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How to Fight the Big Wind Onslaught
Calvin Luther Martin, January 2009
Yesterday I turned 61. I've been fighting the wind bastards well over 4 years. Four years devoted to almost nothing else. Put a big book on hold with Yale Univ. Press for this. In those years I've answered thousands of emails from people around the world. Japan. Cyprus. Norway. Sweden. Czechoslovakia. Australia. New Zealand. Ireland. England. Wales. France. Canada. Many states of the Union. On and on.
In those years (which included years of fighting the wind thugs in three or four different iterations) in my backyard and beating the sons of bitches (at least for now), I've learned some valuable lessons. I oughta write a book. Consider this the first installment of that book.
I am no longer an academic. I'm a writer. Writers write to convey something in the most appropriate language for the matter at hand. For wind energy the most appropriate language is profanity, vulgarity, and obscenity. The louder the better. These are not honorable people. Wind energy is not an honorable enterprise.
Big Wind is obscene, profane, and vulgar.
Okay, rough draft of book:
Chapter 1. Courtesy doesn't work.
Chapter 2. Questions don't work. Stop going to meetings and asking questions. Problem is, you're asking questions of the wind sharks. This is akin to the hens asking questions of the foxes who are about to pounce on the henhouse. Wake up!
Second, stop expressing your concerns at meetings. Weenie word. Your biggest rhetorical enemy in this fight is this word, concerns. Drop it! The media (see below) loves to describe you as concerned. ("The hens expressed some concerns to the foxes.") Screw concerned and start getting angry and defiant. And stop asking the windies questions and start informing them of the fact they and their goddam monster turbines and substations are not welcome in town. This is the your conversation with them: Get the hell out of Dodge!
Chapter 3. Real evidence doesn't work. The wind sharks fabricate their own, using whorish little companies to perform noise measurements and do environmental impact studies, including bird and bat studies. Companies often consisting of four guys with sweaty balls and BS degrees from nondescript bullshit state colleges, from which they graduated three years ago. But they've got a website and stationery and PO Box -- and they're rarin' to get those permits for Big Wind. Give me a break!
Chapter 4. Meetings with state senators, governors, premiers, department heads, county commissioners, the media, other various and assorted lawmakers -- don't work.
Chapter 5. Following the rules at public meetings does not work. The meetings are (a) a charade, (b) a farce, (c) a hoax, and (d) altogether a mockery of public participation. The fix has already been made, the deal bought and paid for. Refuse to be silenced by Robert's Rules of Order. Screw Roberts! Major Henry Martyn Robert never had to abandon his home to a wind turbine!
Chapter 6. Lawsuits don't work. They might appear to initially, but ultimately, at some level of court, they fail. With very few exceptions, lawyers and lawsuits are a waste of time, money, and mostly strategic advantage. You're barking up the wrong tree with a lawyer. Your town board and county commissioners are poised and prepared for you to take them on legally; they've got attorneys on retainer and they can swallow you whole in the byzantine legal process.
Don't bother going down that road. Dr. Martin Luther King (see below) didn't use lawyers. Neither did Gandhi, who was a trained lawyer. Wrong strategy. If you think the Big Wind Onslaught is not on the scale of a Gandhi and King, but just a minor issue -- think again. I suggest you do some reading on the English Enclosure Movement. Look for parallels. The Big Wind Onslaught is a big deal. Stop imagining otherwise. This from a (retired) professional historian (see attached c.v.).
Chapter 7. Wind energy is bullshit. Nitwits who begin their case by telling the local newspaper, "Well, Gee, we fully support renewable energy, including wind energy, and we feel wind turbines are marvelous so long as they're placed in the right spot" -- nitwits who start off their campaign with this are doomed. Wind energy, folks, is horseshit. From beginning to end. Fairy Godmother economics. Right up there with the Easter Bunny. This is 4.5 years of reading thousands of documents, yes, much of it on the physics and economics of wind energy. (By the way, my BA is in science and I did several years of graduate training in hard core science. Science doesn't scare me.) Wind energy, when subjected to Physics 101, falls apart. It's laughable. Buy a textbook in introductory physics. Start reading.
