When I first heard about plans for the new HS2 rail link, I was uncomfortable. Although much needed improvements to the rail network sound like such a good idea, it seemed like overkill to instigate such a huge project in order to save less than an hour on the journey time between the north of England and the capital. Everyone is already in such a rush to get everywhere. Quite why remains unclear. We all complain about how fast time (and life itself) flies by and yet we continue to find ever more means to make it go even faster. And I was suspicious that the whole project might be more beneficial to those who live in London and the south than to those in the north....with property prices so high in London, it would make sense to some to widen the commuter belt and enable those who work 'down south' to live 'up north'.
And now that the project is going ahead – work begins next year – I feel very uneasy.
Not least because it is estimated to cost 56 billion pounds – and we all know that this is likely to increase, some estimates putting the final figure at 104 billion pounds! Personally I just feel that the money might be better spent elsewhere. Pumping this amount of money into the Health Service, for example, would surely benefit a far greater number of people than will the fast(er) trains.
First and foremost in my mind however is the effect all this will have on the environment, the countryside and the wildlife – all of which are already struggling to exist alongside the relentless march of 'progress'.
According to the StopHS2 website, the project will be an environmental disaster, “HS2 threatens 350 unique habitats, 98 irreplaceable ancient woods, 30 river corridors, 24 Sites of Special Scientific Interest plus hundreds of other sensitive areas. The ultra-high design speed of 250mph, dictates HS2 tracks have to be as straight as possible, and cannot curve round these important sensitive sites or communities.”
The Woodland Trust is battling to save ancient woodlands that lie in the direct path of the new rail links. Phase One of the project will destroy no less than 34 individual woods, together with all the wildlife that they support and it will impact on another 29. Phase Two will destroy a further 24 woodlands. These are not just any old patches of land, these are ancient, established woodlands that will for ever be lost, they are irreplaceable.
The impact this will have on wildlife cannot be underestimated and HS2's promises to create new areas of forest can in no way compensate for the ancient woods that will be lost. The woods that will be destroyed by HS2 have been established for centuries and as such are a unique feature of our ever diminishing countryside. To replace them in any significant way would take hundreds of years and they cannot be restored by simply planting more trees as HS2 have suggested. When I heard Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, announce that affected communities will receive a 70 million pounds sweetener from the project, I became even more cynical. As soon as big business or Governments try to 'buy' local communities with financial sweeteners then one has to question why this would be necessary if the benefits were clear to see. This divides and destroys formerly close-knit communities as we have seen from similar incentives offered by the shady wind turbine industry.
In addition to the woodland and wildlife affected, a large number of homes, including many newly built houses, will have to be demolished, leaving an uncertain future for residents affected.
All in all, this whole project appears to be a giant fiasco. If it goes ahead, which seems inevitable now, then it might be the biggest waste of money and resources this country has ever seen. It will be an environmental catastrophe and, by the time it becomes finally operational, an anachronistic white elephant.
More information: www.stophs2.org
This is a true encounter and one that I will never forget such was the impression it made on me...
Random acts of kindness are amongst those precious moments in life that one never ever forgets. I'm lucky indeed to have experienced many.
An act of kindness can be the smallest of gestures but it is always from the heart to the heart.
One, that I remembered again today, took me back to the 1990's when I fulfilled a long held wish to visit Helsinki. For some unknown reason I had wanted to visit Finland for many years, even at one point contemplating working as a volunteer at a remote monastery in the Finnish countryside. Joining the monks at Valaamo is something I never got around to doing but eventually I did find myself arriving in Helsinki on a cold October day with the sun shining and vivid blue skies above.
I was very taken with the city, it is fresh, beautiful, clean and friendly. But my little journey did not stop there because the following day I decided to get on a boat and go to Tallinn, the capital of Estonia.
Bear in mind that this was a time when Estonia was barely open to foreigners, having only relatively recently extricated itself from the grip of Soviet Russia. It was undeveloped and something of a secret. I followed a handful of Finns who were crossing the Baltic to stock up on the cheap alcohol that was available in Tallinn. But I was not on the lookout for alcoholic bargains, I was interested in the thrill of entering a land that hitherto many Westerners had never seen. It was also possibly a country that some of my ancestors had passed through when they escaped pogroms in Russia a hundred years earlier.
