Environmental Scientist Joins Campaign to Stop Mountain Valley Fracked Gas Pipeline

Excerpt of rally speech by Malik Morrison, a young wetlands ecologist and member of Scientist Rebellion, recorded and produced by Melinda Tuhus

The 303-mile Mountain Valley fracked gas pipeline being built through the mountains of Virginia and West Virginia is about 55 percent complete, but has been stalled for two years due to some lost construction permits, and has yet to obtain others to cross water bodies and steep terrain.

The gas that could one day flow through the 42-inch pipeline is not for local consumption but most likely destined for export as liquefied natural gas, or LNG.  The Biden administration has pledged to ship LNG to Europe to replace Russian gas that’s been sanctioned since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Between The Lines’ Melinda Tuhus participated in The Walk for Appalachia’s Future where opponents of the pipeline followed the path of the pipeline over 12 days. Along the way, those on the Walk met with local groups fighting to stop completion of the pipeline. The journey ended with two rallies in Richmond, Virginia’s capital, that while not on the pipeline route, is where many important decisions about the MVP are made. One of the rallies focused on the role of Wells Fargo bank as the biggest financier of the MVP. In the third of a series of reports, Melinda Tuhus recorded one of the rally speakers, Malik Morrison, a young wetlands ecologist and a member of Scientist Rebellion, a group that have begun to speak out publicly about climate change. Here, he explains how his opposition to the Mountain Valley Pipeline is linked with the broader fight to address the climate crisis.

MALIK MORRISON: While I was engaging in debate with someone for the 20th time about whether the planet warming should mean something to them, a stranger asked me what I was born at. I looked at them perplexed and said, “What do you mean? I was born in Hartford General. Did you see me there?” The person looked at me and said they were born at 316 parts per million. Well, I was born at 368 parts per million. For me, discovering that was the start of my new life.

Today, the PPM of carbon dioxide has reached over 420.6 parts per million. It took 23 years to add 52 ppm to the atmosphere across the entire globe. This is expected to increase exponentially if we continue down the path of excessive greed and exploiting the planet for profit. So when the last tree has been chopped, the last vegetable withered, and the last drop of water tainted, will some people realize what corporations have done to us.

I don’t know about you, but I have never eaten a profit, or bathed in a profit, or used a profit to heal my wounds. I feel confident in my ability to say I have never experienced a profit. But I have experienced and witnessed firsthand the destruction the ever-elusive profit has caused.

As I said, I’m an ecologist. For those that don’t know, that means I have the coolest job on the planet. It means that one day I’m roaming the forest with my binoculars and silver augur looking for rare and endangered species, or working in a mitigation bank for counting trees and reporting on ecosystems’ health. But most days you can find me hiking through swamps looking for wetland habitat in federally protected waters and drawing a big old line around it [applause], telling corporations to stay out of it.

As we all know, an illegal activity that only results in a fine means it is legal for people with a boatload of money, or that infamous “profit” word. I can’t imagine if someone came to my home and said, “Now, Malik, we need to demo your house, your neighbor’s house and the community garden where you get your food from – we need to take it and bring it to the ground for this gigantic 42-inch metal pipe that’s going to carry natural gas from this other neighborhood that we destroyed. It’s going to be the greatest GDP, the economy is going to boom, the stock market is going to go up, and you will be so happy!” To which I would reply, “Can I eat a GDP?” [No!] “Can I sleep in an economy?” [No!] “Is the stock market going to protect me from danger?” [No!]

Now replace me with all the most vulnerable species on the planet. Why do we expect them to be happy when all we are doing is taking from them? Major banks such as Citibank, Chase bank, Wells Fargo, Bank of America have combined invested more than $1 trillion to unsustainable and outdated and harmful practices of energy. I truly cannot even comprehend how much a trillion dollars even is. They have chosen to ignore the data presented and commitments made in the Paris accord. The most profitable corporations to have ever existed have chosen to forego health and well-being of the most vulnerable people in our communities so they can increase the number on a screen. And we find ourselves with more disease than ever despite technological advancements. We find more children in poverty despite open buildings sitting vacant and we find now, more than ever, people are fed up with banks sacrificing us and our lands for profit.

I dedicated my education and my life to being the voice for those who cannot speak, but those who cannot lose without having anything and those who will fight when they are against the wall, because I live for the community and all communities on the planet. And while profits consume the minds of those who wish ill upon our Mother Earth – the only planet that we’ve got! – the rest of us form a bond that can’t be broken. We refuse to be burned by corporate greed, but instead we going to fizzle the fossil fuel industry with the unyielding power of the beautiful star 94 million miles away or the powerful waves that gravity makes for us or the swift winds that travel from the ocean to the land to help us power our lives. [Applause]

Thank you. I want to make a difference and I believe that we can do that together, everyone together. Any way you can. There is no wrong way to protest; I’ve found that out. And I love you all. I love you all.

For more information, visit Scientist Rebellion at scientistrebellion.com.

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