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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Windfarm Development

George Monbiot describes how the development of windfarms forces environmentalists and traditional industrialists to inhabit each others shoes for once. They each find the fit rather uncomfortable:
But these are not the only ways in which environmentalists’ support for windfarms makes me squirm. The joint statement about the Whinash project published by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth complains that “opponents of the scheme, which would be sited beside the M6 motorway, have claimed that the wind turbines will spoil the views, failing to acknowledge that the presence of a motorway has degraded the landscape”.(11) It quotes Friends of the Earth’s energy campaigner Jill Perry, who says, “I’m amazed that people are claiming that the area should be designated a National Park. What kind of National Park has a motorway running through it?” Well the New Forest and South Downs national parks, for a start.(12) Their creation was supported by Friends of the Earth.

Elsewhere, these groups oppose the “infill” around new roads. Elsewhere, they argue that landscapes and ecosystems should be viewed holistically: that they do not stop, in other words, at an arbitrary line on the map, like the boundary of a national park. I understand that green campaigners are placed in an uncomfortable position when arguing for development rather than against it. But I do not understand why they have to sound like WalMart as soon as the boot is on the other foot.

I believe the Whinash windfarm should be built. But I also believe that those who defend it should be a good deal more sensitive towards the concerns of local objectors. Why? Because in any other circumstances they would find themselves fighting on the same side.
I have visited the Lake District National Park, the proposed region in northern England for the windfarm development that Monbiot talks about. From my trip, I did learn that national parks in England have little in common with the national parks found in the United States. For one, I recall seeing many residences, pubs, and conventional public roads within the boundaries of Lake District N.P. In contrast, national parks in the U.S. maintain a much more primitive character. Well, duh, the U.S. government owns the national park -- this from a rather neutral German observer :
Furthermore, the land in a national park is not owned by the nation – unlike most of the land in American national parks. (McAveeney, 9) In British national parks most of the land is privately owned and privately controlled, so the designation as a national park does not alter the ownership of land within the area.
You can see why American environmentlists see windfarms as a sell-out to their cause.


Professor Blogger SW said...

There is a difference between a sell out and a sacrifice.

9:50 PM  
Professor Anonymous Dave Bell said...

The local politics in the Lake District gets intense at times: many people living there feel that they've already been sacrificed.

11:29 PM  
Professor Blogger Big Gav said...

As I recall the Lakes District already has nuclear power plants to the north (or thereabouts) - a wall of wind farms will probably make them feel a bit fenced in (maybe they should be grateful no one is building hydro plants on all the streams).

That said I can't disagree with Mr Monbiot - better wind than more coal or nuclear.

If you're ever back in the Lake District do the walk up the striding edge to Helvellyn - fantastic. And then have a few beers and a steak at the pub at the start of the trail to make you forget how much your feet hurt...

4:18 AM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

Ahh yes, Helvellyn. We didn't quite make it up to the top. One of those climbs where it looks like the peak is just over the next horizon. Maybe if we didn't have the baby-buggy along...

10:40 AM  
Professor Blogger Big Gav said...


That bit about the peak being just over the next horizon made me laugh.

I shamelessly lied and told my wife that Helvellyn was the first ridge we could see from the car park - 4 hours later she was more than a bit unbelieving as I kept repeating, its just ahead up there. But we got there eventually.

Not doing the edge with a baby buggy is a good move - its a bit frightening even on a "good" weather day (such as they are up there).

4:16 AM  
Professor Blogger WHT said...

Yes, the wind was howling a bit on the climb as I recall. It makes you wonder if they will ever consider constructing a windmill up there :)

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