Arriving with nothing but the clothes I was wearing and a little money I had exchanged into Estonian Kroons in Helsinki, I stepped off the boat at Tallinn docks into a place that appeared to be closed. As the Finns all disappeared from sight, obviously knowing exactly where they would need to go for their drinks, I found myself walking through a deserted area of docks, boats and not much else. There wasn't a soul around and I had no idea which direction to take. In the distance I could make out the spire of a church. Thinking that at least there might be some civilisation there, I set off. The light was dim, the clouds heavy and grey and the whole visit, though exciting in anticipation, was becoming something of an effort.
I headed on uphill for what seemed like an eternity in the direction of the spire. Still I saw no people at all. It was a Sunday but anywhere else in the world, I thought, I would have seen another soul somewhere. Not here. As I approached the spire, turning a corner, I very suddenly found myself in the most beautiful cobbled town square that looked for all the world as though is had emerged from a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. Turrets, ancient little houses and gargoyles appeared. A mist swirled through the square as if it were a set straight from a Russian ballet. And tiny winding streets led off in all directions. There was no electric light. Instead, every few yards along the pavement there was a torch burning atop a small post in the ground. The fire light from these torches flickered and gave a truly magical glow to the scene. It was stunningly beautiful.
Still I did not see a single soul. I crossed the square and it began to snow, large wet flakes of snow drifting in the air. I stopped to savour this moment in time for I knew even then that I would not see such a place again in my life.
At the other side of the square I began to wonder where I might get something to eat as I realised I had been walking for some time and distance already. With nobody around, and everywhere apparently closed for the day, I was about to give up any hope of food when quite suddenly, out of the mist, emerged a tall woman in a long cape. It seemed that, although I felt completely alone in this wonderland of a town, there were eyes on me as I wandered around. She could either read my mind or just instinctively picked up on my situation because she approached me and asked in broken English if I was hungry. I nodded and said yes. I would think she was in her forties though it was difficult to tell. I could see red hair peeking out from under her hood and the greenest eyes, which looked kind and yet strong. Honestly, I remember thinking that this is the kind of woman one could fall in love with at first sight. Boldly she linked arms with me and we began walking along a street that bordered the town square. Such closeness from a stranger would normally seem very audacious but here it was clearly just a confident friendliness. Abruptly she stopped and motioned to some steps leading steeply up into a very old building. “There”, she said, “there you can find some food.” And then she was gone, as quickly as she appeared, I watched her walking quickly away into the swirling snow. I hesitated briefly but then climbed the old steps. Sure enough I found a small cafe, empty apart from one or two other solo diners. A simple buffet was laid out and for a few Kroons I was able to eat some good food.
I will always remember the mystery woman and her concern for me, a complete stranger. Her simple act of kindness made a memory that will stay with me a lifetime.
The Great Auk was a majestic, flightless bird, wiped out by humans in the 19th century. A beautiful creature that the world will never see again. Human greed and disregard for the natural world put an end to this and countless other species over the centuries. One might have thought that, in these days of supposedly enlightened awareness of the environment and the creatures with which we share the planet, we humans would have stopped killing wild animals and birds and pushing them to the brink of extinction and beyond.
However, it sometimes seems that what we are doing is just making the task ever more streamlined and efficient. Wind turbines, vast banks of them off our coasts and on our precious land, are killing birds in huge numbers – many of them already protected or endangered species. Potentially, the turbines could be making swift work of decimating bird populations and the only difference between our ancestors callously hunting birds to extinction and today's disregard for the birdlife around us is that technology has made the method of dispatching them both faceless and business-like. What might have taken decades or centuries in the past could now see bird populations wiped off the face of the earth in record time.
Well done people.
Their effect on avian life has led to the turbines being referred to by some as 'bird blenders'.
