FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享AFP:Even as China struggles to curb domestic coal-fired power and the deadly pollution it produces, the world’s top carbon emitter is aggressively exporting the same troubled technology to Asia, Africa and the Middle East, an investigation by AFP has shown.The carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from these Chinese-backed plants could cripple global efforts to rein in global warming caused by the burning of fossil fuels — especially coal, analysts warn.“China is a world leader in terms of embracing the policy and investment needs to progressively decarbonise its economy,” said Tim Buckley, director of energy finance studies at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA). “But internationally, China continues to invest in a range of coal project in direct contradiction to its domestic energy strategy.”Globally, coal use accounts for 40 percent of CO2 emissions, and is on the rise after declining slightly from 2014 to 2016. More than two-fifths of the world’s electricity is generated by coal-fired power, nearly double the share of natural gas and 15 times as much as solar and wind combined.A quarter of coal plants in the planning stage or under construction outside China are backed by Chinese state-owned financial institutions and corporations, according to research by IEEFA, an energy finance think-tank based in Cleveland, Ohio.“The risk is locking these countries into something that won’t be good for them in the long-run, and that is incompatible with the Paris climate agreement’s temperature goals,” said Christine Shearer, an energy analyst for CoalSwarm and lead author of the research, which is slated for publication later this month. Many of the recipients of China’s largesse — Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Senegal, Zimbabwe and half a dozen others — currently have little or no coal-fired power, and no coal to fuel future plants. “That means they will have to build import infrastructure, or even coals mines,” Shearer told AFP.More: China’s unbridled export of coal power imperils climate goals China pushes outdated coal technology onto other countries
Namibia, Botswana joining forces in effort to develop 5,000MW of solar generation FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Bloomberg:Botswana and Namibia are set to sign an agreement to develop solar projects of as much as 5,000 megawatts through installations built across their mostly flat, sunny landscapes.The southern African nations are working with U.S. government initiative, Power Africa, to help structure the deal, Namibian Mines and Energy Minister Tom Alweendo said in an interview on Friday. The electricity will mainly be exported across the region.“The agreement to be signed will facilitate a full feasibility study that will determine the size and the location of the plants,” he said.The ambitious plans signal a shift for both nations that import power from South Africa’s Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. The largest utility on the continent is struggling financially and operationally to meet demand. Adding 5,000 megawatts of renewable capacity would also further diversify the energy mix of the region, as Eskom mainly burns coal.Botswana and Namibia have massive solar potential but have yet to realize large-scale renewable projects. South Africa had one of the fastest-growing renewable energy programs in the world, before government delays paralyzed the effort.Power Africa, along with governments, the private sector and donors has helped bring more than 11,000 megawatts of generation capacity to financial close since 2013, according to its website. USAID, which coordinates the program, didn’t immediately reply to emailed questions.[Mbongeni Mguni and Kaula Nhongo]More: Botswana, Namibia set to sign 5-gigawatt solar energy plan
FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Platts:Over the next decade, global natural gas demand will grow at a slower pace as the industry responds to emerging financial and policy pressures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.A broad slowdown in energy demand caused by the pandemic will bring about an earlier-than-anticipated reckoning for the fossil fuels industry, according to the authors of an energy transition report from S&P Global Platts Analytics and S&P Global Ratings. They predicted an especially bumpy road ahead for gas, even more so than for other fuels.Global demand for gas will continue growing over the next 10 to 20 years, even outperforming other fossil fuels thanks principally to demand growth from China, India and the Middle East, which together should account for a majority of the global increase in gas demand to 2030. In Western Europe, gas demand will grow just 1.4% to 2030 as the European Union’s Green Deal shifts the continent away from reliance on carbon-intensive fuels, accelerating the phase-out of gas.In North America, gas demand is forecast to contract 2.5% over the next decade as efficiency gains, fuel substitution and weaker electricity demand cut usage in the power generation and residential-commercial sectors. Modest growth in demand from North America’s industrial sector, fueled by competitively low fuel prices, should at least partially offset contracting demand in other sectors.“The road to growth is both narrowing and becoming shorter for gas,” said Ira Joseph, head of Global Gas and Power at Platts Analytics and co-author of the report. “Both commercial and policy-driven forces are intervening. One of the ironies for gas is that it has been one of least affected fossil fuels during COVID-19 but will probably be the most affected after.”[J. Robinson]More: Coronavirus pandemic to blunt global gas demand growth to 2030 – S&P Global S&P: Natural gas demand likely to fall 2.5 percent in North America over next 10 years
