Turbine foes fight ‘the good fight’
By KATE DUBINSKI, The London Free Press
AILSA CRAIG – The videographer’s camera clicks off, the reporter lowers her microphone and thanks the company spokesperson for the interview.
But someone else has also been taking video of the encounter — a boy, no more than 14-years-old, one of a half-dozen protesters who make sure the company line is recorded for future reference.
In this small community, the big fight against wind turbine projects is on — and everyone, down to the kids taking pictures and whistling at company experts, is involved.
“Sure, everyone is stomping their feet right now but we’re at this 24-7,” said Patti Keller, whose home overlooks the planned NextEra Bornish wind farm that is being opposed here.
“We’re fighting the good fight.”
In London, city council and other public meetings bring out the same smattering of devoted local activists and protesters.
Here, people say their rural and small-town way of life is being challenged by a company that refuses to listen.
And they’re determined to be heard.
They might look like regular farmers and townspeople, but they’ve done their homework ahead of this open house, one in a series NextEra is holding about its proposed 50-turbine Bornish wind farm near Parkhill.
One man has printed out a lease agreement landowners sign with NextEra and has specific questions about several clauses.
Another woman is quizzing a company environmental expert about bird and bat migration patterns.
Someone else is taking an official to task about land measurements that don’t add up in several reports.
Others are wondering if a just-announced Health Canada study about the health effects of turbines will delay the project.
“NextEra go home! NextEra get out!” one woman starts to chant, and the crowd chimes in.
Carrying a giant Canadian flag, Charmaine Kirk and Stan Franjkovic wander through the outdoor picnic pavilion NextEra was forced to hold the meeting in because the Ailsa Craig Recreation Centre was rented by protesters determined to make this open house as difficult as possible for the company.
“Stop harming our children! We want nothing to do with you,” they chant before launching into a rousing rendition of O Canada.
The fight against the Bornish wind turbine project, near Parkhill in North Middlesex, is being run by ordinary citizens, but they could pass for seasoned protesters.
Not trusting NextEra to give them straight answers — or the same answer twice, some say — they record everything.
They’ve built a device they say replicates the shadow flicker of turbines. They’ve got studies they say prove turbines cause vertigo, seizures and a host of other health problems. They call the company’s “Community Vibrancy Fund” that gives the municipality part of the revenues from megawatt output “hush money.”
The opposition to wind farms is fierce because they threaten a way of life, said Esther Wrightman, a spokesperson for the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Action group.
Because the giant turbines are going up in rural areas, it’s farmers and those who live in small towns that are most affected. Those in bigger cities, like London, don’t really see a need to concern themselves with what’s going on in the outskirts, Wrightman said.
“Most people are pretty educated locally. In the cities, not so much, but locally they know their stuff,” she said.
“They want to put 150 turbines in our little township of 3,000 people. It will decimate our township and what we do. If one person gets sick in my family, our family business, our family farm is done for, because we’d have to leave. That’s what it comes down to.”
NextEra brought about 20 experts to Tuesday’s open house to answer residents’ questions, including wind power experts in sound, construction, natural resources, politics, archeology, aboriginal affairs and health.
There was about one company expert for every citizen in the picnic pavilion at Tuesday’s open house. The next open house about the project is being held Wednesday. This time, it will be held indoors.