“Alice in Wonderland” – as a meticulous depiction of a very bad dream, the book is a bit of a slog for the normal reader. But we’re not normal here in Windham and haven’t been since Big Wind, in the form of Spanish mega-corporation Iberdrola, came to our town.
For many of us, the book is a vivid portrait of daily life. Like Alice we inhabit a disorienting, chaotic dimension. Time and space are altered. We are either very, very big, or very, very small. Nutty despots play crazy games with us, and we can’t know the rules. Logic and ethics stand on their heads. In fact, Alice’s trials are astonishingly like our own.
Distortion of time: Alice enters a rabbit hole and falls for years, giving her plenty of time to apprehend the unutterable strangeness of her situation. Us too. Although in 2012 Iberdrola declared they would seal our fates in a matter of months, we’ve had over four years to suffer the profound transformation of our stable world into its opposite: plenty of time to notice that property values and maintenance are meaningless, given the threatened installation of 20 mammoth energy factories nearby; plenty of time for hints, fabrications, and veiled promises and threats to turn friends into people we barely recognize; plenty of time to wonder at our powerlessness, while being told that we can just vote the threat away, on Iberdrola’s terms and Iberdrola’s timetable; plenty of time to consider that, voting it away, we open ourselves to an endless chain of new battles with new developers, stretching into eternity. Eternity? Surely, we’ve already lived it.
Dealing with despots and crazy games: Like Alice, we’re on our own. For Alice, a menacing chess match with the Red Queen; for us, Iberdrola’s proposal, presented, after nearly four years, as an opening move in a high-stakes game, in which our town must create our own “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, we can hire a lawyer and experts (price 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 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.
Logic and ethics: The codes we live by are turned on their heads. Alice has a strong code of manners and morals; freakish sadists interrogate her in order to prove her code’s nonexistence. We have our town plan, costing us years to develop, based on careful study and the advice of land-use experts, required by the state, admired by regional planners.
The logic of its development and its place at the heart of our ordered community are declared nonexistent by our freakish sadists, Iberdrola and its backers at the state level. As for ethics, our town leaders refuse to support a project that will almost certainly result in increased flooding for our downstream neighbors, in our flood-prone region. As you might imagine, this is an ethical consideration without merit in Wonderland.
So if you live in Vermont and either empathize with your fellow citizens, or have both a ridgeline and a power line nearby, you might want to read Alice. In the first case it might help you care about us. In the second, it is a primer for what your life will be like when the wind developers come, as they almost certainly will, to your town.
Nancy Tips is a resident of Windham.
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