Winds of change – The Kingston Whig-Standard

Susan Young had her judgment about wind farms shifted during a kayaking trip on Georgian Bay. (Susan Young/Supplied Photo) jpg, KI

If you’re anything like me, you don’t like change, and these last few months have been full of them. The pandemic has brought so many changes into our lives, such as wearing masks, social distancing, working from home, meeting via video conferencing, closed schools, the constant fear of becoming ill and the grief of losing loved ones.

All this change made me crave peace and familiarity in my life, so when I was given the chance to go kayaking for a second time this summer, I jumped at it. I feel so soothed by the windswept pines and rocky islands that dot the eastern waters of Georgian Bay. It brings me great joy to paddle through that familiar, gorgeous landscape. Just what the doctor ordered; the perfect antidote to change overload!

After launching our kayaks from the tiny hamlet of Britt, just north of Parry Sound, we paddled out into the vast waters of Georgian Bay. You can imagine my surprise when instead of the familiar serene landscape, I was confronted with a series of massive, stark, white wind turbines glaringly situated along the coastline. It wasn’t anything like I had remembered. Another confrontation with big change. Exactly what I was trying to avoid.

Change is the only constant in life, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. My first instinct was to hate the dozens of huge turbines marring the landscape. But even as I was loathing them, a quiet inner voice spoke up: You don’t know enough yet. Learn more. Quiet your judgment.

We know in Kingston that wind farms are complicated, with both benefits and difficulties. In June 2009, 86 turbines were set up on Wolfe Island, and some folks brought serious concerns forward about possible negative impacts such as land and real estate devaluation, noise pollution, physical appearance of the turbines and health and environmental worries. Over time, though, most of these concerns have not been as severe as was originally thought.

With climate change hovering close to catastrophic levels globally, Canada, like many other countries, is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. There are now 94 wind farm projects in Canada with 2,681 wind turbines. The Canadian government aims to have one-third of our electricity needs met from wind energy in this decade. This progressive approach is greening our energy needs, reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and cutting back on pollution.

As I learned more about wind farms generally, I also became curious about the Henvey Inlet First Nation people in Georgian Bay who had built the wind turbines on their land.

So I called Chief McQuabbie of the HIFN. He lit up with excitement about the 87 massive Vespa wind turbines on their 20,000 hectares of treatied territory. Their partner, Pattern Development, an American company, had financed the $1-billion project, committed to a 50-50 partnership for 20 years — the chief said this was unheard of — and the band still has controlling interest of their land as well as significant financial benefit.

The chief went on to say their cultural needs had been addressed throughout the process, and traditional lands and burial grounds were honoured. Continued access to timber and resources was guaranteed. Strict environmental and archeological stewardship was practised throughout; for example, four acres were put aside when a pair of endangered Kirkland’s warblers were discovered nesting in the designated wind farm area.

Chief McQuabbie told me that prior to this opportunity, the First Nations people on this land had little work and little hope for the future. Now, the annual income produced from the wind farm will generate a viable economy for the HIFN through building assets, office spaces, jobs and monthly income for band members. The council is developing a trust fund for future environmental needs, education and health care. At Henvey Inlet First Nation, change is happening in a way they couldn’t imagine a decade ago.

Change surprises us with twists and turns, don’t you find? During the pandemic, we have wrestled with immense individual, social, economic and global change. What will the future hold for us as we integrate these immense changes? Do we fight and resist them, as I tend to do, or lean in and adapt and become kinder and more supportive of each other?

At first, I hated the big white windmills “wrecking the landscape” of my kayak trip. But once I spoke with Chief McQuabbie and heard his passion and excitement, I no longer viewed the massive white turbines as a blight on the landscape. As I began to understand the immense economic and environmental value of these wind farms, my initial judgment shifted. Just as I started liking Zoom communication because I could chat with my far-flung kids every week and run my coaching business from the comfort of my home. Change doesn’t seem so daunting and negative once we find the positive.

Can we learn to be more fluid and think beyond ourselves and the present moment when we experience a sudden change, especially when it’s thrust upon us? Whether it’s COVID or wind farms, change can make us feel helpless and vulnerable. Yet when we pause and look at what the change is about and put aside our own fears and resistance, change can seem more manageable and can even be an improvement.

Susan Young, a mindfulness facilitator and professional certified coach, offers coaching on the water in her kayaks. She is working on a book about longing. Email

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Author: HOCAdmin