Friday, February 26, 2010

Thar She Blows! (Just an FYI...)

Hello, my grumbling and grinning friends! As some of you know, I have been immersed in Big Wind, lately. To the exclusion, it seems, of almost everything else...

This is just a quick announcement...

On Sunday, February 28th I, along with other members of the Friends of the Highland Mountains, will be conducting an informational meeting on the proposed industrial wind turbine development slated for the five mountain ridges in Highland Plantation. This meeting is an attempt to get the facts about these projects out to the general public. Although FHM was formed to specifically oppose this particular development destined for Highland, we are dedicated to 'getting the word out' to citizens all around the state. Many, many towns are being approached by Big Wind, and we do not want them blindsided by this issue.

Please help by educating yourselves, and feel free to take advantge of the multitude of information available... factual, testimonial, and unbiased. And if you'd like to join us this Sunday, please come to the upstairs meeting room at Longfellow's restaurant in Kingfield at noon. I'd love to see you there.

I'm bringing pie! Well, maybe not homemade...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Competing Against Seth

After ten years of reading all about the exhilarating life of this country woman from the western mountains of Maine, I’m sure you have realized that I am an enthusiastic sportswoman. Be it my championship thumb-twiddling skills, my accuracy in the skillet throwing arena, or even my brief foray into the world of downhill skiing (January 12, 1971), athleticism has been a huge part of my life and my persona.

Ahem. Yes.

As I was saying, I’m a very competitive person. And this past Monday night, I faced my ultimate challenge. I competed against our very own Seth Wescott, 2006 Olympic Gold Medalist!

I admit, at the start I was an unwitting participant in the game. I had been asked to come and speak at the beautiful and newly opened Carrabassett Valley Public Library, and to autograph copies of my novel Grumble Bluff afterwards.

Since it was school vacation week, Sugarloaf Mountain was guaranteed to be packed with families on skiing holidays, and a large crowd was anticipated. I packed up my boxes of books, donned a snazzy sweater and spit shined my combat boots, prepared to wow the crowd. After all, I’ve been talking non-stop since I was knee-high to a t-bar. Surely there was no one more suited to entertaining Loafers than this local girl!
One of my proudest accomplishments is that I’ve become very adept at shrugging off humiliation. I think my first experience with mortification was when a woman named Judy approached me in the crowded Kingfield Post Office one morning. A look of rapture on her face, she placed her hand on my tummy and said, ‘Oh, Karen! I didn’t know you were pregnant!’

Well, I wasn’t. But the ensuing silence certainly was! So much for the fallacy that a bit of belly bulge was a wondrous thing! Pfft! Yes, my education began at a young age, and I am now the most proficient shrugger-offer of embarrassing moments in two counties. And, as Martha Stewart would say, ‘It’s a good thing!’

At the appointed time, I spoke eloquently to my overflow crowd (of seven). Hehehe… oh, dear. And even those lovely hostesses and their children had to be anxious to get me the heck out of there. All they could talk about (in slightly hushed tones) was this little bit of business happening on the other side of the continent in British Columbia. You see, when we’d set the time and date for the program, not a single one of us was looking ahead to the future. Not one of us realized that my speaking engagement coincided with the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. More specifically, I was slated to be the star at the precise time that the trial runs for the snowboarding competition were happening out west. And I was speaking immediately prior to the actual race in which local resident, night club owner and Gold Medalist Seth Wescott was competing! What’s a girl to do?

What I should have done–what I really wanted to do–was travel the few hundred feet around the corner to The Rack, where the real excitement was! I wanted to grab a beer, muscle my way through the crowd of Seth’s friends and fans, and watch the exciting competition with baited breath. I wanted to feel the thrill of real, world-class competition (albeit vicariously) and experience the tension of wondering whether or not Seth would triumph.

But I am a skilled and proud competitor, myself. If these ladies and their children were valiant enough to sit with rapt expressions while I expounded on such hair-raising topics as goat-herding, writing prompts, and the pros and cons of polyester pants (and sadly, I’m not kidding), then they were going to be treated to a first-class presentation. Oh, I was in grand form! I waved my hands expressively. I paced to and fro in front of them, pivoting perfectly on the balls of my feet. I even–get ready for this–showed them a smooth dance step my fourth grade teacher, Bertha Gilmore, had shown me in 1972!

The crowd (of seven) was wowed!

Sigh. I couldn’t keep it up. I had to let them go. There was, after all, an Olympic champion–our own hometown boy– defending our country’s honor and our Mountain’s reputation as an Olympic-class skiing and snowboarding resort. As captivated as I’d kept this multitude of (seven) fans, I knew what was most critical. Seth needed our support. It wasn’t his fault that I’d been scheduled to speak at the same time that his event was being televised worldwide. It wasn’t his fault that these (seven) fans of Grumble Bluff and yours truly were devoted to the awesome craft of writing superior prose. I didn’t have the right to keep these good folks from adding their support to that of our community, our state and our country. Seth Wescott, that amazing young athlete, needed them. And so, I wrapped it up with almost an hour to spare, and gave Seth the ultimate gift. My fans… a handicap (of seven).

You’re welcome, Seth. But next time… it’s you and me, buddy. Face to face, at the Loaf. Sure, you are the best, most awesome snowboarder on the planet. But can you, with a few well-written words, make a grown man cry?

I thought not!