The Roan Highlands offer a rare stretch of wide-open high country splendor in the Southern Appalachians. “The Roan” is actually a lengthy stretch of grassy peaks. The bald beauties feature expansive, open meadows—not typical of Appalachia’s deep wooded forests.EXPLOREThe best way to take in the Roan experience is an epic 20-mile jaunt on the Appalachian Trail that runs from Roan High Knob (the area’s biggest peak at the 6,285 feet) to Highway 19E. With much of it near or over 6,000 feet, the hike crosses six grassy peaks including Round Bald, Jane Bald, Grassy Ridge (reached with a short spur trail detour), Big Yellow Mountain, and Little and Big Hump Mountains.In the summer, visitors enjoy the 660 acres of Catawba Rhododendron gardens between the summits of Roan High Knob and Roan High Bluff.View Larger MapSKIIn the winter, explorers come to the highlands for the annual 120 inches of snow. The white-blanketed grassy balds provide some perfect spots for making tracks with snowshoes or cross-country skis. Winter hikers should be careful of fast-changing weather on the exposed terrain.Roan Mountain State Park, which can be reached near the village of Roan Mountain, is one of the only state parks in the South with designated cross-country skiing trails.Photo by Travis HallBOONE’S FAVORITELegend attributes the name of the mountain stretch to Daniel Boone, who supposedly frequented the area on a reddish or “roan” horse. Other tales insist the label is just a result of the red hues of the rhodo blooms.EAT DOWN BY THE RIVERAfter a day of braving the backcountry blizzards, drive into Erwin and grab some top-notch barbecue or hand-tossed pizza at River’s Edge Restaurant (riversedgebbq.com), which sits on the banks of the nearby Nolichucky River.
1. Jackson Kayak Carbon Rock StarJackson Kayak gave their uber popular Rock Star playboat the carbon treatment, reinforcing it with Kevlar and dropping the weight to a ridiculous 9.8 kilograms. That’s a bit over 20 pounds for us Americans. It’s super light and built to do one thing: soar on aerials and win freestyle competitions. This ain’t a river-running boat, but if you’re looking for some help to perfect your McNasty, take note.$2,800; jacksonkayak.com40. Dagger Nomad 8.1 KayakSimply put, it’s the ultimate creek boat. Yet it’s perfectly suited to paddlers of all levels, thanks to its predictability, stability, and speed. It turns smoothly and tucks into small eddies when you need them most. The displacement hull helps absorb impact from bigger boofs. And the boat’s impressive speed and quick resurfacing come in handy for plowing through big holes. As a result, it’s an easy boat to paddle, whether novice or gonzo.$979; dagger.com38. Surftech B-1 BomberFinally, a solid paddle board that’s actually built to handle the rigors of river surfing. This SUP is wide, stable, and, best of all, durable. Surftech uses a patent-pending composite polymer with a crazy-good strength-to-weight ratio to create what has to be the most durable SUP on the market. It’s a heavy board (32 pounds) but the B1 is going to handle any rocks in the river, so the trade-off is a no-brainer for paddlers who want a board that can handle Southern Appalachian rivers. $1,395; surftechsup.comWatch a video of Dane Jackson and the B-1 in actionBonus! Puma LairdThis innovative SUP is a 14-foot carbon-fiber board that mimics a boat hull, making it even faster on the water. Surf legend Laird Hamilton teamed up with yacht designer Juan Kouyoumdjian to design this lightweight racing board, which is built for speed. Expected release is spring 2012.puma.com
EarthTalk®E – The Environmental MagazineDear EarthTalk: A friend of mine told me that our government kills thousands of wild animals like bears and wolves every year in the name of protecting livestock. How can the government, which is supposed to protect dwindling numbers of animals, instead be killing them? — Amy Pratt, Troy, NYActually, the federal government kills some 100,000 carnivores every year under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Wildlife Services program. While the program does much more than so-called “predator control”—threatened and endangered species conservation, invasive species mitigation, wildlife disease monitoring, airport bird strike prevention, rabies and rodent control—killing bears, wolves, coyotes and mountain lions to protect livestock does take up $100 million of the federal budget each year.Animal advocates say it’s not fair to kill animals owned in essence by the public trust and indispensable to ecosystem health just to protect privately held livestock, let alone spend millions of tax dollars doing it.