R.I.P. Wiebo Ludwig (II)

14 Apr

As with Thomas Kinkade, over at Happolati’s Miscellany recently, I noted the recent passing of Wiebo Ludwig, and am doing a longer, follow-up post here.  As a Reformed believer who has lived in both Ontario and Alberta, I have a strong interest in the enigma that was Wiebo Ludwig.

Wiebo Ludwig was a complex character.  He had fled with his family to Alberta from Ontario, to start a new life in the wilderness, off-the-grid in more ways than one – economic and energy and food self-sufficiency, as much as possible, but also to separate physically from the greater society at large, to keep themselves more morally pure; kinda like Anabaptists.  Dutch Reformed types have historical precedent for doing this sort of thing; the early 19th-century founding of ‘De Colonie’ near what is now Grand Rapids, Michigan, was very much the same sort of thing; they fled from across the sea to a then-still-wilderness part of America, in order to freely practice their religion, and live according to the values they held to, where they felt they could not back in the Netherlands.  Ludwig had felt his denomination had gone too much the way of the world, and wanted to separate out from them.  (I myself belong to a denomination which broke away from the same one the Ludwigs left, so I have much sympathy.)

So Wiebo attempted a secession from society; like Noah, separating out himself and his extended family, going off on their own, to do their own thing.  But the rest of the world wasn’t destroyed by flood; on the contrary, it encroached on him and his family, what with poisoning of their land from sour gas leaks on oil company property next to their farms.  Sadly, the Ludwigs couldn’t even stop drilling under their property if they wished to, because in Alberta, property-owners only have ‘surface rights’, just a short distance underground, close to the surface; they don’t actually own all the land under their property.  Oil companies rule Alberta, and can drill where they please, with the government’s blessing, since they bring in jobs and wealth to Alberta, doncha know.

Sour gas caused the Ludwigs to experience miscarriages in both the people in their compound, and their livestock; as well as deformities; health problems of all kinds…

And so, Wiebo Ludwig felt his back was against the wall, and like David, had to take on Goliath, i.e. the oil companies.

And so, he did.  Creating lots of enemies, but also winning unexpected allies; environmentalist leftists who otherwise wouldn’t have much time for a patriarchical, traditionalist Calvinist separatist-community-leader.

Pipe bombs exploded; oil company equipment was damaged.  Locals came to hate him, since the oil industry is the main source of most people’s livelihoods in that part of Alberta.

Then came the unfortunate Karman Willis incident; a buncha idiot teenagers went joyriding onto the compound late one night.  Shots were fired, and a teenage girl ended up dead.  The white-knighting, pedestalizing, overly-chivalrous outraged locals wanted the Ludwigs run out of town on a rail, if they’d had their druthers.  But nothing was proven, no charges were laid.  IMO, the stupid teens had no-one to blame but themselves.  Not a good idea to ride onto the property of people who legitimately have reason to feel targeted – even if their tactics were part of the reason – in the middle of the night.  Sometimes, dumbass teens who do dumbass teen things have to pay with their lives.  Oh well.

Things quieted down after that, but Ludwig kept up his struggle against the oil companies.

Was he right to act as he did?  Was he wrong?  I don’t know.  I sympathize greatly, though.  And am inclined to agree, that sometimes, one has to do, what one feels one has to do.

Ludwig was interviewed recently, when he knew his days were coming to an end; that interview is here.

R.I.P., Brother Ludwig.

I recommend highly Andrew Nikiforuk’s Saboteurs: Wiebo Ludwig’s War Against Big Oil; an excellent book; gives much background into Ludwig’s past, and formational life experiences, including here in Ontario.

I also recommend the 2011 National Film Board of Canada documentary Wiebo’s War; like the book, lays out the whole story, but takes you inside the Trickle Creek compound, to let you meet the rest of the family, too.  Well done; surprisingly rivetting, for a documentary – and fairly balanced, also surprisingly.

*Update: Andrew Nikiforuk, who wrote the book mentioned above, wrote an obituary for Wiebo Ludwig, here.

**Update: BTW, they’re still there


19 responses to “R.I.P. Wiebo Ludwig (II)

  1. Gerry T. Neal

    April 14, 2012 at 1:21 am

    I too don’t know what to think of the late Wiebo Ludwig. I don’t feel comfortable saying that acts of criminal sabotage are justifiable. On the other hand there was no way he would have obtained justice legally. He has gone now, to give an account to the True Judge. May he, through the merits of Christ’s blood, obtain mercy at that, his final trial.