Congratulations, Seth Wescott, 2010 Olympic Gold Medalist. We are all so very, very proud of you!

Photo of Grumble Bluff book signing taken by Dottie Carter. (It is at the New Portland Community Library, not the Carrabassett Valley Public Library... I forgot to take my camera...)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Defending Our Homes from Big Wind

Please check out the end of this blog posting if you've already read the original article I wrote. Several people have emailed me directly with questions about hydrology. I am not an expert, so I turned to my good friend, environmental engineer Nancy O'Toole, for help. She's given us an easy-to-understand overview of some of the potential impacts mountaintop excavation and detonation can have on our valuable water resources. Thanks, Nan!

Today, I’m going to do something a little bit different. Today, I’m not going to create a tale for your amusement, nor am I going to write a poem or start a contest. Today, I’m simply going to talk to you. Woman to friend. Today, I’m going to tell you a little bit about a cause that I’ve committed to, and what a group of friends have been doing to help it along.

If you are a regular reader of GAG, you may have already gathered that I am opposed to mountaintop industrialization. I am an environmentally conscientious woman, and because of that, many people who discover that I am opposing the placement of 400 foot tall wind turbines on the ridgelines of our mountains might think I have supported the wrong side. Wind is supposed to be ‘green’, after all. And ‘green’ is definitely good!

But you see, all is not as it appears. There is just cause to question the ‘environmentally friendly’ labeling that these massive turbines garner. Many of us never stop to think about the total equation when we think about wind-generated electricity. We think of wind as being ‘free’. We think that roping that wind and using it to supply our daily demands for electricity is a win-win situation. But is it?

What are the total carbon emissions generated in the manufacturing of these gigantic machines--machines which are produced overseas, for the most part–-providing jobs for people in other countries? What are the emissions involved in the shipping and delivery of the parts and pieces for the towers? Sometimes they need to be moved half-way around the globe in order to reach their destinations here in the USA. Then, from the port of entry, they have to be trucked to the construction sites. And before they can reach those mountain ridges where the wind industry has determined they must go, what has to happen?

That’s right. Roads have to be built; roads that cut through forests and across streams and brooks. These roads have to be massive, too. We’re not talking a shady country lane, here. Some of you may have seen the sections of turbines which were hauled through western Maine last summer destined for the Kibby project. Trucks which were approximately 150 feet long from stem to stern carried the blades and tower sections and nacelles. One hundred and fifty feet long! In order for a truck that size to wind its way up the side of a mountain to its summit, the width of these roads at each switchback has to be incredibly wide! And before those switchbacks can even be graveled and ditched? The mountainside has to be excavated, cut, and leveled. The trees and shrubs and bushes and mosses have to be removed. They must be cut down, cleared and killed.

And then there is the mountain peak itself. Our Appalachians do not come with level summits. These peaks are craggy, rocky… natural! In order for the pads which will support these forty-story turbines to be created and made level and strong, an enormous amount of ground has to be moved. The bedrock has to be dynamited–blasted away– and the fractured rock removed so that the foundations can be poured.

Parts of our mountaintops have to be removed.

Have we thought about the effects of such destruction? Our ground water–one of our most precious resources–is contained and directed within the ledge which makes up our topography. When blasting occurs, how does that impact–that massive, rigid shuddering–throughout the rock transmit itself? Can it cause hydro-fractures? Of course it can. And sometimes, it does. It is not beyond the scope of possibility that once-dry land could become wet, or that those bogs and marshes which support so much of Maine’s migratory, endangered and unique species could go dry.

Picture it. Acre upon acre of life-sustaining flora will be removed. This is vegetation which provides not only oxygen, but shade and erosion control, habitat and browse. In order to keep the foliage from re-growing on the roadsides and transmission corridors, herbicides will be sprayed. Herbicides are poison. And that poison will be picked up and carried downhill in a heavy rain to end up in streams and ponds and bogs. In a long, light, soaking rain, those poisons will permeate the topsoil and leach into our groundwater.

There are, of course, many more potential impacts to our wildlife, our sensitive plants, and our micro-organisms as a result of such a destructive and invasive project. The truth is, we don’t know exactly what the finally tally will be. Unfortunately, we won’t know for sure how much damage will be done… until the damage is done. And by that time, it will be too late. We must not use our plants and our wildlife and our ancient mountains and beautiful forests as guinea pigs. We do not have that right.

This is a quote from one of the developers who wants to industrialize our Highland mountains. From the very beginning, these developers have touted the environmentally friendly nature of their projects. That message does, after all, appeal to each of us.

"It's very easy to assess the impacts of a particular project. It's almost impossible to assess the impact of not doing something. And...if we keep saying 'no,' what are the impacts of that in terms of global climate change?" PPH 2/12/10

I believe I’ve just raised some serious questions as to how environmentally friendly industrial wind actually is. And yet, the developer seems to believe that we should proceed with his plan, touting it as being a step towards reducing global warming, and assess the devastation afterwards. After all, once a 'particular project' has gone through, assessing the impacts will be 'very easy'. In my opinion, that is not a responsible position to take. I would also like to point out that the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the ME Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife have both told me that they are concerned with the impacts these developments will have on our wildlife. They have also said there is no way to know what those impacts will be until these developments go forward. Do we, as stewards of this land, have the right to submit the native plants and animals to our own brand of laboratory testing?