“Working directly with commercial operators and state and local governments, Wildlife Services uses a combination of lethal control methods, like trapping, aerial gunning, poisoning, and denning (killing young in their dens), and some non-lethal control methods,” reports the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “But driven by narrow agricultural interests, these predator control activities often ignore the greater public need for a healthy environment, fiscal responsibility, and safe public lands.”NRDC cites USDA statistics showing that most livestock losses result from weather, disease, illness and birthing problems—not predation. They also argue that the lethal methods employed by Wildlife Services have led to dozens of human and pet injuries and deaths and degrade ecosystems that rely on healthy predator populations to function. Also the two most commonly used poisons, Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide, go beyond killing animals and wreak havoc on entire ecosystems.Predator Defense, another group committed to ending federal predator control efforts, says that it is important to maintain healthy populations of the very predators Wildlife Services works to kill. When, for instance, predators are around to keep deer and elk populations in check, more and varied kinds of plants are given space and time to grow, in turn preserving and creating habitat for many different species.“Wildlife Services’ predator control work cries out for reform,” says NRDC. The group recommends bringing more transparency to the process so the public can assess how tax dollars are being used; taking a more scientific approach instead of centering the program around the demands of commercial interests; holding the program to higher environmental standards; ending the cruelest, most hazardous and environmentally harmful killing methods; and requiring non-lethal methods when possible.There has been no decisive legislation to stop predator control efforts, but a bill introduced into the House by California Republican John Campbell III calls for amending the Toxic Substances Control Act to prohibit the use of Compound 1080 and sodium cyanide for predator control. The bill (H.R. 4214) was referred to committee and may or may not see a floor vote this year.CONTACTS: NRDC, www.nrdc.org; Predator Defense, www.predatordefense.org; H.R. 4214, www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr4214.EarthTalk® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine (www.emagazine.com). Send questions to: [email protected] Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe. Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.
Your daily outdoor news bulletin for July 1, the day the first Sony Walkman went on sale in 1979 and changed the way we rip the little magnetic strips out of cassette tapes forever:Blind Man Hikes Mountains-to-Sea TrailAs if hiking North Carolina’s 950-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail wasn’t hard enough. Blind hiker and Charlotte, N.C. native Trevor Thomas completed the thru-hike last week under sunny skies and with the help of his loyal guide dog Tennille. A crowd of 30-40 people lined the dunes at the trail’s eastern terminus in Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks as Thomas became the first blind hiker to complete the trek. Thomas took 78 days to complete the journey that began in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in two feet of snow in April. Thomas said the most challenging part of the hike was staying on the right path due to the nature of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail which is made up of a patchwork of 500 miles of footpaths and 400 miles of rural highway. Since losing his sight in 2005, Thomas has thru-hiked the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail and the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail. Thomas is only the eighth person to thru-hike the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.More info can be found here, and on Thomas’s blog.Best. May. Ever.The National Park Service has announced that Great Smoky Mountains National Park had its best May ever in terms of visits. Nearly 886,000 visitors went to the park during May, 2013, up over 10 percent from May, 2012. That is good news for the nation’s most popular park, given that visitation is down on average through the first five months of they year. From January through May of 2013, the park saw 2, 506,000 visitors, down almost 275,000 during the same time last year. Although numbers are down so far, the increase in May visits could bode well for the summer park season in North Carolina and Tennessee.More info here.National Bike to School Day SuccessIn national news, the Second Annual National Bike to School Day was, by all accounts, a ripping success. Tens of thousands of kids rode their bikes to school during National Bike Month (May) and 1,705 schools across the country registered for Bike to School Day events. That number is up 80 percent from last year.More information on the program and its sponsors can be found here.Also in the national bike news category is the news that AAA will be covering bikesin certain portions of the country. If you live in Washington State or Minneapolis, Minn. you can get a ‘tow’ the next time you get a flat on your commute.