Chapter 8. Wind energy works because of (a) carbon credits (an unspeakable scam), (b) federal and state subsidies of various sorts, (c) a slow bleed from your monthly energy bill (check it out), (d) PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) arrangements with communities, and (e) huge tax write-offs for wind investors, including big Wall Street banks. It does not work because it is economically feasible -- it's not -- or because it produces meaningful electricity -- it does not. And if I hear that it "gets us off foreign oil" I'm gonna scream. For that statement, you need not a beginning physics text, you need your head examined.
Chapter 9. Wind energy companies are bullshit. I guarantee you, you know virtually nothing about that wind company that's been schmoozing your town board. You know nothing about their financial records, background, credit, or trustworthiness. Nothing. In fact, you know nothing about 98% of their personnel, including what they like to call the Principals. (You will love the pretentious names they bestow on themselves.) These people just drop out of the sky -- like snake oil salesmen in the Old West. No different. They're carnies, carpet baggers, grifters, and cons. All of 'em. Including more than a few Enron re-treads. Amazing, in fact, how many are from Ireland. (I'm Irish.) To treat these people with respect is hilarious. Like treating the Three Stooges-who-turn-out-to-be-your executioner with respect. One more thing: most of these companies are 200% leveraged (no money of their own).
Chapter 10. Most of the jerks who sign wind leases either (a) don't live there, or (b) if they do, their property's big enough they make sure those turbines are next to your house, not theirs, or (c) they're so stupid and such losers and so desperate for money they'd sell their first-born for several grand a year. Successful, smart farmers don't sign wind leases. Except for a slight modification. It's called the Domino Principle. It's insidious. Consider Farmer Brown. He's smart, he's successful. But he's surrounded by Farmers Jones, Smith, and Martin -- all of whom are losers and pikers. Jones, Smith, and Martin have signed on with the windies. Brown realizes he's gonna be looking at these damn things and listening to them whether he "hosts" them or not. So he turns to Hortense, the wife, "Jeez honey, we might as well have a couple and make some money, too, since we're gonna have to be dealing with these friggin things anyhow." Nasty, yes. Remember, it's called the Domino Principle. Windies play this game every day. It's their favorite strategy for winning the hearts and minds of the community.
Chapter 11. We need to take a look at Economics 101. This is a long one. I apologize. America (insert any nation here, as you wish) is in a profound recession. Profound in the sense it has exposed a systemic, structural flaw within the nation's economy. A strong argument can be made that America's economy has for decades (probably since WWII) run on "bubbles." Perhaps it would be more accurate to say the "bubble" ratio in the overall economy has grown since WWII.
The most recent bubble, the housing bubble, accounted for a surprisingly large part of the nation's economy. To wit, people used their homes as piggy banks, and Wall Street rode this bubble (mixing metaphors, but we'll let it pass).
My point is for you to notice that at the bottom of a bubble is something which appears to have real value. Your house. Or that house you're thinking of buying over there and which you know will increase dramatically in value, real quick. (Remember, the USA no longer has a gold standard, so gold ain't it.) There was a whole financial sand castle built on the back of your house. But, alas, the sea inexorably came in and washed away the sand castle (Wall Street, mortgage lenders like Countrywide Financial), and your house has gone back to being worth far less than you dreamed it was. (Or your house is on its way to readjusting to its more realistic value. May not have reached that level yet.)
Now listen. We need another thing that gives the appearance of value. That seems tangible, solid, ubiquitous, and can somehow enter the nation's financial account, funny numbers, Enron-esque imagination, and bizarre Wall Street lingo. And, on the back of this New Basis of Bubble we will build the Next Big Bubble.
I'm here to strongly suggest that your property value has become, and is becoming, the basis of the Next Big Bubble.
Consider Barbara Ashbee, in rural Ontario. You can read about her plight on the windturbinesyndrome.com website. Barbara's a realtor, which makes this story even more poignant. Barbara and husband Dennis are just like you and me: our major investment is in our home and property. Notice this: she just had her property value stolen from her. Bam, just like that. Her property, to her, is now nearly worthless. Same with Daniel d'Entremont (Nova Scotia), Gerry Meyer (Wisconsin), Jane and Julian Davis (England), Charlie Porter (Missouri), Cheryl LeClair (New York State), and so on. Hundreds of people? Nope, thousands. Or more.
