Before we get stuck into today’s main topic, let’s just have a quick run through what’s been going on the land of wind energy these last couple of weeks. We’ll kick off with a real-time status update: right here, right now (14:06pm Sunday 5th August 2018) the UK’s 8,879 wind turbines are between them generating just 0.70GW of power, compared with 7.91GW nuclear power (in the red!), and 9.63GW CCGT power. As you’d expect on a bright sunny day, solar power is performing very well, currently generating 7.30GW.
So there’s some context: what we’re talking about is a form of renewable energy that is currently meeting just 2.68% of our power needs! We’re talking about something pretty much superfluous: wind power is intermittent at best, but certainly over the last few months our wind turbines have been virtually useless. As such, their presence has done more harm than good, because even when bugger-all power is being generated, the blight remains.
The big news across the North of England and elsewhere in Europe has been a large number of moorland fires. Saddleworth Moor in particular saw vast tracts of moorland ablaze and nearby homes evacuated. A few miles northwest, a fire narrowly missed taking out the Hyndburn Wind Farm – one I’ve previously suggested might be best off being razed to the ground! Be careful what you wish for and all that…
There’s a pithy comment under the article:
“Were the turbines turned off while the fire crews battled with the fire ?
And if they were turned off, did the operators receive constraint payments, which are usually a higher rate than the payments they receive for the power produced plus the massive subsidies they receive?
And did the fire start as a result of a problem with the turbines? So many turbines ‘self igniting’ these days, that a wildfire such as this is bound to start with a turbine fire eventually.”
If nothing else, this comment (which wasn’t posted by me, honestly!) demonstrates that the public are no longer hoodwinked by the “clean, green energy” BS, and are more interested in simply following the money.
OK, so let’s move onto today’s main topic, a continuation of my previous piece which I have hesitated to promote. I’ve essentially applied my own logic and erred on the side of not imposing anything on anyone against their will and without their consent. My piece about Trump is therefore like a remote nature reserve, there for those prepared to make the effort to trudge away from the main highways and off onto a narrow, winding path of natural exploration.
Feel free to retrace the footsteps of my voyage: the paths are well sign-posted. But for those of you who’d rather simply look at the snapshots, well here are the salient features of the previous entry: I drew the parallel between what wind turbines do to my own psychological state, and what Mr Donald Trump does to the sanity of, well, millions of people.
Furthermore I made the case that what really causes the low-level torture is a sense of fear and dread that manifests itself in the form of temper tantrums, namecalling, aggression, violence and what looks to all the world like raw hatred. In reality, what is commonly being experienced is called an “amygdala hijack” – the intuitive fight-or-flight response that kicks in before rational thinking can take place.
People react to Trump and/or turbines out of fear that something they hold dear is under attack somehow. It’s hard, almost impossible at times, but the trick is to find some mental space away from the perceived threat; in which we can critically examine the source of our unease, understand how and why it is a threat to our lives, and what we can do to prevent it causing any harm to our well-being.
In doing this with regard to wind turbines, I’ve drawn the conclusion that it’s the brutality that is largely the problem; and therefore maybe it’s Trump’s own brutality that might be causing similar issues to his opponents. So for the remainder of this piece, I’d like to explore the notion of brutality, and how one of the biggest differences between Trump fans and their turbine fans is their relationship with brutality.
In short, my thesis is this: Trump fans are CONSCIOUSLY brutal, deliberately and openly using brutality to forward their agenda, well aware of its impacts; whereas turbine fans are SUBCONSCIOUSLY brutal, often without any idea whatsoever of how their actions are coming across, blissfully unaware of their impacts.
There is a term for the conscious, deliberate use of brutality, especially in architecture: brutalism. The origins of brutalist architecture are worthy of further research, but the fundamental factor is the origin of the term: “béton brut” (unfinished concrete), derived from the Latin word “brutus” meaning “raw”, “rough”, and therefore by extension “insensitive”.
