“To those devoid of imagination a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.” – Aldo Leopold *
Unsettling numbers of environmentalists fail to see that wind turbines are enemies of nature posing as saviors. Fearing a fossil fuel catastrophe, they’ve hastily abandoned their land ethic if they ever had one. Wind energy in the abstract sense is clean and natural, but the physical manifestation of how people “harvest” wind is big and unnatural by necessity. Wind power zealots can’t admit that ruining the countryside with obscenely large towers is a continuum of the “build, build, build!” mentality that’s destroyed nature throughout history. It’s the towering, spinning version of “drill, baby, drill!” and supply-side ideology over conservation. Wind energy promoters push the fable that their emperor isn’t an ungainly giant who cuts down trees, blasts ridges, kills airborne animals and tortures ground-based ones with blight and noise. They claim to be environmentalists but they’re mostly gesturing against fossil fuels for new income streams. Their corporate lingo makes it obvious. Ancient respect for landscapes, including modest human additions, has been replaced with sterile slogans about “installed capacity” and “market share of renewables.” The presumption that nothing’s workable unless someone’s profiting guarantees that nature will shrink. Any talk of shrinking economies (the true solution) is shunned since modern systems thrive on growth and slogans of the moment like “clean energy.” Since genetic traits are hard-wired, the avarice may never stop until society crashes like a brakeless wind turbine.
The original point of environmentalism was buffering nature from all human intrusions and toxins, not just fighting a specific type of pollution. Wind cheerleaders have decided that giant, mechanical weeds are green because they “must” be green. Many would probably accept dirt bikes and ATVs crawling all over hills and dunes as long as they had electric motors. Today’s “sustainability” is much more about coddling civilization than protecting nature. Some younger people may not understand what “the environment” is beyond AGW warnings they’ve heard since childhood. To become well-rounded environmentalists they should study the history of physical landscape destruction, which began with agriculture, logging & mining but has entered a major new phase with wind power. Nature has a bleak future unless this industry is restrained. It’s a tragic case of blight for naught when you see how ineffectual wind turbines really are. An all-electric economy may never be possible without earthbound nuclear fusion in portable configurations. Armies of ugly wind towers are doing nothing for nature itself.
Landscape-change denial has become as bad as climate-change denial and it’s worse in a hypocritical sense. The Kochs and Pruitts of the world at least aren’t pretending to be green. Large industrial wind turbines are becoming the ugliest evidence of the Anthropocene, creating an unprecedented visual plague with over 341,000 already installed as of 2016. Benign depictions of wind turbines “dotting” the landscape should be changed to “stabbing” and “blighting.” Nothing else is as tall, widespread, stark and kinetic. As with climate change or cancer in the initial stages, honest discussions of wind power must include its future potential spread, not just what’s known today. The industry seeks to fill up every possible “wind resource zone” and there’s no precedent for machines of this size and quantity, especially in scenic areas. Their closest rivals are offshore oil rigs which are far less numerous, not seen from inland areas, and not designed for permanence. Some future schemes call for nearly 4 million wind turbines but backlash is already strong because people can no longer ignore their presence.
Below is a list of wind industry propaganda tactics and rationalizations, with responses.
- “We think wind turbines are beautiful.” Why should the alien aesthetics of a subsidy-chasing industry be accepted as the new normal? Natural scenery is integral to quality of life and should never be disrespected. They started building these mutant thistles without a real vote, knowing the impacts would be major. When you call something beautiful you must do it in the context of what it replaced, altered, devalued or ignored. Wind turbines at a distance may look slender and elegant compared to blocky oil rigs but it’s absurd to only mention that angle when there are so damned many, and their size, albedo and motion make them impossible to unsee. The axiom “everything in moderation” has never been truer. Rare wind turbines in urban settings can look interesting but most end up in rural or wild areas where they upset the historical sense of place and cause anger, sadness and depression. When a smug shill tells you to adapt and get over it, you realize what the industry is really about. Some turbine-lovers say power lines are ugly even though new transmission corridors are built for wind sites through remote lands. It’s impossible to avoid environmental hypocrisy in the wind business. Certain people have never respected nature’s grandeur without man-made “improvements.” It tends to be a Creationist or anthropocentric engineering mindset. Wind turbines are the biggest structures being forced onto landscapes by the same types who used to interrupt rivers (see below). Where’s the moral consistency? If wind factories are intrinsically attractive, why would anyone reject them anywhere? The cases of Crescent Peak, NV and Ocean City, MD prove that wind developers are indifferent to scenery, and often live thousands of miles from their projects. In the overrun UK, people are rightfully comparing them to War Of The Worlds tripods or marauding Triffids. In rural landscapes it goes against evolution to accept mechanical monsters as natural. This author’s gut reaction to “they’re beautiful” isn’t fit to print, but this picture will suffice.
