By Mara Eve Robbins (Note: This article was first posted without Mara’s byline. I apologize for that error – MB).
“Honestly, up here in the tree canopy, there’s sort of its own ecosystem and its own world. And it’s really beautiful watching the weather unfold, watching things thaw and freeze over again. The wrens and the flying squirrels come and visit our tree sits.”
“We could just let capitalism run its course…and extraction destroy the planet. That doesn’t make any sense to me. If it doesn’t make sense to you either, then make some moves. Get in the way. If everyone steps up, things could change, so here I am.”
“I can only remind you, and remind myself, that this was never about one action, but about a multifaceted struggle that will continue in each of us who tries to act, to live each moment in defiance of all that would make us silent, obedient, governable.”
“For the moment, in the wild and beautiful terrain of Appalachia, we are still here. They’re still trying to put a pipeline through.”
“Let’s dig deeper than this single pipeline struggle to attack the roots of what is ruining our world, confronting internal as well as external patterns and assumptions, facing the violent histories that still find their home in the present.”
“This fight didn’t begin with this pipeline and it won’t end until the destruction of colonialism, white supremacy, capitalism, patriarchy, governance, everything wreaking destruction on the earth and waging constant war on certain human beings to create empty structures of wealth and power.”
When the VA DEQ delivered the 401 water quality certifications in Dec of 2017, it only took a couple of months before good humans took to the branches of two trees at the top of Peter’s Mountain on the border of WV and VA.
Three years later? The Yellow Finch Blockade still stands strong, the most recent and most long-lasting treesit against the Mountain Valley Pipeline. The first two treesits on the border of VA and WV were inhabited at the end of February, 2018, with the monopod blocking the forest service road erected shortly after. Multiple lockdowns to equipment, other treesits in Franklin County and Bent Mountain (#StandWithRed received international attention) and innumerable direct actions bolstered the movement and sustained our cause: #StopTheFrackingPipelines.
I was thinking of the hashtag #NOmvp and how in the strategic naming of this monstrous pipeline they actually did us a favor. Those mountains and valleys? Are beautiful, cherished and remind us of what we are protecting and defending. And the acronym “MVP” often stands for “most valuable player.” Every time I type: “#NOmvp” I am also reminding myself of decentralized, cooperative leadership. We are all a part of this intricate, evolving web of interdependency where each role is needed and fulfills a purpose. Whether we stand “between the harpoon and the whale” or write lots of strongly worded emails, we are a valuable player. Whether we collect citizen science, sending it to the DEQ or DEP or placing it in other public realms to be scrutinized, we are a valuable player. Whether we write these stories and take these pictures or file lawsuits challenging the legitimacy of permits and arguing for the rights of treesitters to their “necessity defense,” we are ALL valuable players. There is no MOST. And that is perhaps the way in which we are the most threatening to the dominant paradigm.
This movement consists of act after individual action, connected and correlated to other collective actions driven by these individual and collective decisions to follow our hearts rather than some script written for us to blindly follow.
According to the book ‘The Spider and the Starfish:’ “You can compare a dependent organization to a spider. By contrast, we have found that an interdependent, collaborative leadership culture is much more effective than a traditional dependent leadership culture. An interdependent leadership culture is characterized by extensive collaboration across boundaries, candor, more than one right answer, and synergies across the enterprise.”
Brene Brown defines a leader as “anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas, and has the courage to develop that potential.” Leaderless resistance is obviously quite different than applying the principles of interdependence to an outdated corporate model, but it is also strongly correlated.
And every time we type “NoMVP” it’s a reminder THAT WE ARE VALUABLE. Included. Welcomed. Connected. And important. But no more or less than anyone else.
Better to be valued and valuable than worthless. Better to be welcome and welcomed than unwelcome. Better to know that anything I can offer is both important and not important enough to sacrifice my own well-being. I know resilience, and I know it so much more intimately thanks to the example of my friends in the trees. Because #WeWillWin.
Thanks to all of those brave birds perched in the branches and also to each and every one of you, reading this, sharing this, uplifting and elevating our story. YOUR story. “If everyone steps up, things could change.” Be that change. Fight back against frack pipelines. Clean water is our future. Happy Birthday, tree people. And to everyone who’s had a hand in the uprising? In the uplifting? For everyone who’s found the courage to stand in the way of pero-colonization? To protect our water? To defend our communities? For those who continue to insist that Appalachia is NOT a sacrifice zone?
Thank you. You’re making a difference.
© Mara Eve Robbins, 2021. Mara Eve Robbins is a short-a Appalachian author, activist and organizer. She protects water, loves trees, and cares for those who defend both. Her book, “Seeing Red,” will be released this fall through Propertius Press.