Some facts for you:-
Puffins and other species are at great risk off the coast of the USA and in Scotland where banks of turbines are planned in and around the breeding and feeding grounds of the birds.
Inland, US legislation reportedly accepts the incidental deaths of up 4,200 Golden Eagles as a casualty of the establishment of wind farms over the next 30 years.
Whooping Cranes are also endangered by wind farms in the USA. This is the world's rarest Crane and according to ABC (American Bird Conservancy) “Although this species has been saved from extinction for the moment, and populations are increasing.......poorly-sited wind turbines pose a particular threat to Whooping Cranes, since their population is still so dangerously small.” At least 5,500 turbines already exist in the species' migratory corridor and more than 18,000 are planned.
Migrating species such as Trumpeter Swans, Snow Geese and some species of duck may be severely affected by turbines if plans for a wind farm in Missouri go ahead.
In 2015, CBS News reported that: “An analysis by the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) shows that more than 30,000 turbines overlap with federally protected bird habitat, including 24,000 in the migratory corridor of the Whooping Crane and 3,000 in breeding grounds of the endangered Greater Sage-Grouse.”
Several million more birds are killed by the power lines and pylons that carry the power generated by the turbines.
Back here in the UK, RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) Scotland, which is an organisation supportive of renewable energy, was forced into opposing plans for four huge windfarm projects on the Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay due to the significant impact it believed there would be on populations of protected species including Puffins and Kittiwakes. They said, at the time the initial plan was given consent, that the projects were predicted to have the potential to kill tens of thousands of seabirds over their lifetimes. However, despite a valiant effort to halt the plans, the project appears to be going ahead. The RSPB says “Whilst we fully support deployment of renewable energy, this must not be at any cost. Combined, these four huge projects threaten to kill thousands of Scotland's internationally protected seabirds every year, including thousands of puffins, gannets and kittiwakes. These could be amongst the most deadly windfarms for birds anywhere in the world.”
The problem is that some wind farms are poorly located in areas where their impact on birdlife can be enormous. We are now several years into the development of wind farm technology and still we see plans passed for turbines in locations which will impact heavily on birds and other wildlife. This is quite inexcusable and I believe points to the fact that energy companies care less about wildlife than they do about profit.
The poorly located Scottish developments are mirrored around the world.
In Kenya, the proposed Kipeto Wind Energy project could impact on at least two species which are already on the brink of extinction, Rüppell's Vulture and the White-backed Vulture.
In North America, proposed wind farm projects that will likely cause major harm to bird populations include the one at Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts. According to ABC, this project is in area with one of the largest concentrations of migratory birds in the world and they say that there would be a “high risk of catastrophic mortality events” to species that include the already endangered Piping Plover and Roseate Tern.
There are many more examples of plans for poorly located wind farms in the United States.
Wind farms in China and India are also cause for concern and although bird mortality figures here are harder to find, it seems likely that bird populations are being negatively affected.
In summary, as wind farms continue to be constructed around the world, sometimes planned with little regard for the impact they may have on wildlife, we can foresee a potentially catastrophic decline in some of our most endangered species.
We haven't learnt any lessons from the past it seems.
From the Dodo to the Great Auk, mankind's disregard for the birdlife of our planet seems destined to continue.
Since opening the 'can of worms' that is merely having an opinion on wind farms, two things have become especially clear... firstly that the subject has become very politicised and secondly that a label of climate change scepticism has been attached to this contentious topic.
If a political party has a manifesto that opposes the development of renewable energy then I fully respect their entitlement to argue the case publicly but it is important to note that not everyone who shares their scepticism with regard to wind energy will necessarily agree with their political ideology in other areas.
I have become aware that UKIP have a very visible presence in the anti turbine movement and many of their people have come forward to defend my viewpoint - but I feel obliged to point out that I personally am not in any way affiliated with UKIP (or any other political party for that matter) and wouldn't wish to be associated with many of the philosophies of UKIP - or, come to think of it, any one of the other political parties.
Indeed, I have little faith in any of them to effectively change the world for the better, though I know that unfortunately we must use politics as the catalyst for change.
