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‘Imagining the devastation’

walked the line — 140 miles of Virginia’s forests, trails and roads tracking the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s (ACP) proposed route from Bath to Buckingham.

For 16 days, me and other walkers bore witness to the mountains, valleys, streams, properties and lives that would be impacted if this pipeline is built.

Traveling by foot allowed us to meet people on their front porches and yards. Some didn’t know their neighborhoods were in the pipeline’s path, and we watched their shock as the news sunk in.

Some felt compelled to walk with us. Some told us their histories that connected them with the land.

At the walk’s end in Buckingham, we visited the site of the planned compressor station along Route 56, saw how close neighboring houses were and tried to imagine living next to a 24/7 heavy industrial machine.

The sights and sounds we witnessed were pristine: whippoorwills singing through the night, waterfalls cascading between mossy banks, cows grazing in green fields, abundant gardens and laundry on outdoor clotheslines. Imagining the devastation caused by long construction times, heavy equipment on country lanes, dynamite blasting through rock, soil and trees in the oldest mountains in North America was nightmarish and worse.

These landowners are our neighbors, unlucky to live in the path of a gas behemoth that cares not for people, property or heritage but only for profit. Explosions, earthquakes, contamination, pollution, loss of property value and loss of quality of life are certainties along pipeline paths. We were at a loss as to what to say to them beyond promising to carry their plight with us to share with others.

They shared with us whatever they could: food, drink, running water, smiles, tears and stories. We connected with a shared sense of the utter insanity of this pipeline project. Some had constructed solar systems to lessen their impact: some were well-to-do and some much less so. The connecting thread was care for the land, our lives and each other.

The walk was completed July 2 at the Union Hill Baptist Church in Buckingham where we celebrated and mourned at the same time. Community here is being created as white, black, young, old, rich, poor, red and blue find shared desires for peace and justice.

Deborah Kushner lives in Nelson County. Her email address is drkinva@yahoo.com.