- “Would you rather live near a coal mine or wind farm?” This is a tiresome diversion, since far more people are dealing with visible wind turbines now, and coal mines are known damage. Mines also tend to be hidden at depth or obscured by ridges, whereas three-armed bandits are deliberately prominent. The effect is profoundly unnatural, with circular motion being a major component. They don’t sway like trees or break like waves, and their noise and red lights grate on nerves. Unlike fossil fuel development, wind projects aren’t limited by geology so they affect districts that never expected to see urban mega-sprawl. Zoning laws are relaxed because they’re “green” and few people predicted their eventual size. As of this writing, the Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign is run by a woman who fought mountaintop removal but is OK with miles of giant spikes adorning similar Appalachian peaks. Even fracking is much less vertically intrusive and its sites can be restored (water is a separate issue; this isn’t a fossil fuel apologist site). The wind mob knows many people resent their unexpected invasions but they keep rationalizing the spread. Their money/subsidy motivations are covered in depth elsewhere.
- “We’ve built silos, water towers and pylons in the countryside for decades. Wind turbines merely continue that tradition.” This is the mealy-mouthed, greenwashed equivalent of “the climate’s changed before, so why worry now?” Nobody who respects scenery can ignore what’s really happening. Who would pretend there aren’t exponential scale-increases in the wind power domain vs. older structures? There was no ability to build blades and cylindrical towers so large in the old days. Nothing with this uniquely visible combination of size, color and quantity was ever seen in rural areas. Even taller radio towers are less contrasty and fade better into the distance, with far fewer of them. You have to wonder if some wind-pushers have lousy scale interpretation. Are they blinded by perspective and see them like this? That’s doubtful. The most likely explanation is apathy about the loss of rural aesthetics, plus standard shill-spin.
- “They will replace fossil fuels and help stop global warming.” This also fails the evidence test, since wind turbines merely stretch fossil fuels by using them to grab a less consistent form of energy (there are parallels to a hydrogen economy that needs energy to isolate it from water, gas or biomass). True wind power ERoI calculations can be complex, with mountaintop trees and other carbon sinks lost during construction. You can’t build or transport such absurdly large machines with electric power; you need heavy mining & smelting equipment and big diesel trucks to move them around. Due to wind’s intermittent nature, wind power can’t work on the grid without a backup energy source, often gas, coal or nuclear. In many cases it’s been shown that CO2 emissions have actually risen as backup plants are installed in new areas to accommodate fickle winds. Some historical wind patterns are already changing along with the climate and we could see many more idle turbines. If you think Germany’s ambitious Energiewende is an economic or popular success, watch this “wind turbine battle” video and research their CO2 balance sheet.
- “We can carefully site wind turbines to minimize their impact.” If this was ever true, why would there be so much resistance to almost every new project? In its 1970s infancy there were few protests because people saw it as a limited scale experiment but the monster escaped its cage and there are only so many places to put them now, with fewer after every new installation. Too much land is already developed and wind power just adds to existing blight. Wind energy advocates think their giant machines can’t be ugly due to a righteous anti-carbon message but landscape blight didn’t vanish as an issue just because global warming took center stage. Turbine apologists say that smokestacks are ugly but wind towers just add blades to the same general structure. The industry talks of making towers even bigger to work in lower wind areas, and concrete may become a means to that end, with a more smokestack-like appearance. Will they keep calling them beautiful? Some wind drones do admit that turbines blight landscapes, and they think offshore wind factories are the answer but it’s not cost effective to install them at distances where they’re invisible from shore. Many people see an unbroken ocean horizon as a basic right. Where else can you look to “infinity” without disruption? Ocean-based turbines also tend to be the largest models and harder to hide. See calculators for visibility vs. height and distance.
