On one hand, I admire the folks in Cape Vincent who held an alternative energy forum on Saturday. It’s about time the recognition of the dangerous ways our society has developed have threatened the very planet that sustains life. The stewardship of Earth is everyone’s business, and finding less noxious forms of energy is everyone’s responsibility.
Having said that, however, I still sigh with sadness when I think about what triggered the meeting in the Cape. The sponsors were folks who are opposed to the wind farms planned for their town, and they have reasonable concerns. The environment is a very large package that requires a lot of nonlinear thinking to grasp, and it often presents conflicts ““ something that may be environmentally sound in one area of concern may be environmentally suspect in another. That certainly applies to wind farms, where the benefits of green energy are incontrovertible yet the negative visual and aesthetic impacts are equally clear.
The people who are in favor of the wind farms in Cape Vincent use the green aspects of wind power as their environmental justification for the project. Yet, while no one disputes that wind power is preferable to burning coal or oil for that power, to suggest that the pro-wind-farm element has only the purest environmental concerns in mind is to completely misunderstand the issue. The fact is, the vast majority of the pro-wind folks have dollar signs in their eyes ““ whether for their own gain, or for municipal gain, they see the wind farms as a giant cash cow for Cape Vincent.
With that in mind, the anti-wind folks appear to be pissing into a gale-force wind when they sponsor forums about OTHER green energy forms that can come to Cape Vincent. What has been proposed for Cape Vincent has been proposed there for some very specific reasons: rural, relatively poor, relatively cheap land costs, dependable wind flow off Lake Ontario. Period. This ain’t about making Cape Vincent a source of green energy, it’s about a cost-effective, money-making location for wind farm developers.
Thus, it really has nothing to do with green energy that isn’t wind power. Cape Vincent isn’t a likely location for a nuclear plant, for hydropower, even for a series of treadwheels driven by St. Lawrence River muskrats. If green energy is going to come to the Cape, it’s going to be driven by huge windmills on massive towers.
By holding a forum on green energy, the anti-wind people are diluting their purpose and wasting their energies on issues that are simply not relevant to their cause. The issue isn’t green energy ““ the issue is whether the cost of visual pollution in a uniquely beautiful area of New York state balances with the LOCAL benefits of having the wind farm in Cape Vincent. When the people who think the problems outweigh the benefits start wandering around the morass that is alternative energy, they are playing right into the hands of the pro-wind folks. They need to eschew distractions and regain their focus if they want to mitigate in any way the effects of up to 90 wind towers taking over the viewscape.
15 April 2007
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