Hmmm. I said I wasn’t going to editorialize, didn’t I? I suppose I wrote all that so that you will see that wind isn’t the cheap and easy and environmentally friendly fix that so many of us believe it to be. Yes, wind is free, and wind is renewable. But harnessing that gusting, moving air comes with a huge price tag. And personally, I think the cost is much, much too dear.

I oppose the placement of wind turbines on Maine’s unspoiled mountaintops for many more reasons than those ecologically-based ones listed above. These developments are not economically feasible. They don’t support themselves. The developers freely admit that if it weren’t for government subsidy monies being set aside for such projects, they would not build these energy plants. They would not be able to make their millions of dollars from your taxes and mine if the government did not freely hand our money to them. In addition, the power produced by these plants will be sold to southern New England, for we already produce more electricity than we use. The price for this ‘green’ power will be more expensive, too. It will be our mountaintops and our forests which will be sacrificed, but if we decide to buy back that power which was generated here in Maine, we will have to pay the higher rate which those customers in southern New England pay.

And then there are the health concerns and the quality of place and quality of life issues. Wind Turbine Syndrome is not something which was fabricated by some bored doctor or disgruntled citizen living in the vicinity of a wind turbine development. The health issues some residents are suffering from are serious, and deserve to be addressed by both the wind industry and the CDC and MCDC. Currently, such complaints are being brushed aside by those with the most power to affect change. I would love to see industrial wind developers and policy makers spend some serious time in the shadow of these massive mills. Perhaps then, if they lost sleep or felt anxious, or if they couldn’t open their windows to the fresh air due to low frequency sound, or open their shades due to disorienting shadow flicker… perhaps then, their fellow citizens’ complaints would be taken seriously.

Perhaps. But, perhaps not. There is, after all, a handsome buck or two to be made.

Okay. Now you know some of the reasons why I decided to oppose the industrialization of Maine’s mountains. I’ll leave the economical consequences of this scheme alone, for now. After all, at this moment in time, I believe Maine is still one of the best places to live on this earth. I believe our slogan is true. ‘Maine. The Way Life Should Be.’ It is. Right now, it definitely is.

The Friends of the Highland Mountains (FHM) is a small group of dedicated people who believe the same things I do. The bottom line? We believe that the development proposed for Highland Plantation is a disaster in the making. A disaster of enormous proportions. Without really knowing the ins and outs of activism, a handful of us organized in an effort to stop this wanton destruction of our corner of paradise. But it’s not just our slice of heaven that we are concerned with. We are committed to stopping this disaster from invading every mountain ridge in Maine. If the developers and Governor Baldacci have their way, practically every mountain and hill outside the Appalachian Trail corridor and Baxter State Park will share the same fate. We simply can’t sit idly by and watch our best resources being destroyed.

At this time, however, we have very limited resources. We cannot not go to battle for each mountain, yet. This Highland Plantation development is slated to happen next. The permit application has been deemed complete, and the clock is ticking. We have only a few short months in which to work. We are the litmus test for the rest of the state, and a huge burden rests on our collective shoulders. For now, we must concentrate our efforts on these peaks at our backs: Stewart, Burnt and Bald, Briggs and Witham. These mountains are our priority, and if we can successfully stop their industrialization, we will have laid the groundwork for those other Maine pinnacles destined to be irreparably scarred.

Our efforts have been great and varied. First of all, we believe that the education of the general public is of utmost importance. It is simply amazing to see how many people know next to nothing about the realities of Big Wind. Most folks simply don’t have the time to devote to research, and so they hear a few standard tag-lines about ‘green energy’ and ‘renewable energy’ and ‘reducing our dependence on foreign oil’ or ‘slowing global climate change’ and their minds are made up. It MUST be a good thing. Our governor said so! And a very popular ex-governor says so every day! So surely, it must be true.

An hour or two spent on the computer, or reading magazine articles, or books like Wind Turbine Syndrome by Dr. Nina Pierpont can change even the most stubborn and resolute mind.

Our attempts to educate have included mailing fliers and distributing them to local businesses, conducting informational meetings in area towns, and simply talking about this issue with fellow Mainers. We’ve copied hundreds of DVD’s to hand out… DVD’s which are comprised of direct testimonies from people just like you and me, who are now living in close proximity to industrial wind turbine developments. Last month we hosted a community-wide dinner and provided speakers who shared their knowledge with us and stayed after the meeting to answer questions. This coming Saturday, February 20th, we’re hosting a snowmobile ride to view our unspoiled mountains, followed by a supper with more speakers and factual information, to be held at Carrabec High School in North Anson. We have written letters to the editors of magazines and newspapers in the hopes that readers will feel a spark of interest and become motivated to learn more. We’ve written and written and written, we’ve printed, we’ve burned, and we’ve copied and addressed and stamped. And we don’t intend to stop. We feel it is our responsibility to share what we have learned. And we feel that Mainers, if they know the facts, will want to share that responsibility with us.

Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission gave us just sixteen short days in which to petition for a public hearing on Highland Wind LLC’s development proposal. This short time-frame spurred a flurry of activity as we scurried around trying to get petitions signed. We’ve collected hundreds of signatures thus far, but we won’t stop trying to get more until the very last minute.

That last minute just happens to be Friday, February 19th, just one week from today.

