Above: Pipeline Pilgrimage walkers, photo by Kelsey Erickson.
The Pipeline Pilgrimage is a Quaker-led trek along the proposed route of Kinder Morgan’s Northeast Energy Direct pipeline in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. It began in Pittsfield, MA on April 1st and will end in Dracut, MA on April 12th, a total of 143 miles. The purpose of the pilgrimage is to foster spiritual growth in a community to catalyze a force for change. As the pilgrims travel, they are meeting local people who will be directly impacted by the pipeline, many of whom are farmers and many of whom have young children. The health and safety hazards of the Kinder Morgan pipeline would threaten their livelihoods and increase fracking operations in communities residing over the Marcellus Shale. The implications of an increase in fracking go far beyond the desecration of people’s drinking water. A surge in methane emissions will seal a future of climate chaos at which point we will be powerless to remedy the wreckage we’ve inflicted on our planet.
The severity and complexity of the climate crisis will oftentimes lead to feelings of extreme helplessness and despair, which is why spirituality helps to maintain the health of those who’ve immersed themselves in the dire truth of our situation. Each morning begins with Quaker worship, with the community forming a circle and drifting into meditation. When someone feels moved to speak by the Spirit, they speak inwardly from a sacred state of mind. During the walk, there is an hour of silence. This silence allows for deep contemplation and listening as the pilgrims internalize the voices of the landscape around them unabated by distraction of words. These practices of the Quaker tradition facilitate a powerful force that helps to motivate and strengthen its members in preparation of the daunting challenges they are facing.
Though catastrophic climate change seems impossible to prevent or even alleviate, the integrity of the pilgrimage serves as testimony to the empathic capacity of the human race. The pilgrims have endured variable spring weather ranging from sun to snow while walking an average of 17 miles a day. However this physical feat is nothing compared with feat of creating a horizontal, all-inclusive and spiritually connected community. In the face of climate change, the very survival of humanity depends on its ability to maintain moral integrity under pressure. Thus the communal values and virtues inherent in this pilgrimage serve as invaluable practice towards cultivating the egalitarian society necessary for the continued survival of biodiversity on Earth.
For more information on this pilgrimage, visit pipelinepilgrimage.org