There is this thing that Facebook does: reposts a picture or comment from any number of years ago that was on your timeline, sporadically, and calls it a Memory. I believe you are supposed to cherish these posts and sigh with, “Time flies!” or “Isn’t that cute?!”
This morning the picture of the severed eagle nest was there and Facebook said: “Esther, we care about you and the memories you share here. We thought you’d like to look back on this post from 3 years ago.” Ahem. Well now. Some people have sweeter memories than others apparently. I should like all the cute little pictures scattered around the gruesome one of the crane and nest – kittens, flowers, children – awww! But I hate to tell ya FB, that so called ‘memory’ still feels like yesterday, and not in a good way.
The night before the eagle nest was cut, my dad was dutifully browsing the “Friday evening approvals” by the Ontario government (you know, when the reporters have all gone home for the weekend and no news story can be made until Monday, when the lead has lost most of its heat), and he saw this permit issued to NextEra Energy to destroy an active bald eagle nest. Really. He called me up. We didn’t believe it. Read and reread it. No… they wouldn’t do that. I mean, even when the government would unthinkably hand you a permit to commit an act like this, you wouldn’t go and cut a rare (only forty-eight nests in SW Ontario), massive nest, that was currently home to two eagles, down… would you?
Oh but then we had to think, “What Would NextEra Do?” Well yes, they would cold bloodedly do this, they had an access road that had be plowed through to three of their proposed wind turbines (yet to be built) – and this road demanded that these trees (including one with the nest) be cut in order for the project to proceed. They like words like ‘proceed’, as in “Proceed as Planned”. They wouldn’t want to disrupt a Plan for a silly little (or big) nest.
In a panic that night, I posted the notice on Ontario Wind Resistance, hoping people would see it, but well aware it was Friday evening and many people, like reporters, are away from their computers, then. Yes, I was worried. What else could be done? We didn’t know if they would actually do it, but the permit only lasted for a few days (before breeding season started), so if they were going to act, it would be pronto.
Not knowing what we’d do the next day, I took that weird protective action that night of plugging my video camera in to charge it, just in case, and had a difficult time going to sleep.
I doubt my dad slept much either. By 7:00am he had called down to the folks in Haldimand to see what was happening. They said that trucks and cranes were already at the site. Oh shit! Should we go down there? Haldimand was a two-hour drive away, but the same damn company was destroying their area as was ours. I told him to hold on a sec, and called my partner-in-protest, Muriel. Because if Muriel came, we could do anything that needed to be done, no matter what we were dealt with.
Thankfully she answered; she was up and all packed up to go for a pleasant cross country ski that beautiful day. But Muriel can think and act fast and in a split second she said, ‘I’m ready, let’s go’.
My dad drove silently, probably wondering what the hell we were going to do when we got there. Muriel and I shared her ginger tea and tried to mentally prepare for what might meet us. I can’t drink ginger tea without reliving that drive – although nerve wracking, we had a strangely determined spirit running through us. Damn, forgot to bring a rope or something to tie ourselves to the tree if need be. We could just use our bodies or something lying around, not to worry. But in the back of our mind we knew the possibility of the nest surviving until we got there was slim – Harvey could only drive so fast.
Cars lined the road at the site, but the tree and nest were a good kilometer or so inland, and only company trucks, cranes, bulldozers and police cars were at the actual site. Jim, the man who took this picture, told us the nest had been cut, a mere five minutes before we arrived. Five bloody minutes. This led to five more minutes of feeling oh so useless. The deed was done, NexTerror won. It was hanging there, the nest, dangling form the crane, making me nauseous, yet angry.
The old video camera seemed to be burning a whole through my mitts, remember- battery charged and ready to go. I took a few shots from the road. This seemed empty and pointless, too. Then found myself pacing up and down the snowy sideroad, through the good people who mingled there, seemingly at as loss as much as we were. The police had warned them that they couldn’t go up the lane towards the nest or they would be trespassing, a word that most people don’t want to have to deal with unexpectedly on a Saturday morning.
