Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lewis wind farm has greens in a whirl

I was pleased to hear that the Scottish Executive has refused planning permission for an enormous wind farm on Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. As Mark Lynas writes in today's Guardian:
The Lewis wind farm's impact on the landscape would have been substantial - with 181 turbines each standing 140 metres tall, erected on massive concrete bases drilled into the fragile peat surface and connected by dozens of miles of new stone roads, this was unavoidable.
Once upon a time this insustrialisation of a remote and beautiful landscape was just the sort of thing the green movement existed to prevent. But Lynas does not see it that way:
the real-world result of defeating the wind farm is that the electricity that would have been generated cleanly from the wind will now be generated using conventional means - a mixture of coal and gas.
This in turn will worsen climate change, which will in the long run have a far more serious effect on fragile habitats such as Lewis' peat moors than any number of wind turbines, as temperatures rise and rainfall patterns shift.
My strong impression is that the green movement has backed itself into a corner. Having adopted the position that global warming is about to destroy Civilisation As We Know It, in order to gain as much publicity as possible, it now finds itself compelled to support projects like the Lewis wind farm.

Lynas says that the Lewis Wind Power consortium is "bitterly disappointed" by the Scottish Executive's decision. I bet it is. But then if I had applied to build a luxury hotel in the middle of Hyde Park I would also be bitterly disappointed if the application was turned down. That would not tell you anything about the worth of my scheme.

Lynas ends with the following paragraph:
As Sir Martin Doughty, chairman of Natural England, said in response to the SDC's Severn Barrage proposals: "We have some difficult choices to make if we are going to get serious about reducing the impact of climate change on the natural environment." And making these difficult choices means knowing what we value most, and how to protect it.
If I read this correctly, Lynas is arguing that, ultimately, we must be prepared to sacrifice the beauty and diversity of the natural world in order to make the planet more comfortable for the human race.

Isn't that precisely the opposite of what the green movement should be saying? Shouldn't it have a touch of mysticism about nature, or at least have a wider definition of human well-being than that embraced by conventional political parties?

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