We were mostly young folks under 30 and geezers over 60 (I being in the latter category). Almost everyone was from North Carolina, with a few of us from farther afield.
The ACP is a project of Duke Energy, which would own the gas, and Dominion Resources, which would build the pipeline. They are among the biggest (and, in some circles, the most reviled) energy companies, building pipelines and LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminals to sell ever more methane (what natural gas is made of) around the world and send the planet into irrecoverable heat stress.
Shades of DAPL, the Dakota Access pipeline – the route of the ACP was originally planned to go nearer whiter and wealthier cities, which would have been more direct and cheaper, but when they objected it was moved nearer the I-95 corridor, in the poorest and most racially diverse part of the state.
Not to mention the other reasons people don’t want it: Dominion would take people’s property by eminent domain; the pipeline poses a real safety risk (I learned that the agency in charge of regulating materials in pipelines allows steel to be used in rural areas that’s just over half as thick as what’s required in more populated areas); many of the temporary construction jobs would be filled by out of staters (perhaps with accompanying “man camps” and all the problems they bring); and it could permanently impair the farming practices currently used in this extremely rural area.
The first four days of the walk we passed by dozens of harvested cotton fields with tufts of cotton visible among the stunted stalks. The area also grows soybeans, grains, and sweet potatoes, and a little tobacco, which used to be a mainstay crop.
The land is flat, flat, flat. Besides all the farmland we saw, we also passed by some breathtaking swamps, with cypress trees rising from the shadowed water, which looked very clean to me. Pipeline companies like to build in swamps because it’s cheaper. I guess they don’t care about disturbing these delicate ecosystems and the role they play in cleaning our water and buffering the land from storms.
The first few nights were too cold (in the 30s and even high 20s) for me to camp out in my summer sleeping bag, but the weather warmed up more each day, and I got to camp at a beautiful Boy Scout camp by a lake, listening to the spring peepers and what seemed like a whole flock of great horned owls, hooting their signature “who-o-o-o cooks for you?” I was content.
Another highlight was meeting residents of a “rural resettlement” established during the Great Depression. Of the 100-plus such settlements, only 13 were for African Americans, and Tillery was the only one that included both black and white sharecroppers (still segregated within it). Several of the older residents walked with us and attended the rallies. They are strongly opposed to the pipeline.
One of the best parts of the walk was meeting so many terrific young people – almost all women, by the way. One, Emma, told me about the five years she’d spent at the San Francisco Zen Center and affiliated places -- one so remote that she said if anyone got seriously ill they’d have to be helicoptered out. Emily, who was the youngest participant at 20, was on the cusp of exploding into a life of political activism. She spoke at a couple of the rallies along the way, and said she was experiencing three new things: first time in North Carolina, first time on a long walk, and first time speaking publicly about an issue she cared deeply about. I feel like we’re leaving the future in good hands. Now, if only we had a good future to leave in those hands.
Here’s the link to the walk site: https://2017acpwalk.org/. For more info and to get a flavor for the walk, check out my story on Free Speech Radio News.