Too, we need to plan for the public hearing, should one be granted. We need expert witnesses, we need to line up people to file for intervener status, and we need people to simply testify from their hearts. We need an attorney to represent us and guide us as we battle this new threat to our land and our culture and our way of life.

And so, we’ve begun to try and raise funds. That, in my opinion, is the hardest part of this whole process. I am a proud Maine woman. I’ve never taken monetary assistance from anyone, and it goes against the grain to begin now, at this stage in my life. Without money for expert witnesses and an attorney, our chances of waging a winnable war are slim to none, so raise money we must. Even my own Mr. Grumbles, who is the least excitable person I know, has a passion for this cause and he built FHM a beautiful birch bark and twig-framed mirror to raffle off. That is but one small component of our fundraising campaign.

And now, after all that up there–all that wind from this woman in the western mountains– I’ll tell you what prompted this posting to GAG.

We scheduled a press conference. Our group felt it was important to take our message to a larger audience. We are small, and we are local, but to have a shot at stopping this insanity, we need support from the people of Maine. Northern Maine, southern Maine, those Down East and up west; each fellow Mainer is important and has a voice and a vote. Each Mainer has the right to hear the facts, and the right to weigh in on a proposal of this magnitude.

We reserved the State of Maine Room at Portland City Hall. We wrote out statements for the press packet, blew up photos and charts, and planned what we would say to the TV and newspaper reporters. And then, a dozen of us drove down to Portland to tell the people of this great state our story, and to ask for their support.

I was extremely proud of everyone in our group. Only one member has experience in activism or public speaking or of being in the center of attention. The rest of us are quiet country folk who prefer a life outside the spotlight. We knew, instinctively, that there was a possibility our words would be skewed or distorted. And I, personally, knew there was a good chance I’d say something stupid. Let’s not forget my propensity for bonehead moments, after all. Bomos are what I do best.

For the record, I only had two, and neither was caught on tape. I invited the cameraman from Channel 8 to film my cleavage (said out of context like that, it seems a bit crass, but there’s more to the story, I swear!) and I uttered one short expletive when I realized I was walking away from the camera with the microphone still fastened to my collar. But it was a very mild expletive… one my mother would frown at, but not one she would reprimand me for. Yes, all in all, the press conference was a success. My fellow Friends told of how the development would affect their lives, our economy, our ecosystem, and our culture. The reporters asked pertinent questions about the proposed development’s proximity to the Appalachian Trail and the Bigelow Preserve. One reporter from Maine Public Radio was even so kind as to ask what the citizens of Maine could do to help.

I was on a bit of a ‘high’ on the long ride home to my mountains. We’ve been working so hard, and we are up against those with power, money and influence. And yesterday, I knew we had been able to spread our message to a larger audience. Yesterday, my faith in my fellow man was restored.

Of course, what goes up must come down. I managed to catch the short article run on the NBC affiliate, WLBZ, at 5:30. And I’ll admit it: What I saw made me furious.
Our message was poorly conveyed, if at all.

The station chose to air one sound-byte, and it seemed out of context with the rest of the brief story they put forth. During the press conference, our chairperson shared the fact that Highland Wind LLC’s permit application included the information that approximately 1.6 million cubic yards of mountaintop would be excavated in order to make the roads and clear the open areas for the turbine foundations and other infrastructure. Much of that earth will be dynamited from the tops of the mountains, and our chairman equated it with ‘mountaintop removal’. In essence, that’s what it is. He then gave an example, so that people could clearly picture how much of the ridgelines were going to be displaced by just this one development. He said that the earth removed would fill over 100,000 dump trucks which, stretched end to end, would reach from Highland Plantation to North Carolina.

That was it. That was our message, according to the Channel 2 news. And from that short passage, without the information included which led up to or which followed those words, the news piece moved to a quote from Angus King. Mr. King, of course, is the former governor of Maine and one of the primaries in Highland Wind LLC. Mr. King and his partner, Rob Gardiner, are the gentlemen whose development we are opposing. Yes, we’re playing in the Big League, now. We held a thirty minute press conference, we were awarded one quote, and Mr. King had one refuting comment. Or rebuttal. Or whatever it’s called in the game of hard ball. His response to our concerns? He stated clearly and succinctly that the blasted and excavated mountain soil and rock would ‘not be removed from the mountains’. It was so important, in fact, that he said it twice. ‘It will not be removed.’

That’s right. It’s staying right there. On those mountains. In the form of road surfacing material, fill, and the like.

I guess that makes it okay. Thank God it won’t be ‘removed’.

All right. It’s clear that I’m still angry. The feelings of fury and righteous indignation were overpowering last night and that’s why I waited until this evening to write this blog posting. You see, I want to fight fair. I don’t want to sink to the levels that some might sink to. I believe that those who do the right thing are rewarded for it. It’s na├»ve of me, I know. And even though I knew in my heart that our message could be corrupted and distorted, I still chose to believe that each news outlet in attendance would do the right thing. I applaud them for asking Mr. King for a response. Really. That is what a fair and balanced news reporter should do. But I also hoped that our message would get out; that our concerns and our fears and our request for support from the people of Maine would be part of the coverage on each news station which sent a reporter to our press conference.

