Resistance, Acceptance, and Quiescence: The Role of Social Networks in Predicting Responses to a New Natural Gas Pipeline


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Mary Ann Liebert


As a wide body of social movements scholarship demonstrates, inaction in the face of environmental injustice is far more frequent than mobilization. Using the case of the Mountain Valley Pipeline – a highly controversial natural gas pipeline that has been under construction through the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia and West Virginia since 2018 – we ask: what conditions predict whether a person who has experienced negative quality-of-life impacts from this pipeline will take action or resign themselves to quiescence? Through our analysis of responses to a 92-question survey questionnaire that our team mailed to residents living in ten of the counties through which the Mountain Valley Pipeline is being constructed, we find that the most powerful predictors of quiescence are variables related to social networks. Among respondents reporting negative quality-of-life impacts from the pipeline, those with neighbors supporting the pipeline were nine times more likely to be quiescent, and those who were not sure how their neighbors felt about the pipeline were five times more likely to be quiescent. Likewise, those who had joined a social media group focused on stopping the pipeline were nine times more likely to take part in resistance actions than those who had not. We situate our findings within existing scholarship on social movements, which points to the centrality of social networks for predicting social movement participation and quiescence, while also adding nuance to discussions of neoliberalism and sites of acceptance.



quiescence, natural gas pipelines, social networks, power, social movements, Appalachia, Emerging Infectious Diseases, Vaccine Related, Prevention, Biodefense, Clinical Research, Behavioral and Social Science