- “Wind turbines occupy relatively little acreage.” A popular scientist repeated this deception in the 2014 Cosmos remake (plus the fable of “100% renewable energy”). He perpetuated the myth of wind tower-bases as the only intrusions among vast arrays of preternaturally large machines (like only noticing the first floor of a skyscraper). It’s the same rationalization used for ANWR oil drilling, citing “only 2,000” affected acres that would actually sprawl over 1.5 million acres. A direct parallel is Wyoming’s Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project, which claims to need only about 2,000 acres of a 320,000-acre ranch but would actually sprawl over 229,000 acres (see map) and require hypocritical eagle-take permits. Most environmental groups understand the ANWR ruse, so who are they kidding? See the NRDC ANWR land-grab map vs. their wind energy platitudes. The Union of Concerned Scientists also tows that line, apparently unconcerned with scenery. Any industrial complex has a footprint of its total encompassed acreage, including access roads. The whole area becomes aesthetically tainted and cannot be classified as natural anymore. The greater separation of wind towers as heights increase just widens the sprawl zone. The industry also pretends home values aren’t affected when turbines are in the viewshed. A number of people have simply moved away, as they might with any lousy, permanent neighbor. Such large machines are difficult to remove for legal and financial reasons, even when decommissioned, e.g. Falmouth, MA. Those who claim turbines can be a bridge technology, later dismantled, are not facing facts. Their roads and cement bases may remain for centuries and energy put into building them is wasted now.
- “Rich people just don’t want their view spoiled.” With this canard, the wind mob plays the common man sympathy card while trivializing the importance of scenery to quality of life. It’s also an admission that “wind turbines are beautiful” is a damned lie. When D.J. Trump fought an offshore wind farm near his Aberdeen, Scotland golf course, it was used as dual proof of wealth and climate-denial conspiring against innocent wind machines. In truth, some very humble people live in or travel through scenic areas all the time, and wildlife has no voice when homewreckers arrive. Wind companies often target cash-strapped farmers to bribe them for land-grabs. Some carbon-obsessives think tarnished scenery is our penance for fossil fuel use, but the subsidy-hungry industry pushes the same growthist agenda as the rest of the economy, using green sales pitches for a sense of urgency to ruin landscapes. Maine and Vermont are notable examples with remote mountains in the crosshairs. West Virginia has already been spoiled with eyesores like the Laurel Mountain project, with its additional battery storage blight. North Carolina set the rare precedent of banning all but the smallest mountaintop wind turbines in 2009, but it’s unclear how long it will last. The rural poor get caught in situations where a neighbor is paid to host turbines but one could be 10 feet from their property line and create nothing but noise. A number of wind executives are quite rich but how many would live near their own contraptions? T. Boone Pickens didn’t want turbines on his own land when pushing a Texas wind power scheme. He literally called them ugly. Just as with oil & gas, weak land use regulations in Texas have allowed the rapid spread of wind projects. The conflict between the King and Kenedy ranches was a good example.
- “Cats, cars and windows kill more birds than wind turbines.” People who parrot that excuse show the same glibness toward life as they do scenery. Also, cars or store windows never claimed to be saving the world. More birds will obviously die as more turbines are built on this finite planet, so the “X kills more than Y” diversion becomes less true with every wind-sword placed in a flyway. There are no house-cats in many areas where wind turbines are installed, and the species of birds are often different, e.g. large raptors that rarely succumb to other animals. Birds tend to be mentioned first in mortality discussions but the plight of bats is worse. Read these articles. Bats can’t escape wind turbine blades via sonar and are actually drawn to wind turbines. Even if they avoid the actual blades, they often die from pressure shocks as they pass by, and few other machines can duplicate that effect. Why would any “green” technology be killing animals on a regular basis? A job description for a fatality monitoring technician near Minot, SD is frank about the problem. Even with growing evidence that wind turbines function as apex predators, the rationale is that AGW could eventually kill more wildlife, stacked on the assumption that wind energy will stop AGW, so let’s keep building more; a Faustian bargain at best. Given human greed, the most likely outcome is a warmer and uglier planet with more dead wildlife.
