Lewis Mumford, “the last great humanist,” once said that kites rise against, not with, the wind. The same might be said for the growing opposition to wind turbines in rural Ontario.
Although wind power has been used since AD 500 to grind grain and pump water with little apparent opposition, today’s electricity producing behemoths have become a rallying point against big business, insensitive government and unexplained science.
The tiny municipality of Arran Elderslie, west of southern Georgian Bay, has been leading the fight to regain municipal planning control over wind farms. Ontario yanked control away under the Green Energy Act in 2009.
Arran Elderslie is facing a wind farm proposal that would include 46 turbines each capable of producing 2.5 megawatts of power. They would be 150 metres tall at the tip of the blade.
Enter Dr. Hazel Lynn, medical officer of health (MOH) for Grey and Bruce, an area that includes Arran Elderslie.
Dr. Lynn has called for more study into the health issues related to wind farms as well as other aspects of their development. She does so in the face of conflicting advice from Dr. Arlene King, the provincial MOH, who reported lastMay that “the scientific evidence … does not demonstrate a direct causal link between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.”
Dr. Lynn’s disagreement was outlined in a recent report to her board of directors: “It is clear that many people in many different parts of Grey Bruce and southwestern Ontario have been dramatically impacted by the noise and proximity of wind farms. To dismiss all these people as eccentric, unusual or as hypersensitive social outliers does a disservice to constructive public discourse.”
Among Dr. Lynn’s questions are the percentage of exposed people who suffer distress; comparing problems among various technologies; accurate measurement of low frequency noise; finding a biomarker for susceptible individuals; collecting data to assess the real costs of the new technology; examining changes to reduce the noise and impact on residents; and researching better ways to introduce new technology with lessened community and social disruption.
Although Dr. Lynn does not think such studies necessarily should be undertaken by health units, she is steadfast in her opinion that they need to be done.
On one recent occasion, promoters and opponents of the proposed wind farm met in Arran Elderslie’s council chambers. The heated debate included a call from the developer that Deputy Mayor Mark Davis should be excluded from discussions because of his very public opposition to wind farms. That kind of twisted logic would suggest that no one with an opinion should hold public office.
Extremes such as this would appear to be on Dr. Lynn’s radar when she suggests finding pre-installation ways to ensure that everyone in the community can tolerate the new technology and all will benefit.
At some point the Dalton Gang has to tune back into this conversation and others like it that are going on around the province.
It’s simply not good enough to issue decrees from on high at Queen’s Park that allow rights to be trampled and lives disrupted for gain that has yet to be proven.
Dr. Lynn is right. More study is needed on the effects of wind farms on everything from the future cost of electricity to health concerns. And local planning control must be restored as a first step by the government towards making amends to the people of rural Ontario.
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