“But we’re not normal down here in Windham, and haven’t been since Big Wind”
Windham in Wonderland.
This commentary is by Nancy Tips, who is a member of Friends of Windham.
Have you read Lewis Carroll’s books about Alice recently? “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass” are meticulous depictions of very bad dreams. As such, they present a bit of a challenge to normal readers. But we’re not normal down here in Windham, and haven’t been since Big Wind, in the form of Spanish mega-corporation Iberdrola, came our way. For many of us, these books are a vivid portrait of daily life. Like Alice, we inhabit a disorienting, chaotic dimension, where time and space are altered. We are either very, very big, or very, very small. Nutty despots play crazy games with us, and we aren’t able to know the rules. Logic and ethics stand on their heads. In fact, Alice’s trials are astonishingly like our own.
Take the distortion of time. Alice enters a rabbit hole and falls and falls and falls. She falls for years, giving her plenty of time to apprehend the unutterable strangeness of her situation. Us too: in 2012 Iberdrola declared they would know in a matter of months whether or not to put wind turbines in our town; instead we had nearly four years of not knowing, during which we suffered the profound transformation of our stable world into its opposite. Four years gave us plenty of time to notice that property values and property maintenance are meaningless, given the threatened installation of 20 mammoth energy factories nearby. It was plenty of time for hints, rumors, fabrications, and veiled promises and threats to turn friends into people we barely recognize. It has been plenty of time for us to wonder at our powerlessness, while being told that we can just vote the threat away, on Iberdrola’s terms and Iberdrola’s timetable; and plenty of time to consider that, voting it away, we apparently open ourselves to an endless chain of new battles with new developers, stretching into eternity. Eternity? Surely we’ve already lived it.
And finally, there’s the question of logic and ethics. In Alice’s Wonderland and in ours too, the codes we have tried to live by are turned on their heads.
Then there’s Alice’s being compelled to stand by herself against deranged despots who force her into grotesque games. In “Through the Looking Glass,” Alice plays a menacing game of chess with the erratic Red Queen; the rules of the game seem always out of her reach. For us, it’s Iberdrola’s turbine proposal, presented to us as the opening move in a high-stakes game. The rules of this game are likewise unknowable: until recently we didn’t even realize that Iberdrola’s proposal was a maneuver. Instead we imagined that it represented the corporation’s true intention. Now, although we don’t really know, it appears that perhaps it was a disingenuous feint; that our town is supposed to “negotiate;” that we are expected to create “setbacks” and “noise standards” and demand that Iberdrola adhere to them, ignoring our opponent’s experience, size and wealth and our own lack of same. Alternatively, perhaps we should hire a lawyer and experts (fees estimated to start at $100,000, according to one experienced negotiator) and turn our fate over to them. Only in a nightmare would a state invite mega-corporations to assault its villages, and then expect each village to develop a nuanced and successful defense entirely on its own and at its own expense. Perhaps, like Alice, we will eventually wake up from this dreadful dream.
And finally, there’s the question of logic and ethics. In Alice’s Wonderland and in ours too, the codes we have tried to live by are turned on their heads. Alice’s code involves manners and morals; the freakish sadists of Wonderland interrogate and abuse her in order to prove her code’s non-existence. In Windham, our logic and ethics are codified in our town plan. Among many other provisions designed to benefit the town and the region, our plan prohibits industrial wind installation in our forested land. This plan is no ordinary assembly of ideas: it cost us years to develop; it is based on careful study and the advice of land-use experts; it was required by the state and admired by regional planners. But our own freakish sadists, Iberdrola and its Montpelier cronies, have declared non-existent the logic of our plan’s development and its place at the heart of our orderly community. As for ethics, our town leaders refuse to support an industrial installation that will almost certainly result in increased flooding for our downstream neighbors, in our flood-prone region. As you might imagine, this ethical consideration is little more than a ponderous joke in the amoral, unprincipled Wonderland in which we’ve been forced to live.
So, if you want to understand and empathize with the plight of certain Vermonters, you might want to read “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass.” If you are unfortunate enough to live in Vermont anywhere near a ridgeline and a powerline, you will definitely want to read these books. They will serve as a primer on what your life will be like when the wind developers come, as they almost certainly will, to your town.