    By the way, what’s with the (II)?

  2. Will S.

    April 14, 2012 at 7:14 am

    Hi Gerry, the (II) is because it’s my second ‘R.I.P. Wiebo Ludwig’ post (the first is over at Happolati’s Miscellany – see the link to it in the first line of this – where I now post short posts).

    I second everything you said.

  3. electricangel1978

    April 14, 2012 at 12:42 pm


    Wiebo reminds me of Wendell Berry. Have you read much of his stuff?

    The separatists always face trouble, of course. Such, as we have all noted, is coming for some evolutionary Papists…

  4. Will S.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    Hey EA, I do know who Wendell Berry is; but I’ve only read a tiny amount of his stuff. But I’d say Wiebo Ludwig was far more radical than Wendell Berry, because circumstances more or less forced him to be, or so he felt, at least, whether rightly or wrongly.

    Yes, the world always tries to stop separatism. It doesn’t willingly tolerate dissent from the Brave New World Order.

  5. samsonsjawbone

    April 14, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    I never heard of this guy, but the story sounds intriguing.

    because in Alberta, property-owners only have ‘surface rights’, just a short distance underground, close to the surface; they don’t actually own all the land under their property

    Crazy. I wonder if it’s like that everywhere.

    • Will S.

      April 15, 2012 at 10:32 am

      @ Samson: “I never heard of this guy, but the story sounds intriguing.”

      Really? He was in the news a fair bit through the ’90s, and occasionally since.

      “Crazy. I wonder if it’s like that everywhere.”

      Googling, at a quick glance, it looks like the ‘surface rights‘ concept is largely confined to Alberta and the three Territories.

  6. electricangel1978

    April 15, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Googling, at a quick glance, it looks like the ‘surface rights‘ concept is largely confined to Alberta and the three Territories.

    In fact, Will, around the world it is EXTREMELY rare that the property owner owns the stuff under the surface of the ground. Some US States have funny laws, like a suburban house we looked at in the Philly suburbs. The deed talked about the rights of coal miners to extract coal from under the house (there was none, but still…). Of course, that is in the deed because it is an EXCEPTION to the US rule that you own the ground below you to the center of the earth, and the sky above (look up the value of “air rights” in Manhattan property prices sometime.) I read something a while back about the number of oil wells drilled around the world, and how the vast majority were in North America. The reason? Only here do property owners own the mineral rights and the value thereof, and so are encouraged to develop them. Elsewhere, the oil belongs to “everyone” which means effectively no one.

    Think of what happens if you find a mediaeval coin hoard in England: it becomes the property of the Crown!

  7. Will S.

    April 15, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    @ EA: Ah; I stand corrected. Perhaps the Google search just shows where the battles over such are strongest. But I do know, as you suggest, that America has a stronger conception of ‘property rights’ than Canada does, certainly because the Crown is considered ultimately sovereign, here.

  8. Svar

    April 15, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Will, I may support Monarchy, but I am a strong proponent of private property and gun rights.

  9. Will S.

    April 15, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    As am I, too, Svar; such would prevent many tragedies of the kind I described in this post.

  10. Branden Sullivan

    April 17, 2012 at 7:58 am

    @Svar: Have you ever read ‘Democracy: The God That Failed’ by Hans-Hermann Hoppe? Hoppe is one of the most influential people in the Austrian School of Economics and distinguished fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He lays out a substantial criticism of democracy/republicanism as the chief defense of private property in relation to monarchism. You can read more about this book and particularly his ideas at the links below.

    It really helped me with understanding the safety and sanctity of wealth and private property under a monarch.

  11. Matthew

    April 17, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    Branden Sullivan: that’s a great book. I found it very frustrating, however, that the first essay was basically a summary of the next few. And that only in the last essay do we receive his explanation of how the monopolies of violence would be replaced was exasperating.

  12. Will S.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Andrew Nikiforuk, who wrote the book mentioned in the post, wrote an obituary for Wiebo Ludwig, here.

  13. Svar

    April 23, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    Ruskin, I haven’t read that book, but I have had it recommended for me to read several times. I’m going to have to get on it.

    Thanks for the links.

  14. Will S.

    July 4, 2014 at 1:15 am

    **Update: BTW, they’re still there


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