I have decided to make this point clearly now only because some people have made the assumption that, because I oppose wind farms, I might also support UKIP, which I don't.
I think it takes all kinds of different people to win battles and this fight is no exception.
The damage caused by turbines affects us all. More importantly it affects the natural world around us, a world in which there is no politics, no agenda and no propaganda.
With regard to the second point, climate change - I don't know nearly enough about the subject to have an informed educated opinion on how and where 'renewable' energy fits into the picture. I am sceptical about many things most of the time so I will choose on this occasion to continue my opposition to the turbines based more on my intuition and less on any theory. This approach has generally served me well for fifty years!
For me, well I just know that instinctively I despise the turbines and what they have done and are doing to our countryside, while bringing precious little benefit to anyone except the companies involved in their promotion.
So, all that said, I will continue to oppose wind farm development, both those on land and those offshore, and I do so without any political agenda or association with any individual theory.
In my next post, I want to examine the impact (literally) on bird life, especially from the banks of turbines out at sea and I invite readers' experiences in this area in particular.
And thanks to all those good people (of all genres) who are joining together to oppose something we see as wrong. It takes a diverse group of people to win any battle.
It's not every day I get called a 'narrow minded troll' but if it's a label I have to wear in order to challenge something I see as wrong and immoral, then I will wear the badge with pride.
A couple of days ago, I posted another piece on this blog about my opposition to wind farms and, as is the way these days, it was shared around social media. Within hours I had been rounded on by the pro-wind lobby and I found myself in the midst of a barrage of hostile comments. This is not uncommon. Rather than enter into intelligent discussion, mostly the pro wind lobbyists resort to verbal abuse.
It seems that if anyone has an opinion that conflicts with that of the pro-windies, who are backed by the big energy companies, then they must be attacked and silenced.
But I will not keep quiet.
Silence can be considered consent - and I do not give my consent to the scourge of the wind turbines.
The facts are the facts. Wind energy is brought to you by big business and marketed to you as 'green', while in truth it is destructive, expensive and inefficient.
However, the purpose of this post is to bring you a few of the comments I received from the pro-wind lobbyists. I think the sheer aggression illustrates a distinct lack of strength in their assertions. As more than a few people have pointed out to me: when they resort to name calling, you know you have won the argument....
My favorite insult was being called a 'narrow minded troll with a crappy blog' but there were others.
I was accused of 'making up' much of what I wrote, when in fact I do research my pieces before publishing them, any good writer does.
But I was told: “you don't like wind generators so you're fabricating a whole fantasy nightmare scenario around them which simply doesn't exist. Who do you think you are - Don Quixote?”
Well, no I'm not Don Quixote. But thanks for asking.
In the same vein, I was informed that I was writing: “Totally unreferenced, unsubstantiated, bullshit.”
And by someone else: “this is a pile of old bollocks”
These pro wind people really are very eloquent aren't they?
Someone called Naomi told me to “Get used to it or die choking on carbon monoxide.”
Just for the record, this narrow minded troll (and I do dispute the label) will not 'get used to it' and will continue to speak out in opposition of the big wind turbine deception.
I've also been called a 'nimby' (a not-in-my-back-yard protester) even though I don't actually have a wind turbine, nor are there any plans for a wind farm, in my back garden. I know it might sound odd to some of the name-callers but I am actually concerned over other parts of the country (and the world) where there is still pristine countryside to protect from the onslaught of big wind companies.
There were a few isolated, more intelligent responses offering a reason as to why some people are not anti-turbines, often these people were supporting the use of private turbines to power individual properties or small communities – and I personally have no problem with this, it's the invasion of giant turbines that claim to power our towns and cities with 'green' energy where the figures don't add up for me.
And then of course you have the odd people who tell you (and I quote again) : “I personally think they are extremely beautiful and enhance the landscapes in which they reside immensely”.
Well there's no answer to that.
I expect that if a supermarket announced they were building a store atop Ben Nevis, some would say it was convenient and a boon to the local community.