- “People who complain about wind turbine noise are NIMBY liars.” This is a puerile denial of the obvious. You can’t claim that gigantic machines intercepting large volumes of air won’t affect the soundscape! Listen to the air-roar of a mere 20″ box fan, then ask yourself how something vastly larger with a driven generator can be quiet. Just two large turbines in Falmouth, MA angered enough people to get them shut down. The noise is complex in its manifestations and topography, yet fundamentally simple; friction and mechanical resonance creates sound. The industry uses the complex aspects to distract from the blatant ones, especially in opinion polls with cherry-picked residents. Infrasound causes some very unpleasant effects and can be hard to measure with standard equipment, but the audible noise is bad enough. It needn’t be super loud, either, just unnatural or jarring, like a dripping faucet that would barely register on a dB meter but can prevent sleep. The typical industry excuse is that they aren’t louder than a refrigerator but who hasn’t been kept awake by a refrigerator in the same room, e.g. a motel? A related, equally dishonest angle is “I usually see wind turbines at a distance and never hear them.” Do they think wind turbines have a magic motility that always makes them far away and quiet to a given observer? Why are setback distances from homes such a big issue?
- “Some right-wing climate change deniers are against wind power, therefore that’s everyone’s motive.” This is an association fallacy or hasty generalization. Why assume that landscapes and quiet nights aren’t important to millions of Democrats and other random people? Wind turbines are very large machines built where nobody really expected them. Some things are offensive on a gut level no matter how much green propaganda is thrown around. Wind turbines are an example of something that can be done with applied engineering skills but ought not be, for moral reasons. They aren’t as dangerous as nuclear weapons (another case of hubris gone mad) but they are “blowing up” scenery in many ways. Small-footprint alternatives like rooftop solar should be getting the bulk of subsidies.
- “Wind energy advocates are good environmentalists.” Only because they say so, as they wreck landscapes while yammering about how beautiful or majestic their machines are. Many green groups were adamant about protecting scenery until carbon-dread quashed so many old concerns (a monomaniacal reaction). How many who resent Trump’s attacks on national monuments like Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante would be silent if those same lands were blighted by wind machines? Same goes for the NODAPL protesters of a barely visible pipeline (water issues aside in this context). We’ve reached a strange point where the visible environment is seen as inconsequential compared to air and water pollution, but the damage is all cumulative. Climate concerns don’t make scenery ruination any less of an issue. Corporate sellouts like The Nature Conservancy equate ruined hilltops with positive climate action, ignoring how futile the blight really is. People plant trees and grass in cities because we evolved in nature and don’t want it obliterated by buildings and machines. The industry’s growth is decades past the point where there’s any balance between the scale of wind energy and the need for pleasant scenery. German academics saw this coming in 1998 but landscape apathy prevailed and things are much worse now. Each new “farm” (aka factory) eats into more space that wasn’t tainted by huge machines, unnatural noise and light pollution. When you witness their detachment from nature, it’s clear that many wind engineers, truckers, crane operators and maintenance workers could easily segue into fossil fuel extraction.
“The effects of landscape and visual impact cannot be measured or calculated and mitigation measures are limited. However, experience gained recently suggests that opposition to wind farms is mainly encountered during the planning stage. After commissioning the acceptability is strong.” (source)
They start with the specious claim that blight “cannot be measured or calculated” in a technical sense, which ignores aesthetic gut reactions. There is no official ugly scale but ugly is still ugly! Ski lifts and office buildings (like LG’s 143-foot proposal on the Hudson River) have often been protested as environmental blight. Much smaller cellular towers can spoil views and are disguised as trees or shrunk to fit their surroundings. You can’t do that with wind turbines so they resort to propaganda. That first lie sets up the ruse that opposition to industrialized scenery is mostly temporary. They claim “after commissioning the acceptability is strong” but cite no objective polls. A more likely scenario is that people give up fighting and just try to cope, like Indians beaten down and trapped in reservations. At least that article admits that “mitigation measures are limited,” which is a dry way of stating that you can’t un-see or un-hear huge towers all over the place, so you either cope or move.
