Monday, 10 January 2011

Wild Is The Wind

Kids. They are the future.

The stereotypical youth, of course, wears a hoodie and is a thug or layabout. My own experiences are exactly the opposite. A couple of Nairn neds once walked past me effing and blinding and, amazingly, apologised when they realised they had an audience. How decent of them.

I’ve also worked with fifth and sixth years doing business studies and they’ve always struck me as perfectly normal, if a bit spotty.

One of the relentless bits of drudgery involved in being ‘Green Dad’ is battling the Nimbys and numpties who’re for things like pollution and wrecking the planet. I could just roll my eyes every time I see a letter in a newspaper against wind farms or simply look the other way when I see drivers going round the town centre hunting an elusive parking space within waddling distance of the chippy.

But given how often both those things occur I’d forever be looking the other way while rolling my eyes and I think the nice people at A&E would get hacked off with me turning up having walked into yet another lamppost or door.

So it was with a rosy glow I saw today a report stating that the council has submitted a planning application for a wind turbine at Culloden Academy. At last! The day of the dinosaurs is drawing to a close. This is a school where you can study Energy, including units on wind generation and solar powered heating. On this basis the future is bright!

It was a welcome pick me up after reading about a numpty from Cambridgeshire who says ‘no amount of financial benefit from the energy companies will make up for the shortfall in the hill walking pound’. This guy plans to carry a coffin into the Monadhliath hills and burn it to protest at the loss of wild space to wind farms.

Talk about an over-reaction. (I bet you’re rolling your eyes.)

He seems to think people won’t want to go hill walking if there are a few turbines on the horizon. And the loss of these walkers will devastate the economy of these, er, wild areas. Any time I’m out bagging Munros the only boost the economy gets is if I buy a can of Coke on the way home. Even filling up with petrol isn’t going to do the village shop much good but it‘ll be nice for the oil companies and the Treasury.

His hissy fit follows the approval of the Dunmaglass wind farm. The most important point to note - which the media seem to be ignoring - is that the area earmarked for the development is not officially designated. It is very nice to look at but nothing special. We have all sorts of designations to protect land and wildlife: Special Areas of Conservation, Nationals Parks, Nature Reserves, etc. The list’s as long as the queue for a humous baguette at SNH’s canteen.

If you look at the areas where Highland Council is likely to permit wind farms it’s getting pretty small - there will still be bags and bags of unspoilt wilderness for lonely loners to enjoy.

It also hacks me off that the coverage of this story keeps referring to Dunmaglass neighbour Sigrid Rausing as a philanthropist. Yes, she is. But she’s also the Tetra Pak queen. I wonder what proportion of landfills are comprised of those clever cartons, which as far as I can tell you will have great difficulty recycling.

An old acquaintance Cameron McNeish makes a point on his blog about community based generation being preferable to large scale wind farms. I agree but will it ever happen in a country full of Nimbys? We love bypasses and out of town supermarkets but a bundle of wind turbines on a hill overlooking our houses? No chance.

Elsewhere in the decidedly stormy wind farm debate I see this feeble argument trotted out yet again. Save the Slavonian Grebe! As this WWF report indicates, never mind a few birds being hit with blades (not that any have to date - have they?) the big threat to birds is climate change. If only we could develop an energy source that didn’t pollute. Oh, hang on.

And I love that quote from an objector saying kids will be worse off in years to come if a wind farm is built near them. How exactly? Would you prefer to lump the next generation with nuclear waste? Please don’t just object - at least offer an alternative.

I’ve also seen David Bellamy’s name crop up a few times recently. He’s usually described as a ‘botanist’. There’s another word beginning with B that leaps to mind.

The most surprising and encouraging article I’ve seen for a long time in the press on wind farms was in the P&J Energy supplement today. Dick Winchester gives the whingers and moaners both barrels. Refreshing stuff from Europe’s oil capital. I hope it puts the wind up a few folk.

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