When there’s social injustice, you don’t expect large corporations, the provincial government and a union like the CAW to be climbing into bed together to ignore the problem. But slap a motherhood label on the issue, such as the so-called “Green Energy” Act, and all of a sudden it’s OK to ignore the very real hardships, both health and financial, happening to people in non-Liberal ridings.
What’s more surprising about the wind-turbine debacle, though, is the relatively low media profile that Ontario residents who are being negatively affected by the monster machines are receiving. News outlets and publications usually lap up stories of social injustice. The problems associated with lead paint, urea-formaldehyde foam insulation, asbestos and cigarettes are all famous for the media attention they received that led to change.
But it was difficult even to find news stories last week about the wind turbine protest at the energy conference in downtown Toronto. People from across the province pooled their resources to hire buses to come to the city to try to draw attention to their plight. If there was a broadcast or a print story, I didn’t hear or see it.
And despite public outrage and protests, the Canadian Auto Workers’ union last week started operating a monster wind turbine, built with government subsidies, in its Port Elgin convention centre parking lot that violates the 550-metre Ontario setback regulations. Residents, particularly children, are already experiencing the sleepless nights, anxiety and migraines being experienced by others around the province. Who cares? Certainly not CAW president Ken Lewenza, who has secured a seat on the province’s wind gravy train. When I recently suggested to a colleague who works on a documentary radio show in Toronto that the problems with turbines were worth a story, she responded: “I think they (wind turbines) are beautiful.” And that was that.
On one “side” of the wind-turbine debate are wealthy corporate behemoths supported by a government that removed the democratic rights of its citizens, without debate, to launch a misguided and ill-advised initiative that’s going to cost taxpayers’ into the billions. On the other “side,” you have vulnerable Ontario residents with limited financial resources who have had their democratic rights trampled and monster industrial monsters rammed down their throats.
Many are sick, although they are having trouble getting urban residents and to believe it, and many now own property where the value has been cut by as much as half. To ignore a situation where one “side” holds all the financial and political power while the other side struggles to make their voices heard, but not from lack of shouting and protesting, is a grave injustice.
So why are those who have found themselves living next to these industrial “farm” factories not getting more attention? Is it because of the greater good? If only that were true. Anyone who has done even five minutes of research knows that turbines are never going to solve the province’s or the world’s energy problems, despite the propaganda being spun by the wind companies and the province with its “Green Energy” Act, a brilliant piece of propaganda.
The fact is, is that the energy produced by turbines can’t be stored and they produce a fraction, (an estimated 20 per cent or less) of what they are capable of at times of the year when their energy is most needed, winter and summer. The auditor general outlined last year how the province “leapt before it looked” into this billion-dollar boondoggle that’s already costing taxpayers plenty.
A roundup of peer-reviewed health research, which is difficult to link to due to academic pay walls, from a variety of medical and science researchers can be found in the August 2011, 31(4) issue of the Bulletin of Science, Technology and SocietyAugust 2011, 31(4) issue of the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, and is easily available at any public or university library. In addition, the medical officer of health in Grey Bruce, Dr. Hazel Lynn, submitted a report to the Ministry Health in February that found that there is, indeed, a link between health and wind turbines. Hard data on how property values have been cut by as much as half can be found in a report done by Lansink property and appraisals here: http://mlwindaction.org/2012/10/04/new-ontario-wind-turbine-property-value-analysis-ben-lansink-aaci-p-app-mrcs)http://mlwindaction.org/2012/10/04/new-ontario-wind-turbine-property-value-analysis-ben-lansink-aaci-p-app-mrcs)
Curiously, or maybe not, is that when energy issues arise in Liberal ridings – a planned natural gas plant, for example, in Oakville, or offshore Toronto turbines that would have obstructed “the view” of Scarborough Liberals – the projects are quickly quashed. So far, Premier Kathleen Wynne, nicknamed McWynnty by those in turbine-infested locales, has had little to say beyond acknowledging, sort of, that there’s maybe a problem and that municipalities should be more involved in the siting process for wind turbines. Well, yes.
Let’s be clear. People forced to live beside wind turbines are emphatically not anti “green” energy – what they are opposed to are industrial machines that are ruining their lives, while the government, and the media, turn a blind eye to the problem.
Anne McNeilly is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism at Ryerson University who likes to vacation in Bruce County, at a place that is more than 550 metres from the nearest turbine.
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