Now, think: Who just gained from Barbara Ashbee's loss? The wind developer. Worthless wind power and worthless turbines have now acquired something worthwhile and real, something tangible, something that gives the appearance of value -- the value of your property (even though you are not "hosting" turbines) and, even more so, the value of "host" properties.
More than this, wind companies now control the value of whole communities. Churubusco, NY (next door to me), Chateaugay, NY (next door to me), Bellmont, NY (next door to me), Ellenburg, NY (next door to me), Altona, NY (next door to me). All these communities have become (or are becoming) industrial wastelands -- in my eyes and yours. But not so for wind developers and their stockholders and the banks that own them: this is now financially controlled and financially-manipulable land. Read those lease contracts.
Even without a contract your property value plunges when turbines go up in your community. Land use has now changed from "lovely rural bucolic I want to live here and raise my kids it's so quiet and nights are dark and magical we've farmed this land for eight generations and I want to pass it on to my kids" to "I can't stand living here I hate these turbines the noise drives me nuts and the spinning blades are horrible and the whole landscape looks surreal and nobody in his right mind would move here and my kids won't live here when they grow up and dear God I pray the developer buys me out."
In Enron and Wall Street economics, the value of your community -- a value that has now shifted to Enron-spawned wind companies and Wall Street banker control -- is something that can be traded, bought and sold, reassigned, financially speculated in, financially gambled with, sold as hedge funds, investments, preferred stock.
I'll stop with this, since it gives you the gist of what I believe is happening. I admit I don't have the details worked out fully, and one can certainly make corrections and additions and refinements to my argument, but I suspect you, dear reader, are creating the basis for the next bubble. The Renewable Energy Bubble (read, Wind Bubble), built on the stolen value of your land and your town's value.
Anyhow, ponder this and consider that this forms yet another reason to stop being polite and cordial and reasonable with the wind/Wall Street sharks. Wall Street: You don't believe me that big banks are heavily invested in that cutely-named wind company that's moved into town? Better look harder, buddy.
Chapter 12. Given the last chapter, why on earth do you think any lawmaker or other government official or agency is going to listen to your pleas about not building wind turbines in your backyard? Are you nuts? Wind energy is the perfect storm, as I keep saying: it's our solution to Global Warming, The Energy Crisis, Jobs, The Economy, The Recession, Environmentalism, Foreign Oil, General Electric's Bottom Line, and Fill-in-the-Blank. (Note to Barbara Ashbee: Wind energy is the answer to Ontario Premier McGuinty's most fervent wish and fantasy. Even Obama, clearly an intelligent man, has embraced Big Wind with the devotion of a Born Againer.)
One of the problems with nukes, by the way, is that they don't provide a basis for a New Bubble: nuclear plants don't rob millions of people of the value of their land, which land the wind developers in a weird sense now control (for trading and investment purposes).
I have been paying attention to the feverish activity of little wind companies going around and snapping up "wind leases" even as the bum economy prevents them from building "wind farms," as yet, on those properties. One company in particular, whom I won't name, has been working New England and the Midwest (now Minnesota) even as this company, to our eyes, appears to be bankrupt. Hmmm. Interesting.
(Here's a tip to anyone unscrupulous reading this: Wanna get in on the ground floor of The Next Bubble? Form a bullshit wind energy company and start buying up wind leases which, I believe, also control underground rights. There you get into natural gas and fracking. Fracking? Look it up and be prepared to be horrified. Fracking is now about to move to the Marcellus Shale, NY State and indeed much of the Appalachian region, from the West and Southwest.)
Okay. What works, and the only thing that's going to work, is . . .
Chapter 13. Civil disobedience. Use it imaginatively, floridly, boisterously, loudly, and as obnoxiously, extravagantly, creatively, and brilliantly as you possibly can. Start this weekend.
Here is exactly what I mean by civil disobedience. Signs, placards, banners, handbills, marches, demonstrations, picketing, shutting down public meetings both large and small and both high falutin' and low falutin', shouting matches, getting arrested for refusing to shut up and sit down. As Rosa Parks did, when she sparked the Civil Rights movement: you need to refuse to give up your seat to the wind bastard on the bus. Do this with the wind sharks and your town officers, all the way up to state and federal government.
