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Honeybees, wind farms and the triumph of greed over green

Einstein said that if the honeybee becomes extinct, then so will mankind. Oh joy, another environmental issue to worry about.

I stumbled across an article called “Last Flight of the Honeybee.” It was published in the British newspaper The Guardian on June 2. It described the tragic plight of the world’s honeybees. They are disappearing and no one really knows why. There are theories -overwork, viruses, bacteria, climate -but most think their demise is due to pesticides that play havoc with their navigational capabilities, causing the bees to get lost and leaving them unable to find their way back to their hive.

The story described the horrible things that have been done to manipulate the honeybee: trucking bee colonies across North America to help pollinate crops like almonds; moving them to warm climates when they should be dormant during the cold winter; not allowing them time to rest. And, according to the story, companies have been “experimenting with pheromones that trick bees into thinking there are more larvae in the hive that need feeding, so they forage more and in the process pollinate more almond blossoms”

What have we become? Evildoers driven by greed in the pursuit of profit at all cost? A society that will sacrifice even the smallest life on this planet in order to make more money?

At least in my backyard there are people who are trying to make a difference and save the planet. At least there are groups making decisions about alternative energies that are good for the environment. There are people in our community who are making choices based on what is good for the future of our world and not what will make them the most money… or am I just imagining this?

Is the proposed wind-energy farm on Wolfe Island an example of a community making environmentally sound choices? The honeybee story has made me skeptical. Are decisions being made because they are good for the environment and the residents of Wolfe Island or because the project is going to line the pockets of the people involved? Are people so anxious to make money they won’t wait for an environmental assessment? Has anyone taken into consideration the location of the turbines and their impact on the people who live near the site? Do those residents have a say?

Did anyone consider what effect the magnetic fields of the underground cables might have? Magnetic fields have been linked to cancers in both men and women, and to childhood leukemia. They also have an impact on the migratory patterns of birds and insects. Wolfe Island is renowned for migrating birds and monarch butterflies.

And what about the honeybees? Will the constant vibration and motion of the turbines also be detrimental to them?

Will someone remember to oil the island’s dirt roads so that when, each day, dump trucks travel across on the ferry to the wind farm and the cement plant proposed for the island, nearby residents will not suffer from massive amounts of dust and dirt being churned up? What is the environmental impact of trucking tons of sand, gravel and cement?

The old Kraft plant on the island has been proposed as a storage site for the wind farm. Would this have an impact on the surrounding marshlands?

I hope these questions will be answered to the satisfaction of the people directly involved: the ones who would have to live with wind turbines in their backyards.

I used to think that renewable energy was the be-all and end-all of “green” thinking. Now I am not so sure. We not only need to develop viable alternative energies. More importantly, we also need to reduce our energy consumption.

The ethanol industry is a prime example of how hasty decisions are made without thinking through all the ecological consequences. Ethanol is not the answer to our energy crises. Growing crops for conversion into ethanol uses up valuable farmland. Harmful pesticides and lots of water are used. The ethanol industry has contributed to a global food shortage.

After the crop has been harvested, vast amounts of energy are needed to create ethanol. There isn’t any environmental advantage to using this alternative fuel source, but someone got the idea that it might be another way to make money, so ethanol was pushed into mass production.

Until the basic underlying principles of our economy and the founding ideals of capitalism change from greed to green – and until governments, businesses and individuals start making decisions based on a sincere concern for the well-being of our planet and not the well-being of some-one’s bank account – nothing is going to improve the future of this fragile planet of ours.