In my piece about wind turbines, I proffered an opinion that I didn't care for them based primarily on their appearance and the fact that they really do detract from our beautiful landscapes and seascapes, for me that is unquestionable.
This, in addition to the suggestion that apparently they are not in fact very efficient.
The response I received to this blog post was of a magnitude that I could never have imagined.
In the days following the publication of my post, it was viewed around 3000 times and I was inundated with messages and comments from people on both sides of the debate, all of whom had extremely strong opinions, often based on their own personal experiences of living close to these turbines.
I have tried to remain open minded to both sides in this contentious matter, those in favour of the turbines who promote their 'green' and sustainable merits – and those against them who raised some very worrying statistics about the machines.
While I remained very willing to hear about the wind machines' good points, I am afraid that the pro-turbine people have generally been the ones who have shouted the loudest, said that they 'love' the wind turbines for no particular reason and generally come up with some rather thin arguments when confronted with objections from the anti-turbine lobby; statements like “cars kill more birds than turbines” and “I'd have one in my garden if I could” really don't impress me much. Not only do they miss the point but they appear to be very flippant in the context of such a potentially serious problem.
I will not be swayed by political bias either. I have noticed that many contributors to the anti-turbine debate, which has been taking place on both facebook (where my blog post was shared) and on my blog itself, are affiliated to political movements and parties whose line seems to be to oppose the turbines at all costs. I am fully aware of this and remain wary of allowing politics to influence my own thoughts and opinions. While I also know that political involvement is a major way to bring about change, I feel that some people might have other agendas and might be piggybacking on the genuine concern that many people have about the ethics, safety and efficiency of wind farms and their very real worry about the continued expansion.
However, after weighing up each and every argument for and against, I stand by my instinctive dislike of the wind turbines. That is not to say that I am necessarily against the technology on a small scale, I have seen many successful small turbines attached to dwellings that are far removed from the national grid – these work, are not a blot on the landscape and provide a modest amount of back up energy when required. They can take up less space than a lamppost and are a different animal altogether from the giant turbines.
So I have decided to try to summarise some of the key points that I have learnt here after collating opinions from the many people who have contacted me.
Wind turbines are most certainly NOT green. It's a common misconception because they are marketed as such.
In fact the manufacture and installation of many turbines actively results in contamination to natural environments both here and overseas. This is in part due to the fact that minerals known collectively as 'rare earth' are used in the production of many turbines (as well as mobile phones, electric cars and other technological goods).
Many of the factories that process these minerals are in Mongolia and China. It is desperately worrying that where once there were green fields and lakes teeming with life, there are now toxic wastelands and vast ponds filled with poisons and radioactive materials, by-products of the manufacturing processes.
Closer to home, the installation of the turbines themselves presents challenges, large amounts of concrete and steel out at sea being just one of the drawbacks in constructing the turbine fields .
The real and direct threat to wildlife must not be underestimated. Significant numbers of birds and bats are killed by turbines every day of the week, many of them rare and endangered species which cannot survive any dip in their numbers. Some of these species are protected by law and yet no action is taken to ensure that they are safe. No action practically can be taken while the turbines exist.... while an individual purposefully harming a protected bird would be prosecuted, the logistics of taking companies to court over the mass killing of the same creatures means that it is unlikely to happen.
There is also some evidence that marine mammals are being affected by the turbines.
In less than one month last year, no less than 29 Sperm Whales were stranded and died on English, German and Dutch beaches....in an area with the highest concentration of wind turbines. While there is much debate over the cause of the whales' deaths, there is also evidence that the acoustic pollution from wind farms can interfere with whale communication and navigation.
I have heard directly from people with experience of living in the shadow of land based wind farms too. Some have become desperately distressed by both the noise and the intrusion on the landscape. Many are fighting to protect areas of natural beauty in their communities which are threatened by new banks of turbines.
And the turbines are getting bigger.
There are many suggestions for turbine design that might have less impact both on wildlife and the environment – but are they in production? Or will they be any time soon?
I don't know the answer to this. Perhaps someone in the know can enlighten me.
Meanwhile large coastal installations are proudly being sold to communities as being both environmentally friendly and an efficient source of energy – two points that I have learnt are very contentious indeed.
