Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Blown Away

Jonathan Porrit - whom I greatly admire - thinks wind turbines are "compellingly beautiful". Yes indeed. Some that I have seen in France are an elegant, silvery testament to Man's ingenuity. They slice the air with a majestic ruthlessness. An eerie sound surrounds them. They have all the compelling appeal of power.

Giant wind farms are to save the country from global warming. The wild beauty of the windiest parts of our country has a value that cannot be measured. And the country is to be desecrated in the name of green energy.

The Argyll and Bute Regional Council have just taken a decision that has left everyone thunderstruck. They have turned down a planning application for 16 wind-turbines to be erected on the ridge in the Inverliever Forest in Argyll. A probably temporary victory for the protesters.

Like them, that amiable and brilliant scientist Professor James Lovelock is not impressed with the rush to cover Britain with gigantic windmills. His Gaia theory sees the Earth as a single, living organism. He speaks urgently about how dire are the threats facing her. He is one of our very best scientists; kindly, and a true visionary. The turbines he bluntly calls dark satanic mills And what's more So my feeling of foreboding about the destruction of the planet, shared by many others - many, many others - is mixed with a deep scepticism. This is not directed at the dangers which I know to be perfectly real, but at the political urgency of the political targets that are to be met. 1,100 wind farms have already been erected and another 2,000 turbines at least are planned before 2010. In fact, it seems 8000 more would be needed to "meet the targets" to which the government has nailed its colours.

Rather than trying to involve us all in a united effort the political response is to create a Gold Rush involving only those in the know. This is not leadership from public servants. It may save political face - but it won't save the planet.

Undemocratic quick fixes need bribery and threats. In the foot and mouth crisis it was wildly inflated compensation payments made to those who otherwise would complain at the overkill - and a very nasty hidden blackmail to those who did protest anyway. Here, it is massive subsidies to the companies, and a careful PR campaign designed to make protest seem selfish nimbyism. Into its web, the environmental groupies with their decency and desire for activism were soon drawn. When Stephen Timms cried "Go forth and Build Turbines!" like a latter day Moses, the shining eyes of the environmentalists dared anyone to cry "Hang on a Minute!"

David Bellamy did - and has inevitably been condemned and smeared for pointing out the "government’s naive belief that wind farms produce green electricity"

At the end of the film "The Day After Tomorrow" the "Dick Cheney" character, the humbled Vice President who has escaped with a large number of his shaken fellow americans into Mexico, looks into the camera and delivers the film's message: "...for years we operated under the belief that we could go on consuming our planet's natural resources without consequence. We were wrong..."

Yes yes. Of course we are wrong. But it is no use looking to governments to take responsibility for helping us to take responsibility for ourselves.

Global Warming - whatever its causes - is not going to be stopped by wind turbines. Similarly, the global consequences of the depletion of cheap oil are not going to be addressed in public by anyone ruthless and powerful. Peak Oil is starting to get talked about at last. But governments are dodging the issues.

Dr. Robert Hirsch, a Senior Energy Program Advisor at the Science Applications International Corporation, an Energy expert with the best credentials, wrote a calm and measured US government sponsored report. It was described as "unprecedented" in US government circles. Its conclusions pulled no punches. It disappeared from the internet for weeks.

In fact, here is the elusive Hirsch Report (pdf new window. Loads slowly.)
Climate change and Peak Oil. Interlinked problems. No leadership. I have a mental picture of Corporal Jones rushing up and down,crying "Don't panic! Don't panic!" I also have a nasty feeling that we are on our own.

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