An evening with Bill Wightman
A great man has passed. Bill Wightman’s life was defined by courage, principle and grace. What follows is a story prepared after a gathering in Bill’s honour in 2013. More will follow.
More than 130 people gathered for a lovely evening at the Grange on Saturday night. They had gathered to pay tribute to Bill Wightman—and particularly his decade-long resistance effort against the invasion of big wind developers.
The proceeds from the evening will be used to help offset the legal bills the Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County is incurring in its appeal of a Ministry of Environment decision to allow a developer to construct nine 50-storey turbines on rugged Crown Land on Prince Edward County’s south shore.
Emcee Bob Cluett remembered his days at Columbia University where he and Wightman first met more than 40 years ago. Their lives followed different paths, but both found themselves reunited in Prince Edward County—taking on a common threat.
APPEC’s president Henri Garand offered an update to the appeal hearing for those unable to sit through the dreary proceedings. Garand figures both APPEC and the Prince Edward County Field Naturalists have made strong arguments about why the project should be stopped. But the final decision rests with the two-member panel appointed by the province.
But the evening was about Bill Wightman, who has pushed back against the marauders for nearly 13 years. Wightman paid tribute to many of those original combatants formed under the name CREW to dispel the notion that wind farms were benign and useful. These ideas are now mostly evaporated now—but 13 years ago Wightman and others were howling against an emerging orthodox view. The group had coalesced around their objection to a proposed wind energy project planned for Hillier.
On Saturday Wightman remembered the contributions of people like the late Scott Brown, the quiet persistence of McRae Danford, the determination of then-mayor James Taylor and the work of councillor Peggy Burris. It would be Taylor’s deciding vote that killed that first planned project. Thirteen years later the County is still free of the wind turbines—but the future remains cloudy.
Wightman suggested it might be time to develop a new ‘schtick’ to help propel the message. He explained how his ancestor Edward Wightman was the last man in Britain to be burned at the stake for the crime of heresy in the 17th century.
Wightman stopped short of offering martyrdom for the cause.