So, all in all, I remain totally unconvinced as to the merits of the things. Reading the many many comments and messages I have received since writing the post, I can say that there are a huge number of folks out there who are very worried, angry and distressed over the plans for continued expansion of wind farms around the world. Protest groups abound but they are fighting big business, government subsidies and local planning authorities who may have less than honourable motives for granting permission to blot our landscapes and seascapes further.
So my feelings have not changed. I remain open to hearing intelligent discussion about the issue.
Please, if you do comment, be polite and refrain from insults. Following my earlier post, there were some very strong views expressed but I will remove any comments which might be deemed inappropriately aggressive on either side of the argument.
Please be kind and constructive.
I consider myself an environmentalist, I'm at the very least environmentally aware and vocal in my support of conservation and the protection of open spaces and particularly public access to such spaces. In a world where no piece of vacant land seems to be out of the grasp of developers whether it is 'protected' or not, I try my best to write about and support efforts to conserve what is left untouched.
And of course all of this empathy with the natural world encompasses the need to factor in the responsible production of energy and other essential services.
Is it just me or are those wind turbines (in spite of their purported benefits) a horrible blot on our landscape? Not just landscapes in fact but also and especially seascapes which are forever ruined by banks of huge ugly wind turbines. Many wonderful views have been entirely spoiled forever, they are the places where one could look out to sea and imagine infinite space, find time to think and be at one with one's thoughts in nature.
I for one don't buy into the assertion that these windmills are efficient producers of energy especially given just how much priceless space they take up. Whole hillsides are covered in the things and some of my favourite stretches of coastline are now dominated by these sinister looking edifices. One report into the efficacy of these so called 'wind farms' (as if the term 'farm' makes them sound more wholesome) concluded that UK wind farms top 80 per cent of their potential output for less than a week every year and that wind turbines are only able to produce 90 per cent or more of their potential power output for a tiny 17 hours a year. So they appear to be a wholly inefficient waste of space. I'd dearly love for someone to provide some figures proving otherwise....but it seems unlikely to happen.
We recently left our 'green' energy company because they incessantly told us that our energy was coming mostly from these wind farms and that they were investing heavily in this (inefficient) system, like it was the best thing ever. What about the alternatives?
Call me cynical but one wonders if someone somewhere is making a fortune out of manufacturing and installing wind farms throughout our precious countryside and coast whether they are in fact ecologically sound or not.
I'm not Einstein but surely if we are to doggedly pursue this less than efficient means of producing power (and the one thing in its favour is that the wind does at least produce some free energy that we can harness) then would it not make more sense for very small windmills to be fitted to domestic dwellings (next to the satellite dish perhaps) and for solar panels to replace traditional roof tiles where possible, thereby benefiting the householder with free or subsidised electricity and/or feeding it into the national grid...?
That and hydro power of course which just seems like an obvious choice for an island nation surrounded by water.
Meanwhile I hold my breath and close my eyes when we take a trip into our favourite parts of the countryside lest I find they have desecrated my cherished places with these monstrosities – they seem to be encroaching fast but it is still just possible to find wide horizons and open vistas for now. My hope is that those who seek solace in these places will be able to do so for generations to come without the ugly intrusion of wind farms.
I'm a firm believer in angels, not those pseudo religious winged types (although who knows) but rather just very wise and good souls amongst us who are often in the most unexpected places and in the most unlikely disguise. My blog post called 'More Life' tells of the time our dog Ozzie had his own angelic encounter.
Recently I was having a particularly rubbish day at work, you know one of those days filled with stupid people saying stupid things. I don't suffer ignorance gladly as I grow older and I am more easily riled and more likely to speak my mind. But on this day I was also tired and had said all I felt like saying. Ranted out and unwilling to spend any more time in the company of fools.
Yes, so you will gather that it wasn't a great day.
I had to get out of that space for a while so I went for a walk in the rain, hands in pockets, trying to clear my head in the grey city streets. After half an hour, still feeling miserable I reluctantly acknowledged that I had to go back to work. I cut through a small alleyway that would take me in that direction. The rain was driving across the deserted little street and I didn't have an umbrella. To be honest I don't normally mind a good rainy day walk, today however I was feeling sorry for myself so I derived no pleasure from the soaking I was getting. Then I noticed a tramp sitting in a doorway. He was not managing to stay dry and appeared to have given up on any further effort to even try. Resigned to the day and his situation. In my self absorbed state of mind, I had barely registered his presence but as I passed by he called out to me softly and with a grin. "How's your day going kid?" I stopped, suddenly aware. Looking at the tramp, soaked through in the filthy doorway, everything became clear again and in an instant I regained perspective. "My day's going great thanks" I replied. The tramp nodded knowingly and I looked up at the sky in thanks, realising that in comparison to some poor souls, my day was in fact going very well.