I am often disappointed in human nature, but I do not despair. For every distorted story, there are two or three facts which will get out. For every greedy individual or entity, there are a dozen generous people who want to do the right thing. And for every gust of Big Wind that threatens our mountains, there are gentle breezes in the form of kind, brave and hardworking Mainers who are striving to defend their homes and their quality of place. Big Wind is dangerous, and can threaten the mightiest of ships. Give me a light and steady wind, any day. You’ll be amazed at how far and how safely you’ll sail.

We aren’t giving up, and we aren’t going to lose our mountains.

Top photo of the Highland Mountains taken from Little Bigelow by Alan Michka
Frog and Members of the Press photos taken by Josie Pease
Mirror photo by me...
The following overview of mountaintop hydrology, was provided by Nancy O'Toole, Environmental Engineer

The mountains of Maine, especially those above 2700 feet, are unique in that the soils, hydrology and vegetation are very fragile. These high places were protected, by an act of Maine’s legislature, from development until 2008 when the Kibby mountain industrial wind project was permitted.

The soils, hydrology and the steep slopes above 2300 feet have unique qualities that make it very difficult to build roads and other infrastructure without significant affect to the surrounding area. The soils are rated as having very low potential by the NRCS, which means that there are severe initial and continuing limitations that must be overcome in order to build stable roads while minimizing environmental impacts. The soils may have thixotropic properties, which means the soil is thick and solid (viscous) under normal conditions, but flow (become thin, less viscous) over time when shaken or agitated, which occurs during the construction of roads in the high mountains. Once the soils become unstable and have their connectedness or natural bonds interupted mud movement like what occurred at Kibby mountian becomes ever more common. This movement of the surface soils can be small, a mud torrent down a skidder track, to enormous, such as the landslides we hear about that take away entire communities.

Hydrology is the study of the movement, distribution, and quality of water in any given area. The natural hydrology or flow of water at the wind power complexes is being disrupted and fractured as the roads and tower pads are blasted out, cut to grades and filled when low areas or valleys need to be crossed. Special engineering controls are necessary to re-connect interupted water flow from actual construction locations and from slopes above a new roadway to the slopes below. The construction and the engineering controls change the natural eco-system at the ridge top locations and in areas below. Water from seeps, springs, natural brooks and streams are disrupted by the blasting of ledge and rock for road construction. This has far reaching impacts down gradient, or down stream.

Once the hydrology has been fractured the over-all ecosystem is never the same again.

Think of it like a bowl that is turned upside down and the surface is covered with thick icing. You now drill a series of holes around the top of this inverted bowl. If you sprinkle a bit of water on the bowl it slowly flows down the sides or passes into some of the holes. Unfractured mountain flanks act in a similar fasion. Water trickles down the sides or soak into the soil and into the cracks in the mountain massif. Nothing moves too quickly, and the surface remains relatively moist and sound and well knit together by the forest root systems.

Now scrape off most of the icing up near the top of the inverted bowl and plug many of the holes. Next pour water over the bowl again. When you remove most of the icing from the surface and plug the hole, the water flows fast and furious and strips away much of the remaining icing with it. It can’t sink in thru the holes and the surface has lost its bonding and ability to resist the erosive force of the water. This is what happens to our mountain tops and ridges when wind turbines, the roads required to reach them and maintain them, or any other significant construction occurs up in the high, fragile, weather hammered regions above 2,300 feet. The rains and snow melt can’t follow the age old paths down to the swamps and streams any more, and can’t sink into the mountain massif either. The entire surface, as well as the upper levels of the mountian rock has been shaken and restructured by the blasting, excavation and filling that is part and parcel of heavy construction. The water no longer can escape in a moderate manner. Instead, it splashes and gushes down the mountian sides, eroding and digging and toppling trees. In areas where the sub surface flow has been diked or stopped the soil becomes super saturated and loses its strength. Eventually it boils up and out in a mud or rock slide.

Kiss your camps or clean water ways 'Good Bye'.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

With a Physique Like Mine

I joined a gym this week.

Yes, I know. It wasn’t necessary. With a physique like mine, well… one shouldn’t mess with perfection, should one?


The simple facts are these. I have never been petite. I’ve never been a Twiggy and certainly, I’ve never been short. In addition to being so tall that small children picnic in the shade I cast on a hot summer day, I am also considered ‘big boned’. Who came up with that term, anyway? Big boned. Hmmm. It’s not like anyone can actually tell that I’m big boned. I mean, I do wear them on the inside, as the current fashion dictates. No one has ever seen my bones to accurately label them as being ‘big’. In my opinion, that process of labeling someone by the size of their pelvis, clavicle or femur should be abandoned. Without full body x-rays who’s to know whether I’m big boned, or simply thick skinned? Hmmm?

I rest my case.

Anyway, back to my story. Since I am thick skinned, and have been nearly all my life, I’ve contemplated joining a gym in the past. I even went to the Iron Barn with my friend Terri for a couple of ‘work out’ sessions a few years ago.

There’s another term I take umbrage with. ‘Work out’. For one thing, we were inside. I don’t think there was a single window open in the Iron Barn, nor even a stall door. We were definitely ‘working in’. And the word ‘work’ doesn’t seem to suit what we were doing, either. To my way of thinking, work is something one does–not by choice, but by necessity. We don’t go to fun each morning in order to earn a paycheck. We don’t fun on the woodpile each autumn. See what I mean? We earn a salary and stockpile firewood out of necessity, not because it is particularly enjoyable. If we happen to get pleasure from our jobs, that’s a bonus. And if it transpires that we actually love throwing junks of wood from ground to truck bed, from truck bed to woodshed, from woodshed to tier and from tier to wood box, well then… we need to get a life! (Yeah, I’m guilty of that, too.)

