Friday, February 1, 2013

Of Birds and Blades

I like birds, I really do. I am also a strong proponent of renewable energy like solar and wind power. Imagine my dismay at finding many of my birding friends denouncing the huge wind farms popping up all over the place these days. Ok, the objections are mostly concerning the location of the big turbines, but the arguments are not going to end well if taken out of context as the press is prone to do.

There are two problems that occur to me immediately. One, if “environmentalists” first object to traditional energy sources like coal, gas, and oil, but then start whining about commercial pursuit of alternative energy, they lose credibility and are dismissed as “NIMBYs” (Not in my Backyard). Secondly, if we invest too heavily or too quickly in a technology that demonstrates itself to have severe detrimental side effects, then we are back to square one on all fronts.

No question, oil, coal, and gas involve truly horrific extraction procedures and equally risky transportation methods. Time and again we have seen the outcome in the form of petroleum-soaked pelicans, black beaches, mountain-top removals, and other disasters. Virtually anything is better than that. A recent online article and chart from Mother Jones purports to show that wind turbines kill just a few birds compared to the mortality inflicted by…..cats.

Naturally, any bird fatalities attributable to humans, or their pets, is intolerable to many in the birding community. Here is another article, in PDF file format, that offers statistics on bird fatalities associated with cell phone towers. There seems to be no end to the number of ways we are killing our fauna, including automobiles, airplanes, and wanton executions at the end of (insert random weapon here).

I am not saying I am in favor of preventable slaughter. There are alternative designs for wind-driven devices that harness power. Raymond Green has created one that looks promising. The roadblocks to its manufacture at any scale will undoubtedly come from the companies making money with the status quo. That is what must change: Our corporate addiction to whatever is making money at the cost of everything else. We need industries to be flexible to accommodate new findings and better ideas that benefit humanity as a whole, and are sustainable.

I will continue supporting wind energy, and promote safer designs. I will also always love cats, but agree that they should be kept indoors, and/or walked on a leash. I will also continue opposing the stock market as the driving force of our society. It is driving alright, driving down wages, driving through consumer rights, and driving our natural environment to hell. I’m all ears when it comes to an alternative to that.

1 comment:

  1. Agree with most of what you write. But most of the attention goes to big wind turbines. Small wind is almost forgotten, probably because 1. it is hard to do 2. has a lot of infrastructure costs and 3. it is decentralized. Still, I don't think we pay enough attention to small wind projects. Those huge wind projects really are ugly, no matter how much I try to enjoy them as part of the landscape.