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Environmentalism’s conceit is fatal for the northern gannet

Modern environmentalism is infected with many fallacies and evil ideas, starting with an overblown faith in government and ending with a deep and dark misanthropy that sees humans as negatives rather than as ends in themselves.

There is one insight, however, that many environmentalist thinkers hold onto, which is both true and important: Creation is complex, beyond our comprehension, and modern man’s efforts to conquer and subdue nature are bound to create unforeseen problems. It’s the strongest argument environmentalists have. The idea is that our ecosystem is incredibly complicated, and sudden drastic changes could mess things beyond what we might imagine.

It’s too bad that policy made in the name of environmentalism rarely embraces that intellectual humility and instead offers “big fixes” that often create their own problems for the planet.

As a specific case in point, Maryland’s big environmentalist policy framework could create a serious problem for the northern gannet, the red-throated loon, and the surf scooter. These migratory birds, it turns out, migrate right through the offshore area government officials have designated for offshore wind farms.

These spinning, subsidized sources of green energy would become avian Cuisinarts if the greenies and their subsidized corporate allies get their way, depositing sliced and diced loons and gannets into the Atlantic, just off of Ocean City.

Experts and environmentalists have studied the migratory paths of birds for decades, but only in the past week have we been able to see a good image of the paths they follow. Scientists strapped or implanted tracking chips in a bunch of birds and studied where they flew.

Like Anne of Green Gables, the northern gannet seeks romance on the eastern edge of Canada. Like retirees living in Manchester, N.H., though, the gannets spend the winter on the Gulf of Mexico. Their path, the new study found, takes them off the shore of Ocean City, precisely through the corridor Maryland officials designated for a few dozen wind turbines.

These offshore windmills were a pet project of former Democratic Governor Martin O’Malley and were championed by the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Bringing in the turbines involved mandates, forcing utilities to buy the expensive electricity, and other subsidies. All in the name of the environment.

Of course, placing massive deadly spinning blades between the northern gannet’s Canadian love shacks and their Florida winter homes is hardly good stewardship of God’s creatures, but it wouldn’t be the first environmental plan to undermine its aims.

Ethanol is a fuel made from plants, mostly corn, that the federal government foisted upon the U.S. driving population in the name of replacing dreaded petroleum. Of course, federal subsidies driving ethanol production end up depleting aquifers and streams, boosting fertilizer use, driving deforestation, and actually exacerbating smog.

Fuel economy standards push carmakers to use aluminum in place of steel. The chemical and physical processes of making aluminum car parts is far more energy and greenhouse-gas intensive than making steel parts. Plug-in electric cars are effectively powered by whatever the local power plant runs on. So, for years, “electric cars” were mostly coal-powered cars.

Environmentalists aren’t always wrong. But when they come up with “big ideas,” their green moonshots, they undermine their greatest insight: that Creation is too complex for us to manipulate and large interventions in this complex system will create some sort of problem we hadn’t foreseen.

Let us hope environmentalists can develop some more humble plans, if not for the sake of intellectual humility, at least for the sake of the poor gannet.