The Mountain Valley Pipeline project was originally proposed in 2014, and later expanded in 2018, as a 303-mile and 42-inch wide fracked methane gas pipeline stretching across West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Its construction has already led to over 300 water quality violations. Once completed it will only further destroy wildlife habitats and poison watersheds essential to the health of our residential areas and ecosystem. For nine years, local battles against the Mountain Valley Pipeline project have persisted in West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina as residents have practiced various forms of resistance — tree-sits, attending government meetings and monitoring construction sites, for example. Protests and complications have set the project back billions of dollars and several years, but the project is still estimated to be completed by 2024.
While activism efforts against the construction of MVP are nationwide, Charlottesville has been a hub of this advocacy in a unique fashion. Local musicians, in concert with a Charlottesville record label, have compiled a powerful 40-song album titled “STOP MVP: Artists From WV, VA & NC Against The Mountain Valley Pipeline.” These musicians are leveraging music as a powerful tool through which to unite communities in opposition to the MVP project and the devastating consequences it will have on our environment. Musicians are playing a crucial role in promoting environmental justice, and students at the University should join their fight for a sustainable future by tangibly supporting these artists.
Historically, music has been used as a form of protest in many cultures for centuries. The United States alone has witnessed a variety of protest music — spirituals composed by enslaved laborers, anti-war hymns during World War I, freedom songs from the Civil Rights Movement and beyond. It is no coincidence that we, like our ancestors, chose to express ourselves lyrically — music has the power to unite communities and motivate change within a broader setting. Because the topic of climate change is still controversial, music provides a unique avenue through which climate activists can appeal to and reach a larger audience. This form of communication and expression can drive positive change in our communities, empowering listeners to demand action. Today, artists like Declan McKenna, who wrote “Brazil” to expose the consequences of FIFA’s 2014 World Cup, and Childish Gambino, the artist behind “Feels like Summer,” are using their music to accentuate the rapidly increasing climate crisis we are facing to a broader audience. Music continues to galvanize listeners and encourage them to care about important social issues in our communities.
In keeping with this historical tradition of musical opposition, musicians from Charlottesville and surrounding states are leading the resistance to the MVP project with their music and their platforms. Not only does the music on STOP MVP amplify the voices of Appalachian artists, but it also emphasizes the history of music in this region as well. Appalachian music is centered around story-telling and folk ballads of the human experience, a genre perfectly suited to illustrating human interactions with MVP. Moreover, Appalachian music experiments with different sounds and instruments which allows artists from various backgrounds to contribute to this playlist. In the Appalachian region especially, music is incredibly important and has always been a force of resistance against the destructive coal mining economy. The anti-coal industry music of the past underlined a commitment to safe working conditions and worker unionization. MVP artists have taken up this mantle of community-centered care and applied it to the physical environment in which they live.
While students at the University may not be directly exposed to the physical impacts of the MVP project, that does not mean they should ignore the activism happening around them. College campuses are hotbeds for activism, and the University is no stranger to student engagement and protests. The MVP project is a threat to our environment and to the communities that surround it, and students have the power to both amplify existing activism and take action by leveraging their talent and access to social media platforms to spread a message. For example, students can stream the STOP MVP album, an act of publicity which is no different than the free advertising we routinely do for Taylor Swift or Harry Styles — except this time, we are championing a worthy cause, not simply a famous musician.
And the MVP playlist has so many songs worthy of being championed each of which embrace a different side of Appalachian musical tradition. North Carolina artist, Sally Anne Morgan who lives in a MVP sacrifice zone, takes on a more instrumental and folk approach in her song, “Dig No Dig.”. New Boss, a Charlottesville band, embraces an alternative rock sound, with their politically packed lyrics in “Frantic.” And Joe Troop’s “We Don't Want The MVP (a.k.a. Joe Manchin's A Naughty Squirrel),” calls out each politician involved in the MVP project. Each artist featured tells a unique story about their experience with the MVP and the impact it has on their communities.
As future leaders of the world, we have a responsibility to live the change we need to see. Whether it is through lobbying local politicians, starting walk-outs, or even becoming involved with an issue through social media, there is no “one right way” to engage — every form of protest counts, but we must engage and STOP MVP.
Anaïs Naish is an opinion columnist who writes about identity and culture for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Mountain Valley Pipeline was proposed in 2019 and went through West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. The original proposal for the pipeline in 2014 planned for it to go through West Virginia and Virginia, and a later 2018 extension proposed for the pipeline to go from Virginia to North Carolina. The article has since been updated to reflect this change.