by Earl Martin
A “climate emergency choir” of Mennonites and friends of Mennonites sang in Richmond, Virginia, to call for urgent action on the climate crisis. Over 60 persons sang hymns of the sacredness of the earth, of conviction and faith as they called on Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam to take urgent steps toward reducing fossil fuel use in the state. The choir wore T-shirts announcing they were “Singing for Our Lives.”
Mountain Valley Pipeline
The choir called on their governor to stop construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline which he could do if he were to declare a climate emergency. The 42-inch diameter pipeline which is under construction through national forests and pristine waterways would be a 300-mile-plus conduit for fracked natural gas for a likely 30 years to come. The pipeline is 42 inches in diameter. If it were to be completed, it would carry atmosphere-heating gases equivalent to adding 26 mid-sized coal-powered plants, according to Oil Change International, a non-profit research institute.
Members of Shalom Mennonite Congregation in Harrisonburg, Va., played primary roles in organizing the choir, whose members ranged from infants to 90 years of age. Shalom’s pastor, Brian Bolton, led the choir. A contingent of students from Eastern Mennonite University also took part in the October 18 event.
Songs and Letters
The choir sang in front of the Governor’s mansion and the offices of other officials. At each stop, the choir delivered a letter calling for an end to the pipeline construction. To Governor Northam, the letter stated, “we pray for you the great courage to declare a climate emergency … which would free up energy and resources for this state to launch new possibilities for climate healing initiatives and bold actions so long overdue.”
Local observers expressed surprise at the unique nature of the protest and gave appreciation for the respect and dignity they observed in the appeals being made. As the choir awaits responses to their letters, they are also discussing further initiatives to take in face of the climate crisis for which the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has called for a “red alert.”