It took an unexpected angel to remind me of that.
In the Kabbalah, the mystical Jewish tradition of learning, it is said that angels may appear in human form. Once they have completed their worldly duties, they divest themselves of their bodies and return to their former spiritual state.
That makes sense to me.
I went back to work knowing just how good my life really is in a world where it is so very easy to lose track and slip off the rails. Angels in unexpected places have the knack of being able to remind us of that and I'm blessed indeed to have encountered more than a few along the way.
It's the biggest irony.
In these times where diversity is being embraced in the more enlightened parts of the world and where the rights of others to be different is not only tolerated but celebrated, finally we humans are realising that the biggest threat to each of us is not the person on to whom we project our fears but actually ourselves. Now that we are starting to accept the uniqueness of others around us we are beginning to free ourselves from the straightjacket of fear that we have been wearing for so long.
As we begin to explore this new world, so we make new discoveries.... it turns out that the gay couple who live across the road are actually quite nice when you bother to talk with them, the Indian family up the street are quiet and respectful members of the local community and that 'strange' old man who lives in the dilapidated house around the corner is actually not strange - but just very lonely.
Nobody has it easy. Everyone is just trying to survive. And finally society – or at least the civilised sections of society – are beginning to accept the differences that make each and every one of us unique. And so a glimmer of hope emerges that maybe, just maybe, we can learn to live together peacefully and in cooperation with one another.
For certain there are vast ignorant swathes of the population, indeed sometimes entire countries, which are bigoted and downright prejudiced but the rest of us are part of a massive wave of tolerance that has been building for decades and that has been making progress in changing perspectives and eroding away all kinds of outdated discrimination. This wave is gathering pace as more governments sweep away old ideas and preconceptions, legalising gay marriage, celebrating diversity and encouraging inter-cultural cooperation. It's a strong force for good that relies on the participation and courage of minorities to stand up and be counted. And they are doing just that in ever increasing numbers.
And I'm not talking about those people who are all good words but no action or those who use sound-bites backed by little knowledge. I was one of them in my youth, I wore a badge that proclaimed 'I'm an unashamed idealist'. Sweet perhaps but innocently naïve and actually just words without any meaning. I knew that the world had problems and I thought that I could change everything. It seemed so simple. All rainbows and bubbles. Now of course I view it all through a pair of cynically tinted spectacles. But I am encouraged by the growing tide of change. And I, after I'd learnt a few lessons along the way, was in my own small way a part of that tide of change, a small voice in a sea of noise.
There are setbacks of course, the ignorant majority are still the loudest but they are being shouted down more and more by the voices of tolerance, intellect and most importantly of all, kindness.
Contrary to a popular belief, true tolerance does not lead to a breakdown in morals or an increase in extremists and terror but is generally combined with a sense of balance and common sense. You can be kind hearted and generous and open your mind and heart to others but that does not mean you are so naïve and silly that you would leave the door open to danger. Being tolerant does not make you stupid. Being stupid makes you stupid and that is the domain of the ignorant.
So the irony? Well, as we begin to conquer our fears about others and start to contemplate, or at least imagine, a world in which peace might one day be possible, we are destroying that very same world, this amazing planet, that we all inhabit, and we're doing so with alarming speed. It's as though we have just shifted across from one method of self destruction to another. From social to environmental annihilation. But it's self destruction nevertheless.
It's an odd thing, a conundrum: 'Yay!' we might be learning to live together so....naturally we'd better destroy the planet just in case that world of love and equality actually begins to become a reality.
But even this environmental crisis is not hopeless. Just a few days ago I visited a nature reserve where huge efforts to preserve the landscape and wildlife is paying off, an abundance of flora and fauna are thriving there and they are protected from immediate danger. And this is just one of countless projects both here in the UK and around the world where humans have finally realised that our own survival is directly dependant on the preservation of the natural world around us.
But it is a fragile and delicate operation.
We may have only a few chances left to turn it all around but at the rate we are pounding the planet into submission it seems less and less likely that there will be a world in which to love one another after all.
And just when some of us were beginning to get along.....
Ironic isn't it?
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