The Future: What Happens in Our Back Yards Today

I woke up this morning wondering what it was I thought about the potential of a 42″ x 20 mile long natural gas pipeline across Floyd County. This is not an easy challenge to understand, even from how it settles in just one individual mind, cluttered as it is with opinion, fact, pseudo-fact, bias and the hope for clarity.

So as I often do in these moments of muddy personal waters, I just let my fingers find the words. Or at least SOME words. There are thoughts about the notion of compiling written personal narratives on the topic at some point, to see collectively how this issue hits us at gut level. 

So just to lift the subject a bit more into the local radar beyond its Facebook presence, here are my last few paragraphs from the thought bubble this early morning. 

My coming to the table stems from the fact that there is a vast difference between energy company purposes and hopes and my own.

Wendell Berry said “What I stand ON is what I stand FOR.” That pretty well says it.

My hopes stand on the present and future health of the soil under my feet. And my hopes look ahead–seven generations lets say–a vision our wise predecessors on this continent once practiced in their relationship to the land while we, in our modern sophistry,  have grown blind in this important aspect of our collective ecology.

Where there is no vision, the people perish. We need to put on our spectacles and see far ahead as clearly as possible, not squint at pay dirt under our feet in the present moment.

I will do my darndest to follow my best advice, here early on, and be prepared to listen while withholding immediate judgment until a 30 thousand foot view of all of this comes into view.

I don’t believe that anyone truly has an open mind in such matters. None of us was born yesterday and we have been paying attention. We may attend to different parts of the elephant. And that is probably, in the end, a good thing. But we have points of view.

I hope ultimately we all can give a fair hearing across a wide range of voices representing others who we allow to come to the table with their own baggage, filters, blinders and hopes–just like I come there.

In the end, no one thinks that we can sell the foundation to pay for the house. We have to decide together what is precious about this place, and agree on what can not be sold at any price.

There will be a public meeting on the topic at the County Store in Floyd on Thursday, July 17 at 7:00pm.

See Large gas pipeline projects come to Southern Virginia | WDBJ



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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Thank you for those thoughts, and for letting us know there is a meeting tomorrow evening about the proposed pipeline. I would not have know about the meeting if I hadn’t read your blog.

  2. I can feel your quandary.

    Living in Texas, I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been within sight of a pipeline.

    As I sit here now I have 6 crossing the western property line and two more running through the property to the east. That’s 8 pipes crossing the road in less than a quarter mile. That doesn’t even count the natural gas pipeline that carries natural gas to my house and many of the others down our county road…

    A decade or so ago they came in and cut out a piece of one of the pipes to test it’s integrity. Since nothing else ever happened, I can only hope it was in good shape.