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A call for calm

After studying two Lake Erie communities, Western University researchers are calling on governments and wind farm developers to avoid feeding the war of words that has broken out between supporters and opponents of wind turbines.

In a study published in the journal Environment and Planning, the Western geography department researchers found people who have raised health concerns and other objections to wind turbines are denigrated, dismissed and ostracized by supporters of the developments in their communities.

They also endure shots by senior politicians, such as former premier Dalton McGuinty, who dismissed health concerns as “unreal.”

The treatment only makes the situation worse for individuals with concerns, said associate geography professor Jamie Baxter, one of the study’s authors.

“If you get right down to the micro level of the community, life is not good for these people,” Baxter said Wednesday.

It was in face-to-face interviews researchers heard supporters of the turbines making light of the problems of those opposed, with comments such as “A lot of people live to be annoyed” and “Well, you know, I guess if you stood here long enough you’d get dizzy looking at them . . . watching those blades go around.”

Health concerns reported by opponents included pain, dizziness, sleep deprivation and loss of balance.

The study found the majority of people in both communities supported the existing wind farm projects within the communities – 80% in Port Burwell and a statistically significant lower 63% in nearby Clear Creek.

But the researchers said the support was more “pragmatic” than “enthusiastic.” Most in favour said it was simply a “better alternative” than other energy choices. Those opposed were quite emotional, expressing anger, disappointment and frustration.

In addition to lowering the rhetoric, the researchers suggested the developers of wind farms could improve support for their projects if the financial benefits of wind farms were shared among households in the vicinity of turbines, not just the landowners with the turbines on their property.