to build new pipelines. We have far too many destructive pipelines already. We need to fully electrify our energy sector with renewable energy and build a smart, modern electrical grid. Senator Joe Manchin, MVP supporter and coal plant owner, is not only wrong, he is DEAD wrong, and the human race will be too if we continue down the path that he is pushing.”
The primary purpose of the Walk is to amplify the voices of frontline Appalachian communities and others in their fight for environmental justice and renewables. The mission statement goes on: “We will say loudly and clearly that politicians need to stop doing the bidding of the fossil fuel industry and get serious about the urgent need to shift in a just way from coal, oil and gas to renewables. All along the pipeline route we will inspect damages to water, air, animals, and the Earth, and the people who depend on them; and we will every morning have ceremonies honoring the heroes in our states who have died during these fights to protect Appalachia.”
The first, long, multi-day political walk I was ever on took place in Appalachia, in 2011, the March on Blair Mountain. Over the course of a week we walked from Charleston down into coal country in the southwest part of West Virginia. That march had four demands: preserve Blair Mountain, abolish mountaintop removal, strengthen labor rights and invest in sustainable job creation for all Appalachian communities. Blair Mountain is where 10,000 armed coal miners fought in 1921 against the coal operators and their supporters who were severely repressing them as the miners attempted to organize. The 2011 action was well attended, received much state and national media attention and was a big deal.