Monday, 14 February 2011

The Hills Are Alive With The Sound Of Terrified Slavonian Grebes

“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion but not to his own facts.” Former New York Senator Daniel Moynihan said that, and boy did he have a point.

I do wonder how Toddler Who Must Be Obeyed will turn out given the fact - and it is a fact - that her parents are both ex-hacks who strived for accuracy and always tried to remember to attribute their sources.

Maybe she’ll rebel and end up a real gossipmonger. I suspect you are having a wry smile at the thought of journalists being accurate but it really was something we cared about. Attributing sources too. It’s so easy to state something as fact when upon examination it turns out it’s just someone’s opinion.

I had the opportunity to wade into the heart of the facts versus opinion arena the other day as I happened to be passing an exhibition for the ‘controversial’ Druim Ba Forest wind farm between Kiltarlity and Abriachan. (I dream of the day I see a headline about a ‘lovely’ wind farm.) Let’s see what the fuss is about I said to myself.

I hadn’t even reached the street of the exhibition venue when I was accosted by someone handing out slips of paper. ‘You’re a cyclist. You’ll be interested in this,’ was the bizarre statement they made. Clearly my high-vis jacket, helmet, trouser clips, saddle bag and rolled up copy of the Grauniad were a bit of a giveaway.

But hang on. Surely these things mark me out as likely to be pro-wind farm? Anyway, the slip of paper contained hysterical statements about tens (or was it hundreds) of thousands of lorries that would pass through the area during construction and how it would dent house prices and that from several miles away you’d be able to hear the turbines going whoosh.

Like I say, hysterical.

Then at the exhibition entrance I was invited to view an ‘alternative’ presentation. It mainly consisted of old Daily Mail articles about global warming being a leftie swindle and a cartoon of Nessie with a slogan about monster wind farms. All very grown up.

Inside, the exhibition was packed and the materials on display were detailed, clear and answered all possible questions. You won’t be able to see the turbines from Loch Ness, the Slavonian Grebes’ flight paths won’t be affected - in fact the forest is pretty dead in terms of wildlife and isn’t designated.

The communities surrounding the site will get decent chunks of cash once the wind farm is operational and the forest will become accessible, a genuine asset for the area. In short, the objections were pathetic, nonsensical - I was left wondering why you wouldn’t want to build a wind farm there. It’s ideal.

Those involved in promoting the project told me it’s been genuinely intimidating trying to organise community information events. Angry mobs literally in your face with placards. Of course that’s what makes the headlines - not the detail of what the fuss is about.

I enjoyed slapping my forehead when I read this piece about information being ’redacted’ in relation to a similar development in the Far North. What possible reason could there be for hiding references to the exact whereabouts of some rare and vulnerable wildlife? Er…

This week also saw the publication of an interesting report on the importance of climate-proofing our infrastructure.

It grinds my gears when people say it’s a waste of money preparing for a changing climate or trying to reduce emissions and our reliance on oil. As the infrastructure report makes clear reliable systems ‘underpin’ the economy. And I shake my head when people say it’ll be OK in the UK - we just need to slap on a bit more sun cream in the summer and put snow chains on our tyres in the winter. It’s such an ‘I’m All Right, Jack’ attitude. You only have to look to China and Africa to see the problems some of the world’s biggest populations are already facing.

Maybe the dolts will wake up when they read the strawberry forecast.

I was pleased to see council houses in South Kessock getting solar panels fitted the other day.

I wish it was easier for ordinary householders and community groups to install renewable energy systems. But as this article neatly explains, the government’s incentives are ’pants’.

Back to the Druim Ba debacle and my point about attributing sources. I noticed one newspaper (let’s just say it’s a bi-weekly Inverness-based broadsheet) covered the exhibitions by describing Druim Ba as a ‘scenic tourist’ spot. I’ve been biking and walking there. It’s a bleak, boring bit of commercial plantation where fluffy animals are frightened to tread. Is there a branch of EuroDisney tucked away before the turn off to Cannich? We should be told.

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