Here is exactly what I don't mean by civil disobedience: Breaking the law. Nor am I advocating violence. I detest violence. For me, violence is not only illegal; it's abhorrent, it's inelegant, and nothing can be stupider. It accomplishes nothing good. Ever. I say this as a former professor of history. I stand with Gandhi and M.L. King on this matter. My sympathies lie with Quakers, not jihadists.
I believe in working within the system, and the system includes the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution. "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
This is all you need. Add in the right to vote, by the way. Working within these parameters, apply what Martin Luther King in his letter from the Birmingham jail called direct action.
"The purpose of our direct action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation .... Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action .... It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored .... My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth."
None of the public agencies and bureaucracies will take seriously any of your marvelous evidence about the follies and dangers of wind energy (including Nina Pierpont's, or Rick James's, or Glenn Schleede's, or God's for that matter) until -- à la Martin Luther King -- you demonstrate to them that they are going to have to take your evidence seriously.
The operative word is demonstrate. This is not done by reason or argument or a sense of fairness or justice. Sorry to disillusion you, and sorry to shoot down one of the cornerstones of academia: that "the truth will set you free" and "reason prevails over ignorance." Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King all knew the vital word in their struggle was demonstrate.
Dr. King had plenty of sociological and economic and constitutional and statutory and even theological evidence in his briefcase -- but it was going nowhere until he showed Alabama and the nation and the US Attorney General and Congress: "Ladies and gentlemen, we are all going to take my evidence of racism and Jim Crow and lynching and economic and political harassment and general disfranchisement very seriously, okay? And to drive home my point that you whities are gonna take the evidence seriously, we colored folks are gonna get in your face about it until you take us seriously."
It's precisely for this that he wound up in the Birmingham jail.
Let me rephrase. You can have all the Nina Pierponts and Rick James and Glenn Schleedes you want, yet they amount to nothing if you have failed to convince your audience (lawmakers) that they are going to have to take this seriously. This is the role of civil disobedience. Reason, meetings, arguments, fairness, justice: reliance on these will not and does not work. Civil disobedience. King's "direct action." Nonviolent tension that's "so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door" to being listened to. This is the route to follow.
The wind developers and their shills? You will never convince them. They are not your audience. Don't make the blunder of imagining them to be your audience, and don't argue with them. Cut them out of the discourse! Don't rise to them! The people whom you need to impress with your nonviolent tension are not the developers; it's the lawmakers.
By the way, stop reading wind developer websites. These carpetbaggers are not your audience: I can't emphasize this enough. It's like reading the handbills distributed by snake oil salesmen at 19th-century carnivals. Why bother? For entertainment, yes. But for truth, use your brain. As in, "If it smells like a turd and looks like a turd and tastes like a turd, chances are it is." Likewise, "if it sounds almost too good to be true: it is."
The media? Simpering assholes who have all gone with the wind. (Don't you love it when they interview the smilin' smirkin' salesman sayin' "Them turbines, folks -- why them turbines is gonna electrify 35,000 American homes" -- except nobody mentions it's only if the wind's blowing 25-35 mph 24/7, 365 days a year. That's my all-time favorite line, right after "Don't you worry 'bout them turbines and noise. No louder than a hummin' 'frigerator, and God's my witness!" Newspaper reporters always fall for this crap. Always. Everywhere.)
Anyhow, media. This is where you need to place large, costly, frequent ads in the local newspaper. And start your own website.
You've got your facts, your figures, your data. What you don't have is civil disobedience. Till you do, your facts, including your Wind Turbine Syndrome facts, are valueless. Remember M.L. King. He knew his facts (Jesus, he even had the law on this side!) were worthless until he began marching and picketing and getting in their face.
Whether you call it civil disobedience or direct action, I suggest that before you begin, check with your local police department and find out the local regulations on peaceful demonstration. (Matters like not blocking public access, not blocking automobile traffic, etc.) If you need a permit, get one. Police and the courts are not your enemy. Police, the law, and the courts are not the issue; the issue is demonstrating to lawmakers that your evidence and your plight must be taken seriously.