My point is, Terri and I chose to spend an hour cycling and walking and squeezing and lifting and squatting and bending. Why?

It beats the heck out of me. I’m quite sure it was peer pressure that made me do it.

So what is it that has prompted me to join a gym now? If that first foray into the world of sports bras and Spandex was so uninspiring that I only went two or three times, why would I decide to repeat the experience?

Well, it’s like this. I’m squishy. That’s right… squishy. There’s not a single place on my body where I can poke my finger without the tip of it disappearing. No firmness. No tight abs, no tight buttocks, no tight anything. And I’m not sure, but I think my one remaining stomach muscle let go when I was lugging a new freezer out to the woodshed with Steven. I took hold of the bottom of that appliance, stood upright, and sproing! There it went, the traitor. I can’t imagine what-all is holding me together now.

Yep, I’m squishy, and if you don’t believe me, just give me a poke or a prod next time you see me. I am the perfect specimen of a woman suffering from severe Droop, and I dare anyone to contradict me.

So. I went to the gym. The trainer wasn’t there, but I’d assured her I would be fine, as all I intended to do at the start was work on the cardio equipment. (Cardio is Latin for ‘torturous sweat inducers’, in case you are one of the non-sweating populace and need a translation.) Being sure that I could do something so simple as to walk, I decided to try the treadmill.

The first surprise was that when I tried to walk on it, it didn’t move under my feet. I treaded, and the only thing that happened was that I walked smack into the front of the machine. I was pretty sure that I was supposed to stay in one place, and the belt under my feet was supposed to move. I stopped and looked closer. There were buttons on this treadmill, and lights. And instructions. I felt the stirring of hope. I can read, after all.

I pushed the button that said ‘Quick Start’, expecting to be launched into a fast-paced jog. I was there to exercise, after all, and it said ‘quick’! The belt started moving, but the pace was slower than a crawl. I poked the up arrow, and it sped up a little. I pushed another arrow, and the tread portion tilted. Excellent! I increased the speed of the machine and began my so-called ‘work out’. Legs pumping, lungs expanding, I began to move! Without going anywhere, of course…

And then it stopped. Without warning, the belt slowed and came to a rest. I was sure I hadn’t pushed any ‘Quick Stop’ button. I read the instructions again. Poked the ‘Quick Start’. Adjusted the speed and the incline. Walked my cotton-pickin’ heart out. For one minute. It stopped again. I was beginning to feel a little foolish. I wasn’t alone in the room, after all. What if I looked like a nimrod? It could happen! I’ve looked like a nimrod before!

I tried on my ‘nonchalant’ face. You know… the one that clearly says ‘I meant to do that.’ I reset the machine, walked and stopped. Reset, walked, and stopped. Four cycles of that foolishness was my limit. A girl can only wear nonchalance for so long before it begins to resemble nincompoopance.

Lucky for me, there was an exercycle right beside the treadmill. Now bikes are something I know! I’ve traveled a good part of this state on a bicycle. How hard could that be?

I sat down and positioned my bum as comfortably as possible. Like bike seats the world over, this one was also made for maximum torture. I’d learned my lesson on the treadmill, and quickly realized that this exercycle was an electronic piece of equipment, as well. So I poked a few colored lights and waited for the fun to begin. Waited for the pedals to start turning.

Yeah. I think next time I go to the gym, I’ll make sure the trainer is there.

Nincompoopance. It looks more at home on me then Spandex does.

(By the way... this photo is for illustrative purposes, only. It is NOT a photo of my butt.)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

An Open Letter to the Members of Maine's Legislature

I have just received notice from Maine's Land Use Regulatory Commission (LURC) that Highland Wind LLC's permit application is complete, and that LURC will begin reviewing it tomorrow, February 3, 2010. In that same notification came the news that the citizens of Maine have two weeks to request a public hearing to voice their opinions about this industrial development proposed for the unspoiled mountain ridges of Highland Plantation. TWO WEEKS! Two weeks to activate the citizens of Maine, TWO WEEKS to get petitions to them for signature, TWO WEEKS to collate and assemble them and get them to LURC in Augusta. If this development is approved, the impact made on our mountains and to our culture and our quality of life will last FOREVER. Once the crests of a small mountain range have been blasted away in 48 separate places, that horizon will never be the same. The devastation will be irreversible. And yet... we are given a paltry, token two weeks to assemble an opposition to this plan.

I cannot adequately express the anger I feel without using words innappropriate for this medium. And I cannot convey the indignation or the sorrow I feel without beginning what I believe would be a long and vituperous rant. Instead of spouting off on GAG, I am pasting in a copy of the letter which I sent to each member of Maine's Legislature. I believe most of them received it, although some of the email addresses I got from the state's website were not current, and ten of them came back to me. I'll work on seeing if I can find more updated addresses, out of fairness and courtesy to our senators and representatives. I want them all to be on the same page, in case those elected officials who are supposed to represent Maine's citizens deem this issue important enough to address.

I invite your comments, no matter where on this planet you are from. And if you are a fellow Mainer, I respectfully request your assistance. Study up on the subject of Big Wind. A good place to start is at this website: From there you can access many links to broaden your knowledge. This is important, for with knowledge comes power, and we're losing a little of our power each day.

