Who Owns The Wind? – Part II
(Editor’s Note:?This is the second installment of Wayne Knutson’s letter. Due to its length, this letter will be printed in two issues to meet the guidelines of the newspaper.)
To the Editor:
Promise of ‘free money’
Despite these undesirable consequences, some farmers “bend with the wind” toward the foreign wind farm corporations, enticed by their offers. The promise of “free money” becomes irresistible. And when we give in, we have just answered the question, “Who Owns the Wind?” They do. Until that point in time, no individual owned the wind. Wind was a shared resource that bene?ted all. No one could claim an exclusive right to it. But now the wind farm corporation has us “all turbined up.” They own the wind.
Tragically, they own more than the wind. They own the farmer who has surrendered control of the land. They own the “future” of that land destined to become a gravel road, tons of buried concrete, and towering steel monstrosities held together by nothing more than a “promise” to pay. The farmer has abdicated total control of that piece of land with no reasonable recourse to reclaim it, if and when the “promise” is broken.
The wind farm companies did it without ?ring a shot. They took control. They expropriated our shared resource that bene?ted all. Most of us get nothing but a landscape littered with moving, blinking, noisy machines. Gone is our wildlife, gone our rural quiet, gone our peaceful evenings sitting on the deck, gone our unrestricted views of red/orange Iowa sunsets. Gone is our spectacular, unimpeded view of the Milky Way, and our community spirit of solidarity built by generations of farm families; while city dwellers thousands of miles away get cheap electricity without sacri?cing anything.
Giving up our freedom
But this isn’t just about giving in to a foreign occupation that has decimated our land, wildlife, skies, horizons and our rural way of life. Perhaps most importantgone is the freedom that
comes with full ownership of the land. Gone is the legacy of unencumbered land handed down to us from our ancestors. Gone is the promise of passing this unencumbered land to our children and grandchildren, free and clear. For we now share air space with foreign entities unconcerned with preserving our way of life, which we have just traded for tons of steel, concrete, asphalt, and gravel covering our rich Iowa dirt.
This is a tragic irony
“So, how much dough am I going to make on this wind farm deal?” Ironically, our life is diminished in proportion to the lease payment. The greater the payment, the more restricted and
smaller our life becomes. The greater the payment, the more power we have ceded to these invaders. The irony of all this centers on power. The farmer loses power, loses the ability to shape the destiny of their farm-to a wind farm corporation. The farmer gives away the power of ownership of land, their birthright.
How much is that power worth, the power the farmer just gave away? Can we put a price on it? Is getting “all turbines up” worth it when we abdicate our responsibility to protect a family birthright: the land? Do we really want to give that away? Who owns the wind? Now, they do. And the land. And the farmer. And the close-knit community that raised me. Our tragic loss is their “wind-fall” gain. Their Vegas win.
Is this the legacy we farmers want to pass on to the next generation? How much is that “promise” piece of paper called a lease really worth? Our land? Our wildlife? Our dignity? Our legacy? Now, all of this is “gone with the wind.”
(signed) Wayne R. Knutson, Jr.
former Palo Alto County resident, from San Antonio, TX
Knutson, raised on the family farm in NW Iowa, is a Colonel in the U.S. Air Force. His mother lives on the farm and is involved in managing the operation. His commentary was first published in Wallaces Farmer, August 2016.