The pioneers of brutalism considered its austere starkness as an expression of seriousness; utilitarian and functional rather than indulgent or wasteful. Others disagree strongly: believe it or not, one of the most vociferous critics of brutalism is the Prince of Wales. Many others have criticised it for its psychological impact on those who are routinely subjected to its oppressive, intimidating presence.
Although I firmly believe that generally speaking brutalist housing breeds brutal behaviour, I do still appreciate that certain brutalist buildings can in fact have a positive impact on a neighbourhood: the so-called “Dalek” (aka Bridgewater Place) is an interesting, if not universally popular, presence on the Leeds skyline. What do you think?
Once you understand that brutalism involves consciously using the aesthetics of rawness to make a statement, you begin to realise that there is a subtle but all-important difference between the brutal impact of a Trump tweet and the brutal imposition of an unwanted wind farm on a community.
Trump’s tweeting, and indeed his whole style of communication, is based on conscious, deliberate, premeditated and stylised rawness. Its effects are intended to impose raw (ie uncensored/unfiltered) language on whoever his barbs may be aimed at. It is often argued that the unintended consequence of these public truth-darts is a high amount of collateral damage caused in the process, offence and even fear caused to those caught up in the crossfire of any excessive or unnecessary brutality. There are several conservative voices in the USA (eg Ben Shapiro) who, whilst broadly supporting the President’s agenda, are critical of the self-inflicted reputation damage caused by the brutality of his communications.
The wind industry and its supporters would undoubtedly deny there was any intent to impose brutality on the public, however, the net effect of their actions is the same as one of Trump’s tweets, if not a million times worse, because it’s the actual earth being brutalised, not just people’s egos. Certainly, thousands of rural communities all over the world now believe, with considerable justification, that the wind turbines imposed on them, against their will and without their consent, were an act of brutality.
When you point this out to wind supporters, that the true impact of their policies has been to brutalise rural communities across the globe, you are literally NEVER met with compassion, empathy, understanding or any sense of responsibility for the effect of their actions. Rather, the communities are further ridiculed, namecalled, victim-blamed and belittled, derided as backwards, insular “NIMBYs”.
I don’t know about you, but I see a clear moral and psychological distinction between Trump’s use of brutalism as a rhetorical tool and the casual brutality of wind supporters. I see Trump using it tactically, deliberately, absolutely and clearly with the intent to inflict psychological damage to his opponents, he’d be the first to admit it. Trumpism IS brutalism: but it does what it says on the tin, and the clearly-stated targets of the brutality are the inhabitants of “the swamp”, not (from what I’ve seen so far) the general public, nor indeed the Earth. I certainly don’t feel under any threat from Trumpian Brutalism whatsoever, but maybe it’s just me.
Friends of the Earth have brutalised my natural habitat way more than Mr Trump could even dream of.
In contrast to Trump’s conscious brutalism, wind supporters seem to apply the same principles and practices without even realising they’re doing it! Furthermore, most of them would claim to be opposed to all forms of brutality, despite dishing out the most horrible and dehumanising names anyone could even dream of.
Trump’s brash, abrasive brand of brutalism is in keeping with the architecture he grew up with, and has indeed constructed: the concrete jungle of the Big Apple. Honestly brutal. He’s been an A-list celebrity acting like this for over thirty years – that’s what people wanted and that’s what they’ve got.
The wind supporters’ subconscious brutality is different though. Instead of being honest and upfront about its impacts, they minimise and downplay any objections, instead generally seeming to be indifferent, glib and apathetic to how the dark shadows of their “majestic” wind turbines torment those who have to suffer their blight. Essentially, their brutality is more passive-aggressive rather than directly aggressive, a subconscious rather than conscious means of displaying contempt for those upon whom they impose their brutality.
What makes the brutality of wind energy supporters especially dangerous is that it simply isn’t acknowledged or recognised, let alone in any way managed, focused or directed. Indeed this subconscious brutality is positively denied, under a hefty weight of virtue-signalling and greenwash.