Then, if you believe--as I do--that it is a mistake to place these inefficient and economically unfeasible energy plants along 360 miles of Maine's mountaintops (which is virtually all of them save those inside the Appalachian Trail corridor and the national and state parks) then I ask that you go one step further. I ask that you contact me in the next few days and request a petition whereby you request that LURC grant a public hearing. I ask that you sign it and mail it back to the Friends of the Highland Mountains, PO Box 111, New Portland, ME 04961. In my opinion, whether you agree with my position on this issue or not, we should ALL believe in our right as American citizens to be granted the opportunity to voice our opinions. This is still America, after all. We're talking about basic rights, here. Rights that are being whisked away before we even notice they're up for grabs.

The following letter is long, but I ask that you devote a few moments of your busy day to read it. The issues are important, and the time is very, very short.

Thank you, my friends.

‘Voices on the Wind’
January 25, 2010

Dear Senators and Representatives of the Maine Legislature;

I am a citizen with serious concerns regarding a crisis here in Maine. Although the specific issue I will speak of pertains to our state, the root problem is one that is affecting the country at large. It’s time for us to take a leadership role and do what is right.

Americans are fast losing their voice and their right to shape their own destinies and the future of our country. You, the members of our State Legislature, passed an ‘emergency’ bill in 2008 which is now known as LD#2283, the ‘expedited permitting law’. This law was shaped, in part, by industrial wind turbine developers. Rob Gardiner, partner to Maine’s former governor Angus King, gave specific instructions and advice to Governor Baldacci’s Task Force on Wind Power as to how this law could best circumvent the objections of the people of Maine, as well as eliminating many of the discretionary powers of LURC, the board charged with protecting Maine’s natural resources in our unorganized territories. Once it was designed (using those recommendations of developers who stood to make millions of dollars on industrial wind), the Task Force then urged passage of the measure. This bill passed into law in 15 days–a remarkably short time-frame. Not a single member of our Legislature voted against this ‘emergency’ measure, and there was no debate. There is some question as to whether some of you even read the bill.

What LD#2283 does, in essence, is fast-track the installation of massive industrial wind turbine developments along the unspoiled mountain ridges of Maine. The people of Maine, under this law, do not have the ‘right’ to a public hearing, wherein we can voice our objections to these encroachments. That the bill was introduced as an ‘emergency’ measure removed the standard 90-day period between its passage and its implementation, during which the people of this state would have had time to learn of the measure before it was put into practice.

There are many injustices involved in this issue. The ‘emergency’ designation is just the first. There was no genuine emergency. There were no blizzards or earthquakes or floods to prompt this measure. There was no war or disaster looming on the horizon. I believe that we, the people of Maine, were the ‘emergency’. I believe that the politicians and the developers with power, money and influence knew that if the voting public of this state learned of the huge impacts these industrial energy plants would have on our landscape, wildlife, economy and quality of life here in Maine, they might very well stand up and object. Directly prior to the passage of LD#2283 some average Mainers openly opposed other such installations, and they caused many problems for the developers. They delayed approval of the permit. They insisted on additional environmental impact studies. They even caused the Redington permit application to be denied. The average Mainers were the ‘emergency’, and so we were removed from the equation. At the very least, we are ordered to jump through hoops to earn the possibility of being heard. Even after such acrobatics, there is no guarantee that a public hearing will be allowed. In all honesty, I am not convinced that, if granted, a hearing will even carry any weight. I believe a public hearing would be nothing more than a tool to placate those in opposition, and give them a false feeling of hope. I believe that the administrations in Washington and Augusta have charged those under their authority to expedite the permitting process. Period. End of story.

In order for developers to take advantage of government subsidy monies to fund their projects, the roadblocks and delays must be eliminated quickly, before those offers of subsidies expire. In my opinion, that was the purpose of LD#2283; to remove those human roadblocks.

The passage of that law was an outrageous act. What is worse is that the general public has not received honest information regarding these wind developments. We have been fed the line that ‘wind is green, and green is good’. I am as concerned as the next woman about global warming, our country’s dependence on foreign oil, and the need for sustainable and renewable energy sources. But I want to see responsible, careful, and long term consideration given to the resources and citizens of our rural communities.

In order to meet the governor’s goals for sustainable energy, over three hundred miles of our mountaintops will have to be sacrificed for massive forty-story wind turbines. The summits will be dynamited to create a level area for the pouring of a massive concrete pad for each of the hundreds of towers. Miles and miles of roads will be cut through pristine forests and along the slopes of hills to allow access to the turbines and their infrastructure. Transmission corridors will also be cut, and the vegetation controlled with herbicides. Hydro-fractures, erosion, interruption of the foraging and hunting trails of our native species, bird and bat deaths from collision with the blades… these are just a few of the concerns that pertain to the ecology and environment of this state. Thousands of acres of trees and plants will be sacrificed– vegetation that is invaluable when battling the effects of greenhouse gasses! The emissions created in manufacturing these machines add another complication to the equation of how ‘green’ wind energy is. These turbines are not manufactured in the United States, either. That government subsidy money–those tax dollars that come from working Americans–will be shipped overseas to places like China and Denmark to support the economies of those countries. Not America’s. As far as the question of job creation here at home is concerned, some local workers may be employed on a temporary basis during the construction phases, but the developers themselves have told us that full time maintenance jobs are limited to a few for each project.