Asheville is one of Appalachia’s most celebrated outdoor towns. More than nine million people visit the city annually. For some residents, however, the hype is altering one of America’s hippest mountain hubs beyond recognition.“We were downtown for such a long time,” says Frank Mandaro, manager of Beer City Bicycles. “The rent kept increasing…everything goes up. We understand that you can’t expect things to stay the same. You can go out of business or make the adjustments. We decided to leave downtown.”Beer City Bicycles moved north of town, near the banks of the French Broad River. Mandaro, yearning for the day when shop rats were versatile handymen, often called upon to fix a neighbor’s busted appliance, hopes the move will mean less froth and more handiwork. Most storefronts downtown, he says, are forced to bartend to browsing tourists.“We’re drowning in our own beer production,” says Mandaro.Those who live in Asheville value its outdoor vibe and gorgeous mountain landscape, but they also endure exorbitant rent prices, low service-industry wages, gentrification, and displacement. It’s now the most expensive city in North Carolina, with the median two-bedroom apartment running $1,180 a month. The average property value jumped 9% in the past year, while homelessness increased 10 percent, according to city data. Bowen National Research, a real-estate marketing firm, found a mere 1% vacancy rate in Asheville housing units in 2015, and Nationwide declared Asheville the sixth unhealthiest housing market in the country. While the city’s population has grown dramatically, the African American population has actually shrunk. In 2010 African Americans represented 17% of the population. Today that figure is just 6%.“I never thought in my early 50s, I would be looking for help,” says Asheville resident Barbara Little. Escaping an abusive relationship, Little made her way to a downtown women’s shelter. She had no house and no family in Western North Carolina, only the clothes on her back.Through Goodwill Industries, Little began working arranging flowers for a grocery store. She also sought a home. One morning, while sitting at the bus stop, she noticed Mountain Housing Opportunities’ attractive facade. She applied and qualified for an affordable apartment.“Boy, that makes the biggest deal in the world,” says Little of her securing an apartment. “Plenty of time to study, to get rest. I can get up when I want, make a cup of coffee, go home and take a shower. It makes all the difference in the world. You have a choice.”In the summer of 1988, Scott Dedman teamed with six other volunteers and repaired seven homes for the elderly and disabled in the Asheville area. Within the year, they started Mountain Housing Opportunities. Focusing on emergency home repair and affordable homeownership development, the group has fixed up over 4,000 homes and built and financed another 1,200 houses and apartments in its 18-year history. Repairs and construction are financed through private investment and a low-income housing tax credit.As Dedman sees it, Asheville’s housing crisis is simply a matter of low supply and high demand. When Mountain Housing Opportunities constructed 62 new units in 2016, they received over 600 applications. Stringent building and zoning restrictions, Dedman says, impose limits on the number of new houses constructed.The majority of Mountain Housing Opportunities applicants are working, single parents. To qualify for one of their apartments, an Asheville resident must make less than 60% of the area median income. In Mountain Housing Opportunities’ newly renovated Depot Street apartments, the average income is $18,000, which is also the median salary for most of the city’s service-industry jobs, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce.More than four walls and a roof, Mountain Housing Opportunities builds attractive houses in safe communities. They promote ownership, pride, and environmental consciousness. They’ve had kids paint bus stops, organized creek clean-ups, and planted hundreds of trees. Contractors install state-of the-art recycling chutes, solar panels, and excellent insulation for lower energy bills. Most importantly, they’re bringing workers closer to their jobs.In the Asheville area, there are more jobs than homes, which means more commuters and more fuel emissions. Dedman estimates that their new Depot Street apartments will save more than 60,000 miles of commuting and thousands of dollars.“The cost of commuting is 50 cents a mile,” says Dedman. “If you drive 10 miles to work and back everyday, that’s $200 a month. We’re going to save money and the environment if we can add housing supply near jobs. If you work in Asheville, you should be able to live in Asheville.”Dedman maintains that housing is fundamentally a moral issue.