Letter to the Editor: No Atlantic Coast Pipeline!

As we look at the environmental havoc invoked on the commonwealth since colonization, we should learn from those mistakes or we shall be doomed to repeat them. In the span of only 400 years settlers have deforested 67% of Virginia’s land wiping out any resemblances of pre-colonists wildlife. Protected land makes up only 15% of the commonwealth’s total acreage. The Monacan tribe of Virginia has come out in opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline which is proposed to inch staggeringly close to ancient above-ground burial mounds, if not on top of them. A 75-ft wide path will clear-cut all life for 550+ miles. Currently 177,000 acres of land in George Washington Natural Forest are reserved for fracking. Pipelines have already caused over 10,000 accidents, 373 deaths, 1,422 injuries and over $6 billion in property damages.

According to research done by Dhyani Simonini, a member of the Eastern Lenape nation living in nearby Buckingham county, these burial mounds can be found from as early as the late Woodland period (approximately 900 A.D.). They can be found in high concentration in the Wingina region were monuments for  fifty to one hundred people buried there. Similarly, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline is expected to disrupt many cemeteries for enslaved peoples and their descendants. One article has pointed to at least 10 small lots (about 1-7 acres each), half of which can specifically be traced to a deed between 2 former enslaved people. Enslaved peoples were not always offered the same dignified burials as we see in places like Hollywood Cemetery, often buried in unmarked graves. Could we imagine a pipeline carrying fracked natural gas disturbing Hollywood Cemetery or Monument Avenue? Do we really believe that #blacklivesmatter? Do we recognize and respect indigenous Virginians and the indigenous environmental movement in #idlenomore?

In this moment we must not only worry about the past, but also worry about current and future generations. Reverend James Rose, is from Nelson County and has seen how African-American and low-income residents of Nelson county “have been targeted” and  could be disproportionately affected by the pipeline construction. If the Hampton Roads region is second only to coastal Louisiana for vulnerability to climate change, should we wait for another Hurricane Katrina?  We saw the racist, classist response to that natural disaster and know the impact on frontline communities. Should we wait for an oil spill off the coast or pipeline explosion in the mountains? Should we wait for a worsening of the asthma health disparity that disproportionately affects African-American and Native-American children, as we continue down this path of polluting the air with fossil fuels? Can't we ask for something better? 

Join the resistance to fight for the conservation of history and land and most importantly, each other and our future generations!

I write in solidarity with all those resisting pipeline, fracking, tars sands,offshore drilling and things to come,

Vanessa Nunes

on behalf of Richmond People's Climate March and JusticeRVA

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