Over the past three decades Maine has lost the majority of its industry. Our paper mills, our saw mills, our shirt and shoe factories, our toothpick and novelty manufacturers are all gone. Those ‘in the know’ decided it was cheaper to export the jobs and import the goods. What Maine has left are our natural resources. Our unspoiled and beautiful wilderness. Our lush trees and our rugged mountains, our crystal clear lakes and glacial ponds. Tourism is what is saving Maine. People escape the crowds and the urban sprawl and industrial complexes to come to Maine, where they can experience life the way it should be. If we despoil this state by covering every mountaintop outside the Appalachian Trail corridor and beyond the boundaries of our national and state parks with 40-story wind turbines that thrum and pulse and create disorienting shadow flicker, and which are proven to cause severe sleep disturbances and other serious health problems, then I despair of ever seeing a tourist or his dollars, again. We may have a brief influx of folks who come to Maine to gawk at our new horizons, but that will be short-lived. Once you’ve seen one ruined skyline; once you’ve heard the jet whine and low frequency thrum caused by blades which sweep an area the size of a 747; once you’ve witnessed a landscape forever altered and scarred, the novelty passes. And what do we Mainers have left?

What we have is an unreliable energy source; windmills that are at the mercy of intermittent winds and the ravages of nature, and massive and expensive pieces of machinery whose power production is so unreliable that electrical plants powered by coal and natural gas must remain online as back-up. The real kicker is that Maine already produces more power than its citizens consume. We are an exporter of electricity. Every bit of that unnecessary wind-generated power will be shipped to southern New England, where the need is greater. If we wish to buy back that ‘green’ power, we will have to pay the higher rates paid by consumers living in those other states. Maine does not need this power, but it is our natural resources which will be sacrificed to meet the needs of more gluttonous markets. It will be our mountaintops which will be blasted away, our wildlife which will be threatened, our very culture and our ability to provide for ourselves which will be at risk. There is no wisdom in this proposal.

Other countries like Spain and Denmark which have heavily invested in wind energy for decades have learned some valuable lessons from their mistakes. I am baffled as to why our elected leaders are not willing to learn from them.

In our complacency we Americans have allowed our government to decide what is best for us. We have allowed it to assume powers which it does not rightly have. The government (and that includes you) works for us; not the other way around. I am tired of being told what will happen in my home and in my homeland, instead of being asked for permission before new, irreversible and encompassing decisions are made. I still have rights as an American citizen and I am tired of watching my freedoms disappear. I’m angry that decisions are made without my input. I still have a voice, and I still have a vote, and I intend to use them.

I ask that you take time to research this issue if you have not done so, and bring the facts to the citizens of Maine and to the rest of the country. I ask that you put politics and careers aside and stand up. Show us you actually represent the best interests of this state and her people. Do what’s right. This is a multi-faceted issue, and as Maine is not alone in its mandates it is a subject which will soon be affecting much of the nation.

Using the internet and standard media, I have researched wind turbine developments and all the myriad issues involved in their placement, feasibility, and environmental and health impacts. I have read documents provided through the Freedom of Information Act. I have had in-depth discussions with a sound engineer, an environmental engineer, my senator and representative, and citizens of Maine already living in the shadow of Big Wind. I have referenced Dr. Nina Pierpont’s study of Wind Turbine Syndrome. I’ve also attended meetings held by wind developers in my neighboring town. I have taken the time to learn the realities of ‘Big Wind’. As members of the Maine Legislature who represent the citizens of this state, I believe it is your obligation to do the same.

The people of Maine must have their power restored. The state and federal governments must return to their proper place. This is not the America of my youth. We, the people, have to stop allowing a government that is out of control to make local decisions for us. The state and federal government exist to support home rule, not to eliminate it. They exist at our discretion, and must operate by carrying out the will of the majority of its citizens. Those with money and influence must not have more power than ordinary citizens, because ordinary citizens are the backbone of this country.

There is little chance we can turn the tide and stop the destruction of our mountains as long as LD#2283 holds sway, and while those with money and influence are able to push their agendas forward, but I refuse to relinquish my right to have a say in what happens in my corner of this great nation. I have a voice, and I plan to use it. A moratorium must be put in place before further permits are granted under LD#2283. Thereafter, this law must be repealed.

I look forward to you response, and will be happy to discuss this issue with you.

Karen L. Pease

This photo was taken on February 5, 2010 in Freedom, Maine. The blade swept down from behind the trees and the home on the right-hand side of the road and stopped me in my tracks. I was stunned by this perspective. This turbine is only 260 feet tall; almost 150 feet shorter than those destined for Highland's mountaintops.

This photo is also of one of the three turbines in Freedom, from 4 miles away (via the access roads-- not sure as the crow flies). The pic is small, so it's hard to see details, but I was amazed at how the farmhouses to the right and left were dwarfed by this turbine.
Thanks go to my very good friend Jack Ramsay, who proofed this letter for me after I wrote it and gave me wise counsel and words of encouragement. I THINK I made all of his corrections, but if I missed any of them, I'd prefer it if you blamed Jack, rather than me. His shoulders are broad, and I'm busy. I've got some mountains to save.

Heh... thanks, Pal.