The wind business forces itself onto rural communities and expects them to adopt a Stockholm Syndrome mindset. Gag orders are placed on landowners as part of their turbine-hosting agreements (almost everyone has a price) and upbeat polls ask if people favor “renewable energy” without specifying its ugliest component. Articles and forums supporting wind power are constantly ignoring or downplaying its aesthetic damage to scenery and the animals it kills. A truly green business wouldn’t need so many cover stories. They’re filling the fields, mountains and oceans with colossal, noisy, flashing towers and acting like it’s easily ignored (see cognitive dissonance). Engineers are generally not stupid people, so they’re either lying to themselves or have chosen to disrespect nature.
Propaganda sites dismiss the downsides with “careful siting” lies and implausible schemes to discourage birds & bats from entering their expanding gauntlets. They won’t explain why they find landscapes non-integral to the environment, except to insist that AGW dwarfs other concerns based on feeble evidence that wind turbines can actually stop it. Here are some random samples:
awea.org (money clearly motivates them, just like the fossil fuel business)
wind-works.org (wind advocate since the 70s, pretends the scale hasn’t grown ugly)
windustry.org (lists the downsides but gives them little weight; common shill tactic)
climatecrocks.com (“wind turbine syndrome is bullshit” sums up the smugness of that site)
cleantechnica.com (see no evil, hear no evil; bans anyone who criticizes wind power in a forceful way)
ramblingsdc.net/windenergyopposition.html (rambles about the “benefits” of rural ruination, claims to respect nature)
thestranger.com/…/rural-people-who-hate-wind-power (insults rural folk, ignores wind energy’s futility; see arrogant quote)
You can’t reach hardened wind power advocates with aesthetic arguments. Many of them don’t intrinsically respect nature because they’re anthropocentric technophiles and neo-environmentalists. They probably spend far more time looking at computer screens than physical horizons. Maintenance of the technological world and its power grid is their top priority, with nature as a quaint distraction, or a backdrop for extreme sports. The height of wind turbines plays into the bungee-jumping, thrillseeker mindset and they get fascinated with the ability to build something that large. Ancient concern for nature is lost in their awe of Man’s hubris (not unique to wind turbines but they’re top dog now). Windnuts share many traits with the wingnut climate deniers they claim to despise; always pushing for more gigawatts and construction projects. Instead of protecting nature from people, now it’s about sustaining what people built with fossil fuels, using much weaker forms of energy that require vast acreage. If landscapes must be trashed for the “greener good,” they’re fine with it. Way to go, you soulless idiots! Pursuing a nature-wrecking technology in the name of environmentalism is dystopian irony at its worst. Wind power just escalates Man’s historical plundering of nature and the Manifest Destiny mindset. It squanders our last chance to downsize per countless warnings about carrying-capacity overshoot.
Wind turbine manufacturers compete to see who can build the biggest eyesores. Watch some of these videos where they take pride in looming as tall as possible over the countryside. Anything green is long forgotten in those brag-fests. It’s become a bloated excuse for manufacturing, mining, logging, blasting, road building, trucking and crane rigging jobs. That’s what it takes to get huge machines installed in the hundreds of thousands, eventually millions if madness prevails. Too bad they can’t try it on a different planet instead of experimenting on the public and wildlife. Maybe there’s a planet Enercon (emphasis on the con) or a planet Vestas with no natural vistas. There’s also something sinister about the word Iberdrola, like a disease that’s also a corporation. Not only are they in the wind business, they’re vested in a controversial hydroelectric dam in Brazil. Groups like Greenpeace oppose them for that but not for wind power blight. Where’s the moral consistency?