“I’m glad that people want to live here. I’m glad people want to visit here, that it’s a desirable place to live, but along with that comes a responsibility to be inclusive and to include people of modest means.”Income inequality and a housing crisis are not problems unique to Asheville. These are national trends that are especially pronounced in desirable towns. On the other side of the Smoky Mountains, Chattanooga, Tenn., possesses many of the same gifts as Asheville: rich natural resources, a thriving downtown, and an energetic populace. And like Asheville, rising prices, a lack of housing, and a stratified society are growing concerns.Martina Guilfoil, CEO of the Chattanooga Neighborhood Enterprise, traveled to Asheville with a team of 25 planners hoping the Beer City held some answers for Chattanooga.“What struck me about Asheville is outdoorsy folks and artists work hard and make it cool, and then they get priced out,” Guilfoil said. “After our trip, I said, ‘If we don’t get ahead of this, it could happen to Chattanooga.’”Some argue that it already has.“We have to be honest that there are people left out of the growing prosperity,” Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke told an audience at a downtown forum. “Yes, even in the best town ever.”Chattanooga, TennesseeResearch by The Business Journals found Chattanooga to have one of the 10 highest income inequalities in America. For every household earning over $200,000, there are 21 low-income households. A study by the Thomas Fordham Institute’s Michael Petrilli showed one particular Chattanooga neighborhood to be the second-most rapidly gentrifying zip code in the country. (Roanoke, Va. had the 4th.)“A lot of effort has been put into making Chattanooga a destination. The criticism is that it’s the tale of two economies,” says Guilfoil. “There’s the tech companies and the innovation and a mile away it hasn’t reached into the neighborhoods. The school system is still problematic. Who wins and who doesn’t? How do you bridge these gaps?”As Chattanooga grapples with the widening fissure between rich and poor, the city government and philanthropies are proactively increasing their affordable housing supply through tax incentives, inclusionary zoning, subsidies, and regulations.“I don’t think there is one tool,” Guilfoil says. “We need a lot of tools in the tool box.”Despite growing inequality, Chattanooga’s hard-won revitalization should not be overlooked.“Nobody was interested in doing development in those early days,” says Amy Donahue of the nonprofit River City Company. “We held properties for development projects for a long time. Sometimes, we even gave it away.”The city’s renaissance was born largely out of an effort to restore and conserve its natural resources, particularly the Tennessee River.Photo was taken in a village near Charlottesville, Virginia, towards the direction of Shenandoah National Park. The city of Charlottesville lies on the Piedmont Plain, is the hometown of three renowned U.S. Presidents, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe.“Our name comes from our original task: to reconnect the river and the city,” explains Donahue. “Our river was a wonderful asset, but you couldn’t access it from downtown. So we put in a 13-mile stretch of Riverwalk. The idea was to create a path for folks to use to create access to the river. We are all about maximizing our natural assets and what makes us special: the outdoors and our river.” For Dr. Scot French, a historian who spent years studying race and place in Central Virginia, the lessons of history and current issues are intimately linked.French spent ten years studying neighborhoods in Charlottesville, one of Virginia’s most popular and expensive towns. In 2009, he began work on the documentary The World is Gone: Race and Displacement in a Southern Town. The film tells the story of Charlottesville’s Vinegar Hill neighborhood, a mixed-income, walking neighborhood that was demolished in the 1960s in the name of urban renewal.“The people living there just didn’t count,” French explains. “The destruction of this community wasn’t viewed as a loss. It was sold as reform, a progressive reform.”As cities confront their celebrity, French hopes past mistakes will be a guiding star and they will not take their poorest citizens for granted.“I think the lesson Charlottesville learned was to engage the community in the process,” French said. “Public housing units are getting old. The city has to decide. This time around, they have committed to working with the community and engaging them in the process.”For Appalachia’s most popular cities, the challenges are great, and the solutions are as unique as the individual communities. However, in each place, there’s a need to increase housing supply, raise wages, address the root causes of poverty, conserve resources, and engage the local community.
