Great story in today’s Globe and Mail about high-profile environmental scientist David Suzuki, who wrote a controversial opinion piece for New Scientist magazine called “The beauty of wind farms.” Suzuki addresses the argument by some environmentalists that wind turbines are an eyesore and hazard to nature.
Agreeing that proper environmental assessments need to be done before beginning wind-farm projects, he basically says the subjective debate over the esthetics of wind turbines and the relatively easy-to-deal-with issue of where to locate them should not overshadow the fact that global warming is hurting the planet and renewable energy provided through wind turbines should be encouraged.
“A blanket ‘not in my backyard’ approach is hypocritical and counterproductive,” he wrote, saying later, “If one day I look from my cabin’s porch and see a row of windmills spinning in the distance, I won’t curse them. I will praise them. It will mean we are finally getting somewhere.”
Here, here… I couldn’t agree more. I praise the wind turbine at Exhibition Place in Toronto every time I pass it. It makes me smile. It gives me hope and vision.
Unfortunately, many — such as Prince Charles — criticize windmills as a “blot on the landscape.” Suzuki says this “pisses” him off.
I’m completely on Suzuki’s side. I mean, what would these people rather see, beautiful beacons of hope in the distance, guardians of nature and the clean air around them, or oil-sand projects ripping the earth apart and spewing garbage into the air? Would they rather see natural gas or oil pipelines stretching across the country, or coal-burning plants spewing black smoke into the sky and giving asthma attacks to young children?
People really do have to put it all into perspective. Even if someone has a problem with windmills — how they look, the view they block or the handful of birds they kill each year — it’s certainly the far lesser evil compared to the alternative. It’s honourable to fight battles, but at least pick the right one.
That said, you truly can’t put wind turbines everywhere, and it’s a point Suzuki does appreciate. I like the idea being advanced by Georgian Windpower, a group that has partnered with steel giant Stelco Inc. to build a wind farm beside its plant in Nanticoke, along the shore of Lake Erie.
Georgian Windpower, as its name suggests, started out trying to put up turbines in beautiful Georgian Bay, but it faced so much opposition that it gave up and decided it would only target “brownfield” properties. That is, areas where there is heavy industrial pollution and where the scars left behind by industry could use some makeup. Hence, the Stelco plan. What better way to beautify one of the dirtiest, grungiest places in southern Ontario than to plop down dozens of wind turbines and start producing clean energy?
So while Suzuki is right on all accounts, I do think we should spend more time investigating brownfield locations for wind turbines than to go anywhere and everywhere the wind blows us.