As with the wind farms, protest at your peril and be accused of stifling progress. Such is the disregard for our precious countryside.
Perhaps, very tragically, much of the damage is already done in the UK, with nearly 1000 wind farms (that's collections of turbines, estimated to be 7,800 individual turbines) in operation or planned. But I still object to the misleading marketing of the green energy companies who are peddling environmentally friendly energy when it simply isn't.
It really is baffling just how many people have bought into this deception – but then the energy companies have been very clever, marketing their con as 'green' and convincing people that they are doing a good thing environmentally by supporting the 'renewable wind energy'. In fact big business is behind the dishonest claims and the only ones benefiting are the big companies themselves, causing in the process:-
Damage to wildlife (it is believed that millions of birds are killed annually by the turbines)
Felling of trees (millions of trees are felled to make way for wind farms)
Destruction of the countryside and coast.
Decimation of the environment where the manufacturing materials for turbines are sourced.
The cost of all this is incalculable – and for what? Just to line the pockets of a few people who are peddling a lie. I have nothing against big business, good luck to those who make money honestly. The problem is the dishonesty with which these companies operate. Their glossy green leaflets show turbines and countryside in perfect harmony. They might offer you financial incentives to sign up friends and family, though they will claw this back from you in higher energy bills.
The not so glossy truth is that the turbines bring with them destruction and potential for environmental disaster.
Don't be fooled, there will be no turning back once the countryside and coast are desecrated, energy prices will still rise and most importantly, these wind farms ain't green, they are destructive to the environment in both their manufacture and installation.
And, although I write from a turbine smothered UK, the problem is global. Visitors to my blog have arrived from every part of the world, from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and right across Europe from Turkey to Finland and from Ireland to Italy.
This is a big problem.
So, I will continue to support those many communities and individuals around the world who are struggling against the big companies in their fight against the turbine scandal.
And if that makes me a narrow minded troll then so be it.
Over 1300 views and more than 200 shares of my blog post (so far) suggest that many people out there are interested in finding out more.
And, people, don't forget:
Wind farms: they're not green and they're not clean.
I continue to be contacted by people from around the world in response to my piece about the dubious 'benefits' of wind power. This is a much bigger problem than I had ever imagined.
And it's global.
Since writing about wind turbines on my blog, I've heard from very many people across the USA and Europe, all fighting their own battles with the powerful energy companies who are using often less than honest tactics to get their plans for ever more wind farms through planning regulations.
Worried individuals and communities have been in touch voicing their concerns, not only about the way the so-called benefits of the turbines are being 'sold' to them but also because they are having to fight giant energy companies in a David and Goliath battle to protect their countryside. And they feel helpless with the odds stacked against them as plans are bulldozed through regardless of local opposition.
There have been some success stories, for example in Çeşme, a beautiful area in Turkey where two brave women, Madeleine Staaf Kura and Esen Fatma Kabadayi have been fighting against apparently illegal wind turbine installations and gathering support from the local community in their efforts; so far they have managed to prevent the erection of fourteen turbines, after campaigning tirelessly against them. Their website (see link following this post) highlights their ongoing struggle, pointing out that “today everyone understands that this investment has nothing to do with clean energy. What may have been planned with good intentions on paper has become a scandal, full of corruption, irregularities, illegalities, and natural disasters, because of the desire and greed for profit.”.
And this is reflected in other parts of the world where many campaign groups are still fighting but without success.
The UK is no different. Here we find our countryside and coast overwhelmed by wind farms, nearly 1000 as I write are either operational or planned, and still there are plans for more. It is truly shocking to see just how many there are.
The problem is that the 'green' energy companies would have us all believe that the turbines are both green and efficient, good for our environment and the planet.
This is just a fallacy. Plain and simple.
I bought into this misconception a few years ago when I signed up with a green energy company in the UK, thinking I was helping the environment in the process. Aside from the fact that our energy bills steadily increased once we were part of this 'green dream', it became clear to me that the whole environmentally friendly tag was nothing but an illusion.