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) and Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) in October. Both are intended to run fracked natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica shale fields in northern West Virginia to markets in the Southeastern United States. After FERC’s approval, MVP was given a green light by Virginia and West Virginia’s environmental agencies, and a judge awarded MVP immediate possession of more than 300 properties through eminent domain. The pipeline’s construction crews began clearing swaths of trees along the route.Then, in late February, two anonymous individuals stationed themselves in trees on Peters Mountain near the Appalachian Trail. Their position blocked pipeline crews from drilling a hole beneath the trail. Soon they were joined in the Jefferson National Forest by a woman known only as Nutty, who climbed onto a suspended platform to block an access road to the construction site.Inspired by the actions on Peters Mountain, a 61-year-old mother and her 30-year-old daughter began tree sits in early April within a swath on their own land in southwest Roanoke County, Virginia, that had been awarded to the pipeline. Later that month they were joined by three more tree-sitters on Four Corners Farm in Franklin County, Virginia.Tree-sitting emerged as an environmentalist tactic of direct action in the late 60s and 70s before becoming more broadly used as a means of blocking logging operations in the ’80s. Julia Butterfly Hill won global recognition for her 738-day sit from 1997 to 1999, protecting a massive coastal redwood in northern California. A decade later, environmentalists used tree sits in southern West Virginia to delay blasting for mountaintop removal mining in at least three different battles with coal companies.Photo: Will SolisOne of the Peters Mountain tree-sitters posted about their motivation on Facebook at the Appalachians Against Pipeline page: “Each of us in this fight, in a tree or on the ground, have our reasons. For me, it’s because Appalachia is my home.”The tree sits have bought time for six different lawsuits to work their way through the courts, even as MVP crews are felling trees along the route. And in mid-May, a federal appeals court halted construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline thanks to litigation brought by Southern Environmental Law Center over improper analysis of endangered species along the pipeline route. It offers pipeline opponents at least a temporary victory in a process that has largely gone against them.Meanwhile, the pipeline companies have tried to use the courts to force the tree-sitters down, with mixed results. On Peters Mountain, a judge denied an injunction to force the protesters out of the trees.The U.S. Forest Service and pipeline crews have blocked Nutty from receiving food, water, or medical attention. In Facebook posts, Nutty said that she has food and water to continue her stand, while advocates are fighting in courts and media coverage to win the right to re-supply her. In April, three people were arrested after one tried to deliver supplies to Nutty.On Day 42, Nutty wrote, “I have gallons of water stored. I still have a stock of energy bars and some packets of applesauce. This is, comparatively, an extremely mild form of deprivation, and one I’m fortunate my body seems to have adapted well to. Recently a doctor hiked up to check on me, and asked (via megaphone, over the noise of the generator the cops turned on) if I needed any medicine. I don’t; all the medicine I want right now is to hear that rebellion is spreading.”Natalie Cox, a spokeswoman for the Mountain Valley Pipeline, wrote in an email that the company is committed to “responsible construction” of the pipeline. “We respect opponents’ right to peacefully and lawfully protest. At the same time, however, it is important to note that all work for the MVP project has been authorized by federal and state agencies, and the Virginia DEQ has imposed on MVP the most stringent oversight of a natural gas pipeline project in the department’s history,” Cox wrote.The stand-off on Bent Mountain became the focal point for media attention through April and early May chiefly because the two tree-sitting women, Red and Minor Terry, were both charged with trespassing on their own land—albeit in a place to which MVP had been awarded possession by courts. A judge eventually ordered the Terrys to descend, but their two-month vigil won them support not just from environmentalists but also from property rights advocates.Photo: Will solisCan the tree sits stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline? Anti-pipeline activists hold out hope that a judge will intervene in the Mountain Valley Pipeline through one of the half-dozen remaining court cases, or that the Virginia State Water Control Board blocks it by denying permits under the federal Clean Water Act, as New York did in 2016 to successfully block the Constitution Pipeline. Some think the MVP’s parent company, the Pittsburgh-based EQT, might back down under market pressure if the price of gas falls. These are longshots, at least based on previous history.The tree sits and accompanying media coverage, however, have changed the pipeline conversation in Appalachia. Virginia’s state legislature killed every piece of substantial pipeline-related legislation in the opening months of 2018, but since the tree sits began, more state lawmakers have spoken out against the pipelines. This is how political change begins to happen, as elected officials follow the grassroots.The coalition may not ultimately stop the Mountain Valley Pipeline, but a growing number of people are finding common ground over shared concerns for property rights, protection of a clean environment, and the energy future of the nation.The Mountain Valley Pipeline tree sits have energized a new group of activists in Appalachia and changed how people think about natural gas pipelines. And as of this moment, three people still remain stationed in the canopy— two on Peters Mountain (counting Nutty on her monopod) near the A.T. and one in Franklin County. The tree-sitters aren’t done yet.
