A 71-year-old Albany woman has entered the second week of a hunger strike launched to protest what she calls the permanent destruction of the Lowell Mountain range in the name of industrial wind development.
Carol Irons, a retired mental health case worker whose home faces Lowell Mountain, began her hunger strike on October 13 and is consuming only water and juice. She says she's prepared to continue her fast "for as long as it takes" to stop the project. She insists her concerns have far less to do with the visual impact of the 21-turbine wind project than the effects on wildlife, public health and the environment. As someone with Abenaki heritage, Irons says it's crucial that Vermonters adhere to the Native American principle that all our decisions first consider the impact on seven generations of our descendants.
In May, Green Mountain Power got the green light from state regulators to start construction on a 63-megawatt-rated wind farm. The $163 million Kingdom Community Wind project was supported by about three-quarters of voters in the nearby town of Lowell. However, many people on the eastern side of the mountain range oppose the project for a variety of reasons, including the damage being done to the mountain in order to erect the turbines and service road.
Those opponents include a group of protesters camped on land owned by the project's most vocal critics, Shirley and Don Nelson. Yesterday, an Orleans County Superior Court judge upheld a temporary restraining order, obtained last week by GMP, that directs the campers to leave GMP's blasting zone for one hour before and after blasting is scheduled to occur.
Irons says that she's not strong enough to make the 40-minute hike up the Nelsons' property to join the mountaintop demonstrators, so this is her way of voicing her outrage.
"I can’t go up the mountain and run around. My legs just won't hold up," she says. "But we’ve all got to do what we can to get this stopped. I'm just feeling extremely strongly about this, and this is all I can do.
"If you do a little digging, you’ll see that GMP made a major contribution to Gov. Shumlin’s campaign, and as soon as he took office, he announced publicly that he was for this project," Irons adds. "This is a big international corporation paying money to a politician and they get their way made clear.”
Irons admits she's occasionally grown weak and lightheaded during her nine-day fast and says she sometimes has to stop her activities, which include stacking firewood and working in the garden. Nevertheless, she's consulted a health care professional about her fast and says she feels surprisingly strong.
"When I feel hungry, all I have to do is think about that mountain and what’s going on and I feel fine," Irons adds.
Recognizing that she may not continue to be up for granting interviews and explaining her actions, Irons issued the following written statement to explain her hunger strike:
It is time!
It is time for people who care to put it on the line. Every day now, the damage increases. Already a wetland has been destroyed, a wetland located within an obligated "conservation" area. A two-week "repair" cannot recover the aquatic life and plants which were so quickly smothered with that fill-in.
It is time to step outside the framework defined by officialdom, to serve officialdom, to enable (not regulate) big energy corporations. It is past time to turn to other strategies which officialdom cannot turn to the energy corporations' benefit. It is time to refuse to be sacrificed on behalf of a greedy corporation and an ambitious politician.
It is time to recognize the money trail. A significant campaign contribution for Shumlin...A one-sided and expedited hearing process to rush permits to the Green Mountain Power Corporation...A delaying and ignoring of conditions attached to permits, thereby rendering them meaningless...A PR campaign which distorts the reality of industrial Big Wind, which is not green.
We need to stop this model of doing business. Stop it now or it will spread. Stop it now, or your mountains and lifestyle are next.
In Vermont, a mountain range does not belong to one arrogant politician, nor to an exploitative corporation.
Yet Governor Shumlin gave the Lowell Mountain Range to Green Mountain Power. This energy corporation is owned in Canada. Vermont mountain ridges are seen by this money-greased partnership as industrial investment areas. It is only financially viable because Green Mountain Power expects to collect over $40 million in U.S. federal tax credits.
Big Industrial Wind is NOT Green Wind.
These mountains and valleys are old, very old. They are the wrinkles of Mother Earth. The waters of the mountains feed the rivers of the valleys, nurturing the life in a great circle. To the east of the Lowell Mountains, waters grow the Black River which flows north into the south bay of Lake Memphremagog. To the west of the Lowell Mountains, the waters become the rising of the Mississquoi River, which flows north, then west to the Long Lake called Champlain.
You cannot clearcut, bulldoze, then blast off the mountain tops without polluting, or even destroying, these life-giving waters. Clean waters are the lifeblood of Mother Earth, and her lifeblood is necessary for all life, including the two-leggeds, the swimmers, the four-leggeds, the wingeds, and the creepy-crawlers.
These mountains and valleys are ancient homelands for a tremendous variety of life-forms. For countless generations the two-leggeds have survived, made their living, and developed their way of living through an interwoven relationship with the forests, the waters, the clean air, and the other kinds of life. Not only hunting and fishing, but hiking, bird-watching, farming, managed timber harvest, snowmobiling, tourism -- all the recreational and small business activities in a large surrounding area are dependent on the intact mountains and their forested slopes. Those activities support the motels, B & Bs, restaurants, outdoor gear stores, gift shops, gas stations, and so on. And all the employees of these businesses also buy gas and heating fuel, groceries, tools, clothing, pay taxes and mortgages....
In the great circle around a mountain range, it is the healthy mountain with her forests and waters and clean air that nurture all life. We are part of that Great Web.
When you kill the Spirit of the Mountain, all the great circle around it will wither.
It is time to stand against the destruction of Vermont -- piece by piece -- for the benefit of a greedy and ruthless corporation and the arrogant for-sale politicians.
It is time!
- Carol Irons, Northeast Kingdom resident
Photo courtesy of Paul Irons
Green Mountain Power spokeswoman Dorothy Schnure sent an email to clarify that GMP did not donate to Gov. Peter Shumlin's campaign (and doesn't donate to any political campaigns). Green Mountain Power CEO Mary Powell did chair Shumlin's inaugural committee, which raised funds for the Vermont National Guard.