“I realized that if people won’t even question the status quo when it comes to this issue, then it really requires further scrutiny and in fact would be a great reason to make a film,” said Laura Israel, director of the documentary Windfall.
In an effort to raise awareness and, perhaps, gain support from South Dundas residents not directly affected by Prowind Canada’s South Branch Wind Farm project, the South Branch Wind Opposition Group (SBWOG) held two showings of Israel’s award-winning film on February 5th at the DC Community Centre in Dixon’s Corners.
“Windfall,” said Israel, “is not an exposé about wind energy; it is a story about the experience of a community and how it is affected.”
The film, just under the 90 minute mark, demonstrated how divisive this issue can be for a community and its people. Neighbours and friends who once worked together, socialized together, or prayed together are now not speaking.
Leslie Disheau, a resident of the Brinston area and one of the spokespeople for the South Branch Wind Opposition Group, said, “the similarity of dividing the community in the Brinston area is happening now. We are seeing it in our church communities – the United Church and the Christian Reformed Church – more so than in the general population.”
According to Bruce Albers, another spokesperson for SBWOG, there are several parallels between Windfall events in Meredith, New York and events currently transpiring here in South Dundas, Ontario.
Albers said, “the parallels between the film and our situation are many:
•a government body is forcing the turbines onto the community;
•a large portion of the population is against having industrial wind turbines in their community;
•local government is not representing the residents, but rather the proponent;
•the tactics of the wind industry are the same – sign the land owner in secret, position the product as a benefit to the environment, and as benign in terms of impact on health and property value;
•both local governments have council members who have compromised objectivity due to their relationship with the proponent;
•residents are left to their own devices, having to band together to try and stop the project.”
“The divisiveness between members of the community is very real,” said Albers. Many people in our community are related, and those that are not related have worked together on each others farms as is common practice. As we (SBWOG) move forward and hold more meetings and events, more appearances at council, and more interviews in newspapers, the tension and divisions grow.”
SBWOG had hoped that more residents would turn out to watch the documentary. Unfortunately, the afternoon showing had only 25 visitors and the evening showing 10.
“I’m disappointed,” said Disheau, “there were people who said they were coming but did not. However, as one person in the afternoon audience pointed out, the division of the community and families has already begun.”
“People are not speaking out in fear of upsetting family, friends, neighbours and being seen as a troublemaker,” claimed Disheau.
“I foresee the death of our small community,” she continued, “ it is quite sad that both South Dundas council and Edwardsburg-Cardinal council have their heads in the sand and don’t want to see this issue.”
According to Disheau, “we were hoping this movie would have been part of a community open house hosted by the township, but that didn’t happen.”
“The movie supports our arguments and portrays the reality of what this kind of development does to a community. We employed it as a learning tool, but unfortunately the community didn’t take advantage of that.”
Local couple Cathy and Calvin Dentz, offered the following: “We think everyone who lives in SD&G and certainly those living in South Dundas should see the film, Windfall.”
“The documentary outlines the technical issues with these giant industrial machines, but, more importantly, we see how the town is divided,” said Cathy Dentz.
“The problem around here,” she continued, “is that most people either don’t know there is an industrial wind turbine planned for a field near them or they assume it won’t affect them. For us, we’ve heard the noise, we’ve seen the way these turbines dot the countryside in southern Ontario and we’ve heard sad stories about how they negatively impact the health of those living close by.”
Calvin Dentz, co-owner of Dentz Orchards and Berry Farm, said, “in Brinston and Dixon’s Corners, people have told us they don’t want a turbine in their backyard.”
“But,” he continued, “they are hesitant to say anything or even show up at a movie so as not to offend the farmers who are allowing Prowind to put the turbines up on their land. These landowners are their friends, their relatives and people they do business with.”
“Prowind never told the farmers their relationship with their neighbours would be changed forever when they signed contracts,” said Calvin, adding, “there are aspects of my farming operation that irritate my neighbours at certain times of the year as well as aspects of my neighbours operations that irritate me, but we all do our best to mitigate them.”
“When these industrial wind turbines go up they will be turning 365 days a year and there is nothing the landowner can do about them.”
“In the movie,” he continued, “we saw how neighbours who used to visit back and forth no longer speak to each other.”
“I have several farming friends in southern Ontario who are living with industrial wind turbines. Two of these families used to do everything together. Now they don’t associate because of the wind turbine issue in their community. It makes me sad that my friends no longer speak to each other.”
“The Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture both came out recently asking for a suspension or slow-down of wind turbine development because they are sacrificing the social fabric of rural communities,” said Calvin.
“One similarity we saw with the movie that is happening here,” he added, “is that people are not aware who has signed contracts with wind developers.”
“We know more wind turbine projects are in the works for Hulbert and Hallville, but have no idea where exactly the industrial wind turbines will be built and neither do the people they are going to be built beside.”
“Like the people in Meredith, New York, it’s hard to actively engage against something you don’t know is going to happen in a field near you,” stated Calvin Dentz.
Only one member of South Dundas council, Councillor Evonne Delegarde, turned out for the film on Sunday.
In response to Windfall, Delegarde offered: “The film was worth the viewing to compare differences and similarities between the Town of Meredith and our Township.”
“The two main points that popped out to me were: one, the Town of Meredith council had complete control over whether a wind farm was permitted in their community and subsequently the fallout from that decision whereas the provincial government has controlled wind turbine projects throughout our entire province and no decisions have been made at the municipal level; and two, the negative impact on relationships between friends, neighbours, family members, and even the church communities is very evident in these two municipalities.”
“As I stated at our last Council meeting I have no problem in fowarding the SBWOG’s concerns on to our local MPP who was also in attendance,” said Delegarde. “During the question period following the movie, it was very evident that the Opposition Group still has many unanswered questions for the provincial government.”
According to Disheau, “people need to really educate themselves on the economics of this ‘Green Engery’. Every taxpayer should be aware of why they can’t afford to live in Ontario anymore.”
“This ‘Green Energy’ and the subsidies (wind, solar, bio) that go along with it will increase our hydro bills for the whole population,” said Disheau. “So this wind ‘farm’ may not be in Morrisburg or Iroquois, but you will be dearly paying for it and, yes, you will see those from the St. Lawrence River. They are that big.”
According to Albers, the opposition group has retained a lawyer and is pursuing funding in an attempt to present their case before the Environmental Review Tribunal. Disheau added that SBWOG is now a “legitimate incorporated organization.”
As for where this ‘fight’ will lead, Disheau was very clear, “I will never give up,” she said, adding, “you have to have hope that everything you do will have an outcome and know that your efforts are not in vain.”
For those interested in the documentary, trailers and more information can be found on the official website at www.windfallthemovie.com. In addition, well-known film reviewer Roger Ebert has reviewed the film on his website, www.rogerebert.com.
The final 20 minutes of the film focus on the turbine-filled Tug Hill, New York where Israel and her crew stayed at the Flat Rock Inn for four days. According to Israel, “I was trying to show what it is like to live there and never see a view without turbines in it.”
“When you look out of any window in the Flat Rock Inn, you see turbines. When you look in the rear view mirror of your car, you see turbines. When you look at a reflection in a puddle, you see turbines. When I closed my eyes to go to sleep, I saw turbines spinning.”
“They’ve taken over the landscape,” she added.