Rayland Baxter sounds enlightened—lyrically and sonically—on his new album, Wide Awake. On previous efforts, the Nashville-based singer-songwriter, who’s toured with the Lumineers and the Head and the Heart, delivered wise observations with loose Americana grace, but this time he tightened his focus and crafted taut, vintage pop songs with shimmering Beatles-esque hooks. Baxter started the record by moving into an old tire factory turned studio in rural Kentucky, where he wrote intensely in isolation. There he came up with topical songs, sharing his take on gun control (“79 Shiny Revolvers”) and debt (“Casanova”) with sly humor and heartfelt optimism.When it was time to record, Baxter teamed up with producer Butch Walker and assembled a dynamic backing band that included Cage the Elephant’s Nick Bockrath and Dr. Dog drummer Eric Slick to fulfill his vision. He muses on the shaky state of the world with the resilience of a positive groove. Tell me about your writing retreat at the old factory in Kentucky.Around Halloween of 2016, I moved into my buddy’s recording studio that he, at that point, was just building piece by piece. I lived in there for three months; I had a bed, a Wurlitzer, and an old 1950s Gibson guitar that my dad gave me. I started writing, all day every day.I remember when I first started listening to Bob Dylan, and learning about how he would hole up in the Chelsea Hotel. That focused process worked for a lot of my favorite writers, and it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I like my time alone. This record is more political than your past work. How did that thread in your writing start?The news channel was always on in the kitchen, so at first I was checking in on the Cubs winning the World Series. Then (after the Presidential election) this whole shift of power went down, and I noticed this rage but also people trying to come together with acceptance and love. I started analyzing my own thoughts and writing about them. That gets to the album title, Wide Awake. I wanted to write songs about some topical issues, but also just become a better songwriter. At the same time the musical arrangements are upbeat and pop-driven. That came when I was writing. I decided I wanted to make simple pop-form songs that people could carry around and not lose in a confusing chord progression. That was my focus, and then the great group of musicians I worked with made it happen. Butch Walker, who produced and played bass, is a singer-songwriter himself. Eric Slick is an incredible drummer who really got behind the groove of the rhythm guitar I set in the song demos. Everyone knew how to service the songs and lift them up. Did you find some personal resolution by the end of the album, hence the closer, “Let It All Go Man”? I think we all lose sight of the purpose of being a human being. It’s not to make money or voice our opinions on the Internet. The true purpose is to see the world for the beautiful thing that it is. It’s nice to appreciate a sunset dipping behind the mountains, or at least to find something like that every day. That song really is about an approach—a mentality. Your dad, Bucky Baxter, appears on the album. Did his past work as a guitarist with the greats like Dylan and Steve Earle influence you when you were growing up?It does now. When I was a kid I knew it was cool, but I wasn’t really concerned with all that. As time has gone on, I’ve really started to appreciate it. Now when I go back and listen to a Dylan album with my dad on it, I feel a different connection to the music. It adds more fuel to the fire for what I’m doing now. You’ve mentioned in the past that you’re into the outdoors. These days, how do you like to stretch your legs in between tour stops?On my off days I like to paddle down a river or take really long walks. When I’m home in Nashville, my family has secluded property outside of the city where I go fishing with my pops.Rayland Baxter headlines the first night of the Devils Backbone Hoopla Festival in Roseland, Va. (September 28).