Over the past few years Muriel and I were getting comfortable with this word, and what it meant, and why it was used to keep people away from seeing too much. First, where was the landowner who was demanding we be charged with this offence? Nowhere in site. I doubt he ever said such a thing. This was just a tactic that we had come across at protests when police wanted us out of the way, on the other side of the street, or when they wanted us to stop videotaping public meetings. Make something up to disperse the people and the tension with the threat of a charge. Deep down inside, we were willing to take the hit if it did come down on this one. Besides, we may not have been official ‘reporters’ to the scene, but we were citizen reporters when the official ones weren’t around.
I noticed Muriel walking out on top of the snow drifts; they were nice and hard – enough to hold our weight. “Wanna go?” she said. YES! And so we did, hiked cross-country over the drifts, well away from the cop cars and the company trucks, straight towards the nest. Yeah, we fell through quite a few times, once near a ditch, but made it there in good spirits.
Perhaps they were a little surprised when we showed up. What do you do with people like this? The camera was running. The police officer hung around us, a gentle young green one, not really anticipating to have to deal with this situation. We tried to explain to him what he was watching because he didn’t seem to understand why people were upset. Told him it was an active nest. Oh no, he said, I’m pretty sure it’s just an old one that isn’t being used. Oh brother. This was the line the wind company had fed their guards?? Everyone knew this nest was active – locals had been watching and documenting the pair of eagles for the last few months. He seemed to think that it was just a matter of “relocating” the nest, like the company was doing, and everything would be hunky dory. This just pissed me off more. The spread of lies. It’s never so simple to just “move a nest” or “move a home”. Well, he’d find out soon enough that he’d been strung along by NextEra that day.
It took eighteen men to cut down this nest. No, I wouldn’t have been so stupid to go out there on my own, or without a video camera. If something happened it would become my word against eighteen others – you just don’t put ourself in those situations. But with Muriel and a camera with me, I felt as strong as needed.
The noise of the vehicles running, and chainsaws, was the first thing noticeable. Back at the road where we had started, none of this could be heard. For a couple hours we remained as the nest was lowered. It seemed like they didn’t quite know what do with it now that there was an audience. Would have been so much easier to throw it on the burn pile or bury it with the rest of the trees they were going to bulldoze down and under. Instead they fiddled with it, raising lowering, cutting off more trunk.
We could see the corn husks and feathers inside the nest now that it was dangling to the side. Not an active nest, eh? It was like looking at the remants of a home after a fire or a tornado had struck. In this case, NextEra had hit.
Hours passed. The cop wanted to take our names and info down. We gave it to him and of course nothing came of it. But this was the last time I provided my info to a police officer that asked, and yes I was asked several more times in the next year, each time refusing and not another word said from the police officer. Remember this people, these are the magic words: “Have I done anything wrong? Are you charging me with anything? Am I under arrest? No? Then am I free to go?”, and he will mutter ,”yes, yes you are free to go” and turn to walk away. But before he goes too far, point over at the goons who are destroying a protected eagle’s nest and tell him to gather their personal info, and then he should head over to the MNR and the premier’s office and get their date of birth as well – because THOSE are the people committing the crimes.
The cold was setting in when a pickup truck came flying up the road. Fred’s truck! Hey Fred, how’d you get in here past the security? Oh he just came to pick us up (hurry, get in!). And off we went. At the end of the road sat NextEra’s Josie and Tom Bird in a pickup truck watching the destruction. I can’t remember if we waved or not. Maybe a finger.
Eventually they got the nest on a flat-bed trailer, wrapped it up in a bright blue tarp and trucked it away to ‘storage’. Who stores a bald eagle nest in their garage?!
Remember, NextEra was going to reinstall the nest somewhere else, away from the wind turbines because they didn’t want the eagles to get killed by their machines. That idea failed, for the blatantly obvious reason that a nest is too fragile. Would they ever think of moving a robin’s nest to another tree (far away) and believe it would just somehow stick in the branches and be as good as new?
In the end NextEra gave the nest away to a school – as if it was theirs to take and give away.
I posted the video footage a few days later, in it using a parodied image calling the company NexTerror for their actions in destroying this eagle nest. This image had been used for about a year, with not a word of protest from the company. But this was apparently too much for them – the video was being shared far and wide and they couldn’t deny this time that they were really living up to the word in their latest nasty blunder. They demanded I take the video down, I refused, they sued, and three years later it remains a stalemate. That single day turned into a lot more than a simple ‘memory’.