I was not surprised to read in last week’s Recorder about the city of Charlottesville and Arlington County coming out in favor of HNWD’s proposal to build and operate a 39-megawatt wind turbine facility on Allegheny Mountain in western Highland County.
Charlottesville, in particular, is home to a fair number of leftover flower children with a well-meaning but misguided sense of what it is to be green. They believe because they shop at the Whole Foods Market and put their groceries in reusable canvas bags that they are somehow helping the environment. Never mind the fuel that was spent getting those organically grown blueberries from New Jersey to Virginia. (And just in case you are curious, EPA statistics indicate that trucks and trains consume 35 billion gallons of diesel fuel a year, which accounts for some 350 metric ton’s of carbon dioxide being released’s into the atmosphere, not to mention the release of nitrogen oxides, which produce smog. So much for those organically grown blueberries.)
But for Charlottesville city councilman Kevin Lynch to suggest that what Highland suffers from is NIMBYism, stating that nobody likes stuff in their back yard, is to miss the point that the citizens of Charlottesville, while happy to endorse wind power in Highland County, are themselves notorious for not wanting things in their back yard. Suggestions for a new Charlottesville bypass are a case in point. Despite the fact that the city is in a state of near’s gridlock every day at rush hour, citizens are not about to allow’s anymore landscape desecrating road building around Charlottesville. Meanwhile, I’d rather drive the beltway or traverse the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel any day over having to negotiate Route 29 at 5 p.m. on a weekday.
Even more ridiculous is for Lynch to hold up Greene County (which is spelled with an e on the end, as the county is named after Revolutionary War General Nathaniel Greene) as some model of restrained and responsible development. If Lynch seriously believes that development in Greene County has been limited to Route 29 north of Charlottesville, then he must visit my hometown even less than I do. Has he missed the bypass around Stanardsville, the Wal-Mart being constructed on Route 33, the endless array of housing subdivisions from one end of the county to the other? My parents, who bought a 40-acre farm outside Stanardsville 35 years ago in what seemed to be the middle of nowhere, are now surrounded by housing developments.
But then Greene County, too, has been a victim of Charlottesville’s and Albemarle County’s NIMBYism. With years of skyrocketing real estate taxes designed to keep the riff-raff out, no doubt, people who had to work in Charlottesville sought housing in outlying areas like Greene. Now Charlottesville is extending its reach even further, advocating the despoiling of Highland County’s ridgelines so it can rest easy buying green power. I cannot help but wonder how the people of Charlottesville would react if someone suggested putting wind turbines within sight of Monticello or the neighboring Blue Ridge Parkway. Somehow, I think that would be sacrilegious in the minds of most citizens of Jefferson’s city.
Though I’m almost ashamed to admit it after reading Lynch’s uninformed comments in last week’s paper, I have friends in both Charlottesville and Arlington. And when these friends visit me, they can never stop exclaiming over the beauty of Highland County and tell me over and over how lucky I am to live here. Somehow I doubt they would be so admiring if they walked out on my porch to be greeted with views of dozens of turbines on the ridgelines.My friends, at least, can appreciate the fact that Highland County isn’t just my bacyard. It ranks right up there with the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park, minus the federal designation, for the place it holds in the hearts of Virginians who truly know it.
If the people of Charlottesville really want to be green, I would suggest they start by planting their own vegetable gardens like we do here in Highland or at least buy produce from a local farmer. The impacts of cutting down on the shipment of food products all over this country would be far greater than the unreliable electricity generated by a couple dozen wind turbines.
Charlottesville has already done her fair share of spoiling my first home. I would appreciate it if her citizens would educate themselves a little better about what it means to be green before they advocate spoiling my second.
Blue Grass, Va.