Second, when elections come round in November, it is essential you run anti-Wind candidates for town board, county legislature, state senator, etc. But mostly town board. Work within the electoral process: it works! To elect these people means you're going to have to do a lot of leg work and advertising. Lots of door to door. Pamphlets. Leaflets. Public meetings to meet the candidates. It works.
Many people seem to think the Big Wind Onslaught doesn't call for such measures. People are being driven from their homes, and made ill besides -- and they don't seem to think these measures are appropriate. They write letters to bureaucrats. They speak politely at town meetings where the Wind Mafia are "presenting." These thugs need to be shouted down. These meetings need to be legally obstructed to the point where they can't function.
Best of all -- ready for this? -- get arrested. Before TV cameras: arrested. Hundreds of you. Old ladies, ministers, college professors and deans, doctors. Arrested. Little kids too. Then, watch to see how the county commissioners and the conniving lawyers -- watch how they come around. It's miraculous how they change.
Big Wind is being given a free pass to destroy communities and lives and homes and health. Pretend these assholes are Martians, with little antennae and a Mother Ship parked somewhere, and they're taking over your community. (When you survey an operating windplant, the analogy is not far fetched.) What would you do then? Still discuss the matter politely with your county commissioners and health commissioner and department of environmental conservation and town board? Still "follow the usual channels"?
Hell no! You'd take to the barricades and the streets and shout to these commissioners, "Hey, wake up! We've been invaded!"
My apologies for being cranky. I've been playing games with wind bullshit for too many years. I've seen too many sheep led to the slaughter. Sheep now have to take up the instruments of civil disobedience. Otherwise sheep is toast. (Mixing metaphors again.)
One last time: What doesn't work in this mass movement (which I've outlined above in caricature) is polite discourse. Nor do letters to politicians berating them for not doing "their job." Their job! Their job? Their job, dear reader, is to promote big business and big ideas and panaceas. That's their job. To think otherwise is naïve.
Politicians hate (make that HATE) public demonstrations. Nothing worse. They hate marches and banners and slogans and placards and picketing. The television crew arrives with cameras rolling, the klieg lights suddenly switch on, and the town board, minister of the environment, county commissioner, state senator -- writhe.
Consider Barbara Ashbee's home. It's worthless. Toxic. She's a realtor; she knows better than I that she could not give away her home. Nor can she bear to live in it. She's now in the horrible world of the d'Entremonts: Abandonment.
Abandon your home: that's really the only option for many people, isn't it? Or get bought out by the so-called developer. (Isn't there a more appropriate name for people who do this to you?)
Big Wind picks you off, one township at a time. Like shooting fish in a barrel.
So, what have you got left? You've got your pen, you've got your voice, your wits, and your anger. Use them effectively.
Calvin Luther Martin
Ph.D. (History) 1974 University of California, Santa Barbara
Author, Keepers of the Game: Indian-Animal Relationships and the Fur Trade (California 1978). Winner of the American Historical Association's Albert J. Beveridge Award 1979 for the "best book of the year in American History." Subject of Shepard Krech, ed., Indians, Animals, and the Fur Trade: A Critique of Keepers of the Game (Georgia 1981).
Editor, The American Indian and the Problem of History (Oxford 1987)
Author, In the Spirit of the Earth: Rethinking History and Time (Johns Hopkins 1992)
Author, The Way of the Human Being (Yale 1999). Winner of the Westchester County Library System's Anne Izard Storyteller's Choice Award 2000. See Calvin Luther Martin, Insanin Yolu, Turkish trans. by Ayse Sirin Okyayuz Yener (Phoenix 2002).
Author, The Language of Wildness (Yale, probably. Slowly forthcoming)
Hartwick College, assistant professor 1974
Rutgers University, assistant professor 1975, associate professor (with tenure) 1978
Queen's University (Kingston, Canada), visiting professor 1978
Dartmouth College, visiting professor summer 1983
Alaska (Native) Moravian Seminary (Bethel, Alaska), visiting professor 1995-1996
Hartwick College, Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the Humanities, 2000-2003
Newberry Library Center for the History of the American Indian 9/73-6/74
Henry E. Huntington Library, summer 1976
Henry E. Huntington Library, June 1980
National Endowment for the Humanities, July and August 1980
National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Fellowship 7/81-6/82
John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship 7/82-6/83
American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship 7/86-6/87