Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Rehabbing Wiebo

For most of us, probably, Wiebo Ludwig was a dangerous man, a criminal who blew up oil and gas machinery.  To Chris Hedges, however, Wiebo is to the petro-state what John Brown and Harpers Ferry were to slavery.

The man who waged North America’s first significant war against hydraulic fracturing was from Alberta, an eccentric, messianic Christian preacher named Wiebo Ludwig who died last year. He, with his small Christian community in the remote north of the province, sabotaged at least one wellhead by pouring cement down its shaft and blew up others. The Canadian authorities, along with the oil and gas barons, demonize Ludwig as an ecoterrorist, an odd charge given that they are the ones responsible for systematically destroying the environment and the planet. And as the ecosystem deteriorates—and the drive by corporations to extract the last remaining natural resources from the earth, even if it kills us all, becomes more and more relentless—the resistance of Wiebo Ludwig is worth remembering.

“Wiebo felt that our society was in a spiritual crisis, rather than an environmental or an economic crisis,” David York, whose film “Wiebo’s War” is a nuanced portrayal of Ludwig and his fight with the oil and gas industry, told me when I reached him in Toronto by email. “He felt that our addiction to fossil fuels, rampant consumerism and materialism, addictions, breakdown of family units were all symptoms of a society that has lost its root connection to God. Further, he felt that we are in a kind of end times state, where the forces of good are in a terrible struggle with the forces of evil. He wasn’t so crass as to put a timetable on it, but in his view ‘any fool can see the times.’ ”

That one of our era’s most effective figures of resistance against the oil and gas industry was a devout Christian is perhaps not coincidental. I do not share Ludwig’s Christian fundamentalism—his community was a rigid patriarchy—but I do share his belief that when human law comes into conflict with God’s law, human law must be defied. Ludwig grasped the moral decadence of the consumer society, its unchecked hedonism, worship of money and deadening cult of the self. He retreated in 1985 with his small band of followers into the remoteness of northern Alberta. His community, called Trickle Creek, was equipped with its own biodiesel refinery, windmills and solar panels—which permitted it to produce its own power—a greenhouse and a mill. Its members, who grew their own food, severed themselves from the contaminants of consumer culture. But like the struggle of Axel Heyst, the protagonist in Joseph Conrad’s novel “Victory,” Ludwig’s flight from evil only ensured that evil came to him.

...“Wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty institutions,” wrote Henry David Thoreau. And this is what happened to Ludwig.

...Ludwig’s first acts of sabotage were minor. He laid down nail beds on roads. He smashed solar panels. He blocked roads by downing trees. He disabled vehicles and drilling equipment. But after two leaks of hydrogen sulfide sour gas from nearby wells—which forced everyone on the farm to evacuate and saw numerous farm animals giving birth to deformed or stillborn offspring, as well as five human miscarriages or stillbirths within Ludwig’s community—and after the destruction of two of his water wells, he declared open war on the oil and gas industry. He began to blow up oil and gas facilities. He said he had to fight back to “protect his children.”

...The sabotage did not end with Ludwig’s 2012 death. There are reports of ongoing sabotage along the path of the XL pipeline and in the Alberta oil fields.

“I’d also say that sabotage in the oil patch is one of the oil and gas industry’s dirty little secrets,” York said. “It is widespread, and to many landowners it is a natural consequence of the industry’s attitudes and behavior to those whose land they are occupying. The industry doesn’t make a big fuss because they don’t want to encourage the response.”

...Ludwig said: “We feel weak in all the things we are fighting. I think the match is very unequal. But it’s all right. Instead of griping about it, we might as well give ourselves to it.”

If Harper unleashes his public/private security-intelligence force in support of Enbridge, the Communist Party of China, and the American energy giants who populate Athabasca, we may see Wiebo Ludwig's spirit reborn only, this time, en masse.   Most of us, I'm pretty sure, will draw the line at civil disobedience at the risk of incarceration and possible SLAPP suits, but there are many who have vowed to attack the infrastructure itself.


the salamander said...

.. not to worry MoS ..

We'll see all those courageous MP's that were elected by Canadians.. standing up tall n brave for Canada, our environment, justice & fairness.. and honesty. After all, Canada's values are Conservative values.... right ??
If Conservative values are Canadian values.. eh ??

And surely those unelected and under appreciated trogs in the PMO are stalwart Canucks that wish they had served in Afghanistan, Iraq or the Nam ? So what's a bit of defending our homeland & standing true for First Nations treaties and rights by comparison?

And hey ! We gots the ENTIRE CONSERVATIVE PARTY claiming they stand for Canada, and Good Government.. surely they will mush into the bush with Dudley DoRight to fend off foreigners n defend the Alberta and BC n Arctic turf.. and The Constitution of Canada.. and The Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Its us, the caribou, orca, beavers (fer gawd's sake!) the wolves, eagles, prairie hens n ground squirrels n cod versus the Koch Bros, China and Stephen Harper.. surely we'll prevail?

Anonymous said...

Wiebo Ludwig a hero? Really? The man who believed that women should be barefoot pregnant and subservient to men? The man who killed a young teenager for joyriding on his property? Chris Hedges is just a nutcase and you're not far behind.

kootcoot said...

Anon, MoS didn't in any way defend Wiebo's patriarchal fundamentalism. And Chris Hedges is as far from a nutcase as is possible to be and I'm certain you have not a fraction of the courage or intelligence of Chris Hedges.

Barefoot and pregnant isn't as bad, by the way, as being forced to miscarry or give birth to deformed children by greedy corporate criminals......I feel sorry for your sorry ass dude! It should be kicked up one side of the Rockies and down the other!

ThinkingManNeil said...

I met Wiebo and his wife, Mamie, three or four times back in 1997 while I was staying with friends in the Hythe area while looking for work at the time. They were no too distant neighbours to the Ludwigs and their compound. Being an atheist myself I didn't cotton to Wiebo's hardcore religiousity or to his attitudes towards women - especially those within his own family. I remember that he wasn't particularly loud, exclamatory, boisterous, or bellicose, but he was very intense and charismatic in a low key kind of way. My friend's property bordered a sour gas plant and so that was the main and most common topic of discussion, as well as the ongoing, endemic water contamination problems in the district, which could only be attributed to the reckless practices of Big Oil. I can't say one way or another if Wiebo was definitively involved with the bombings of gas production and transport facilities as I don't think the evidence was conclusive (and because the RCMP engaged in its own False Flag attacks in the natter), but I do believe the effects on his land and family - as well as on many other families in the area - was very real indeed. I certainly could understand, and empathize, with him.

My friend was also well acquainted with the man who turned out to be the RCMP informant/operative in the Ludwig case...


The Mound of Sound said...

Interesting observations, Neil. Thanks. Ludwig was a controversial and deeply flawed character by our standards but his fight against the sour gas wells is/was commendable.