Esther Wrightman feels like she is being evicted from her own home.
The woman who has been at the forefront of the anti-industrial wind turbine movement in Middlesex and Lambton County is moving to New Brunswick.
Wrightman, who heads up the Middlesex-Lambton Wind Concerns group and runs the Ontario Wind Resistance website, put up the for sale sign on her home Tuesday as workers from NextEra continue to put up wind turbines around her home just outside of Warwick. She says it was one of the toughest things she’s ever done. “You feel like you’ve been evicted,” says Wrightman who fears for the health of her family.
“I don’t think we had much of a choice here,” she says. “When you have people in your family with (pre-existing) health problems … you can’t risk it to stay … you have to leave.”
Wrightman has be in the forefront of the fight against a number of projects, including the Bornish and Adelaide projects by NextEra Energy which are right in her backyard. She went to the Ontario Energy Board to try to stop the company from building its transmission wires down the roads in her community, but lost. Now, crews are busy in the neighbourhood putting up one turbine after another.
“It really does make you want to throw up,” she says as she watches the turbines go up in the places which used to be dots on maps in NextEra’s plans. “I know these dots on these maps in my head now, after so many years now – where they are and who they effect … And then you see the dots ripped in the ground … yeah this is exactly what I had imagined. Somewhere in my mind there was a chance it wouldn’t happen … but now it’s holes and concrete … “This is what I thought would happen, but now its worse because it has happened.
“These companies have come in, they won’t be staying as people they’ll be staying as machines but you have to stay and suffer or you have to leave … That does make me angry.”
Wrightman says some of that anger has worn off as she plans to move her family to New Brunswick with her parents. New Brunswick isn’t pursuing wind energy so the family will take its nursery business to the province this summer and start again. The activist may have to return to Ontario. NextEra is suing Wrightman for libel after labeling the company as Next-Terror on line and on placards during some of the dozens of demonstrations she’s been part of. She’s not ready to walk away from that fight.
“They’ve taken my place, taken my home that I was so attached to, and five years of my life fighting,” she says. “I’m determined that they won’t take my right to speak out as a person. I’m determined they won’t take my happiness and they won’t take my health and the health of my family.”
But she admits they have taken away some very precious things – her sense of being rooted in a community and her faith in the political system. “I cannot put any faith in politicians at all … It’s a game and your pawns in their game,” says Wrightman who won’t stay in Ontario to see if an anticipated provincial election will change the situation.
Wrightman says she is concerned for the neighbours she leaves behind and the impression she may leave with others who are still fight projects in their neighbourhoods. “It does look somewhat that I’m pulling up stakes, leaving retreating. I don’t like how it looks. I’m sure the wind companies like it, “ she says. “Some people may say ‘you need to stay you have to stay and help,’ As much as I would like to stay and fight I can’t do that to my family.”
In the end, she says it is a personal choice to leave the province to protect the health of her family. “I’m a voice I’m a single person … this is what happens. We fought, we pushed them back,” she says adding she doesn’t know what to say to others continuing the fight. “When they ask, what could I do, I don’t even know what to tell them – fight government? Fight wind companies? I don’t know. Now, when the wind turbines are up its even harder – it’s almost impossible. They’re not coming down. “It’s a hard pill to swallow.”