In the UK, where we find turbines on the increase around our coast and atop our green hills, still less than 10% of our energy comes from them, at the expense of our open spaces and wilderness. It's too high a price to pay for that insignificant amount of energy. But that's not all. The tactics and distorted truths that energy companies use to persuade us to accept their wind farms are a major concern and this really needs to be investigated before the situation becomes even worse.
In Northern Ireland, where wind turbines have been spreading like a virus across the landscape, it has been reported that a local MP had received numerous letters supposedly from local residents asking him to support a new wind farm planning application on the Antrim Hills, a scenic beauty spot. The letters were later discovered to be bogus. And when the real residents, whom these letters were purportedly from, were contacted, they were appalled that their names were being used fraudulently in this way when in truth they were in fact opposing the plan. It seems that this kind of underhand method is being used to get plans through in spite of local opposition.
Somebody somewhere is clearly making a whole load of money out of what appears to be a giant con. The consumer is being led to believe that by supporting 'green' energy from wind turbines, they are actually helping to protect the environment, while I believe now that the exact opposite is true. Wind turbines are desecrating the natural environment, killing wildlife, making lots of money for energy companies and their associates – and providing negligible amounts of electricity in the process.
This could turn out to be the biggest deception of recent times. And that is why I am continuing to write about it.
Future generations will look back and wonder how we let this happen.
Please, before you make the mistake of signing up with a 'green' energy company or buying into this 'renewable' deception, check out some of the websites I have listed below.
If you would like your own group or organisation listed here then please contact me or comment below (put your website details in the body of the comment).
More information about the battle in Turkey:
European Platform Against Wind Farms:
Wind Concerns Ontario (excellent website with information for Canada):
Save The Eagles International (info on the damage to bird life from turbines): http://savetheeaglesinternational.org/
Scotland Against Spin:
National Wind Watch (USA):
On the tail of my two pieces about wind turbines and the huge response I received in their wake, it has been brought to my attention that there is another huge (literally) threat to our landscapes through the pressing demand for more and more electricity.
While whole farms of wind turbines have already blighted much of the wonderful seascapes we had here in the UK and in other parts of the world, their presence on the rolling uplands of the UK has perhaps been even more disheartening.
In addition to the significant danger they pose to wildlife (birds, bats, whales...), they are also, some say, detrimental to the health of the human population that lives in their shadow. And importantly, they don't seem to contribute very much to energy production which begs many questions about their purpose.
But wind turbines are not the only threat.
It seems that an army of giant electricity pylons are destined to march across our countryside, casting their dark shadows on what beautiful natural vistas still remain.
One particular proposal for a line of giant pylons across the Duddon Estuary in Cumrbia UK, which is currently 'paused' pending a decision by the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change in October 2018, came up against huge local opposition when it emerged in 2012 and campaigners have been fighting against the plans ever since.
National Grid PLC, a private company, had intended to link the new Moorside nuclear power station at the Sellafield complex in West Cumbria to the grid at Heysham in Lancashire. While the intention was to bury the cables along much of the route, still a series of huge pylons was to be erected across the scenic Duddon Estuary, replacing the existing row of small pylons with 90 new ones double the size at 50 metres (160 ft) each. This, campaigners say, would cause untold damage to the landscape and tourism. And you can see their point...
There are alternatives; re-routing the cables, burying them, building underwater tunnels to house them – all of which would cost more than the pylons, but what price can we put on our countryside?
In parts of Scotland it's already too late, large pylons march across formerly unspoilt countryside, in spite of local opposition.
While we are all responsible for adding to the demand for more and more energy, is it not equally important to be aware of the untold damage we are doing to our environment in our thirst for ever more power?
The thing that perhaps worries me the most is that private companies appear to be cutting costs in an effort to maximise profit. This leaves no room for the protection of our landscape and natural environment.
And this is even before we look at concerns over the suggested health hazards involved in living near high voltage electricity lines (more about which in a future post).
I invite readers to have their say by commenting below. Is this also a concern in other parts of the world? Or is it a particularly British problem?
SEARCH ALL MY BLOG POSTS HERE