Whereas the conscious use of brutalism can (and should) be applied to a specific situation for a specific outcome, and this should always be acknowledged upfront, just as Trump does, subconscious brutality instead runs rampant and unchecked, ruining the lives of innocent people, and revealing itself in the casual dismissal, by so-called “progressive” people, of the harm caused by inappropriate wind blight. Truly progressive people would CARE!
Now there are a lot of committed environmentalists out there who do care, and who do consciously use brutalism as part of their campaigning. I’d even give my old sparring partners 10:10 Climate Change the benefit of the doubt regarding the ill-fated Splattergate video, and accept that this was an attempt to deploy brutalism as an artistic tool. Despite the backlash, at least the video was honest about the intentions and ideals of its creators. The trouble was, the victims of brutality in the video were children, whose only crime was asking too many awkward questions of their teacher!
Of course, it might well be that following all the complaints about children’s heads being blown off, a more softly-softly approach to advertising 10:10’s aims was needed. All this just goes to prove, however, that there IS a profoundly brutal streak running deep through the hearts of wind energy supporters, and because it lacks any real target or direction, it ends up splattering EVERYONE!
I just wish the brutality of wind energy supporters was out in the open, the way it is with Trump supporters. I also wish they’d aim their brutality in a more specific direction than hamfistedly trashing the world’s countryside.
All in all, maybe the world would be a better place without anyone practising brutalism at all. Maybe Trump should consider dropping the brutal tweets; I’m sure if he could, he would. I’m confident at least that he’s made the calculated decision that a certain degree of rawness is actually what the majority of Americans want and need right now. He is like an artist, consciously and deliberately applying the principles of brutalism to whatever extent he feels they are the most appropriate aesthetic with which to present the substance of his communications.
I’m less confident that the wind supporters have even half as much awareness and control over their brutality, because most of the time they’re not even aware they’re being brutal! That’s why I’ve felt the need to call it out.
And that’s why I have so much more respect for the Green candidate with whom I corresponded, who admitted that the proposed turbines at Rooley Moor would “disfigure the moors”, but reckoned the climate change crisis was so urgent we needed them anyway. The bandage on the arm analogy I described it as – of course it’s ugly, but it’s needed to fix the problem. That is an intellectually honest and entirely logical argument I can only respect, even if I begged to differ on the actual effectiveness of wind turbines to save the planet from climate change.
Simply acknowledging that wind turbines have an inherently brutalist aesthetic, as the Green Party guy did, and understanding and respecting people’s natural emotional reactions to brutalism, especially in the otherwise soothing countryside, would go a long way to persuading the sceptical public that wind turbines aren’t just a get-rich-quick scam.
Ironically, if anyone seems to intuit the brutality of wind turbines, it’s Mr Trump himself: “Ugly industrial wind farms are ruining the beauty of parts of the country… and have inefficient unreliable energy to boot.”
As crazy as it might sound, Donald Trump cares more about the beauty of nature than Friends of the Earth do!
Mental, but TRUE.
Brutalism breeds brutality, so if you’re going to inflict brutalism on the world, be upfront about the reasons you think it is the best approach. Own it, control it, use it for the greater good, to assert purpose and structure wherever they may be lacking. That’s what Trump and his fans believe they are doing, directing the brutalism specifically towards wherever they believe it can do most good, including towards the wind scammers. I guess I do the same with my blogging!
So if that’s what you’re imposing on rural communities, at least be equally honest about it, Explain the reasoning behind your wind blight, and exactly why it’s for the greater good, whilst also acknowledging the very real impact of its brutalist aesthetic. Don’t pussyfoot around pretending that wind farms are all fluffy bunnies and daffodils. Nothing can get away from the fact that the huge, sharp and intimidating rotating blades of a wind turbine have a brutal impact on a landscape, and as soon as you own that fundamental truth, you can adopt a more sensible, reality-based approach to locating them, without attracting the wrath of people like me!
That said… when the actual purpose of the 8,879 brutalist structures you’ve imposed on the countryside is as a sustainable source of energy, and between the whole bloody lot of ’em they can’t even sustain 1GW of power generation…
ISN’T IT TIME TO ADMIT DEFEAT?!