Interactive map of U.S. wind projects. This is a good way to see the total sprawl of these “farms” and debunk minimal land use claims (points 5 & 6 above). You can drive for hours in some places and always see turbines. The industry wants to keep making them taller so they’ll work in lower wind areas. Scenery be damned is the general consensus. Be mindful of the 360-degree viewshed, not just their exact placement.
People who oppose the damming of water yet support the mass-disruption of airspace are a hypocritical bunch. You can put large generators at ground level or small ones inside large towers in much greater numbers. A high percentage of existing dams merely hold back water and could be retrofitted to generate electricity, which should be considered instead of more wind projects. Water is 784 times denser than air and creates a lot more power per unit area. Water dams kill swimming animals and wind dams kill flying ones. They both disturb nature in big ways, so if you’re against damming rivers, why make excuses for damming the sky? At least hydro-power makes lakes, which are also formed by natural landslides and lava. Nothing in nature looks like wind machines jutting into the sky. Wind power is a hasty reaction to the fossil fuel dilemma, not our sole choice on this scale (see wind energy vs. oil’s density). The definition of the word clean contains “morally uncontaminated; pure; innocent,” which is the opposite of scenery fouled by wind turbines.
The anti-fracking movie, Promised Land, was originally going to be about wind turbines. They ought to do a sequel since the public is still largely duped by wind hype, thanks to media soft-pedaling. Both industries convert scenic, quiet places into energy factories and know it will disrupt lives, so they use slick propaganda. But fracking is much less visible at a distance than wind power and its lands can be restored, though water issues plague it.
* It’s unlikely that famous conservationists & naturalists like Henry Thoreau, John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Aldo Leopold, Ansel Adams, Rachel Carson, Edward Abbey, et al., would have welcomed this assault on landscapes. As an example, the John Muir Trust (a Scottish legacy charity) is against wind turbines in any sort of wilderness area but they’re fighting a tough battle. In America, Muir founded the Sierra Club, which has sold out to green-tech, dodging the evidence and calling for “appropriately sited” renewable energy projects. Do they think the planet has endless places to hide huge towers, with so many projects already resisted? Even iconic Loch Ness is threatened by wind energy now. It’s discouraging to see modern environmentalists buy into the weak benefits of a bloated, unreliable power source.
In case you think this is a rant with no hope, I’m all for rooftop & parking-lot solar panels or putting them over train tracks and canals. They are much greener than wind monsters because they don’t increase the human footprint, which was never solely about carbon until recent attitudes took hold. Geothermal is another good renewable source, along with small, non-dense wind turbines (under 50 feet tall) and safer forms of nuclear power. The whole centralized model of building “energy farms” and moving electricity over long transmission lines (additional sources of blight) needs to end. Anything truly green should have a minimal footprint, like cargo ships assisted by rotor sails. Unless people practice restraint and use more birth control, our long-term existence on this planet isn’t assured by any technology. Fossil fuels built this whole mess and it’s hard to sustain without them. The whole notion that there “must be a solution” is countered by historical evidence of human greed and shortsightedness. The modern energy quagmire vs. the scale of growing wants & needs is unprecedented. Very large machines in the countryside are a new phase of urban sprawl that leaves many of us speechless. Ecocide, Phase 2 is a good term for it. If these were housing developments or freeways, most environmentalists would oppose them for destroying open space! In light of these inexplicable new values, some ecological thinkers have resigned themselves to the continued destruction of nature by old and new technologies. Wind power is actually an old technology, rebooted in the worst way.
It’s easy to find wind energy opposition groups and antidotes to industry propaganda. The media has done a poor job of reporting both sides of the wind energy story but the tide seems to be turning as these machines reach a critical mass. Hopefully there will be a global moratorium on further construction, at least on mountaintops, where wind turbines are the most disrespectful. Subsidies in various nations have already been cut back as the ruse reveals itself but there needs to be an “outrage clause” that stops them for nature’s sake alone. With all the talk of Climate Justice, why not mention Landscape Justice?
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