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Supporters assisted Will Elwell with his construction of the post-and-beam cabin along the Kinder Morgan pipeline route in Ashfield, Mass., on Wednesday. (Photo: Enviro Show/Facebook)

'What Would Thoreau Do?' Community Builds Replica of Walden Pond Cabin to Block Pipeline

The timber-frame cabin becomes a 'symbol of resistance' to Kinder Morgan pipeline in Massachusetts

Nika Knight Beauchamp

"The authority of government... is still an impure one: to be strictly just, it must have the sanction and consent of the governed."

Inspired by such lines from Henry David Thoreau's 1849 essay "Civil Disobedience," a local timber-frame builder in Ashfield, Massachusetts, has constructed a replica of the author's Walden Pond cabin directly in the path of a proposed Kinder Morgan fracked gas pipeline, The Recorder reported this week.

"In relation to this pipeline, the will of the people is not really being listened to," explained the builder, Will Elwell, to the local newspaper. "We’re just getting bombarded and railroaded through without [officials] being empathetic to our concerns."

"If you read some of Thoreau’s work, some of the lines in there are pretty apropos to what’s happening these days to our government."
—Will Elwell
The natural gas pipeline has been fiercely opposed by local residents of the Berkshires, a region renowned for its natural beauty. The nearly $5 billion pipeline project would run through Ashfield, Conway, Shelburne, Deerfield, Montague, Erving, Northfield, and Warwick, The Recorder reported, where "there are wetlands, rivers, springs, farms and forests."

Local citizens' concerns range from breathing air released from compressor stations to noise pollution and the potential for disastrous pipeline breakages, according to the Berkshire Eagle.

In another show of opposition, a 200-person march sponsored by the local direct action resistance campaign Sugar Shack Alliance is currently taking place along the whole 53-mile pipeline path to protest its construction. The trek began Thursday and is estimated to take four days.

One protester told The Recorder that she chose to take part in the march because "corporate takeover of land protected by the state is not inevitable. We can’t continue to look at all this as inevitable; we have to take action."

Elwell finished constructing the 10-by-15-foot cabin on Wednesday. The construction was sanctioned by the town, whose selectboard members oppose the pipeline project, and even boasted a proper building permit sticker.

"We’re here doing our job—to oppose the pipeline," a selectboard member told The Recorder, which also reports that "the town adopted a resolution to oppose the controversial pipeline last year."

Another selectboard member recently asked town meeting members to approve spending $10 million on a legal fight to oppose the pipeline's construction, The Recorder reported.

Elwell told the newspaper, "I feel I have to do something. Ideally, I would love to see a structure along the pipeline everywhere it intersects a road."

Across the border in Monadnock, N.H., a small town the pipeline would also pass through, local citizen Coni Porter wondered in an op-ed, "What would Thoreau think?"

"I believe he would talk about a future not dependent on fossil fuels," Porter argued, "he would speak about the power of the sun, wind, and water."

"If you read some of Thoreau’s work, some of the lines in there are pretty apropos to what’s happening these days to our government," Elwell told The Recorder as he worked on his post-and-beam construction.

"Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect," Thoreau declared in 1849, "and that will be one step toward obtaining it."


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