There are numerous fantastic websites dedicated to the hard science of the effects of wind energy. This blog comes at the topic from a different angle: the emotional and psychological impacts of wind power. And I’ve been feeling a decidedly strange emotion these last few days: sadness at the death of a wind turbine!
I don’t know what’s come over me. Blub… Sorry about this, I’ll be OK in a moment. It’s just that I’ve genuinely been touched on an emotional level by the sight of the broken turbine at Tewitt Hall near Oakworth.
To be honest I think it’s more a case of empathy than sadness. For the first time since I started this blog, I’ve really started to consider what it must feel like for a farmer to wake up one morning and find half a turbine blade lying in the lower field, the other half embedded into a nearby hedgerow.
I talk a lot about the “unspoilt” countryside, and people often misunderstand what I mean. I don’t mean “untouched by the hand of man”, or even “undeveloped”. What I mean is exactly what I say: “unspoilt”. It goes back to aesthetics, largely, but can also be gauged with other metrics such as house prices, air quality, wildlife diversity etc. Spoiling a landscape literally means lowering the value of one or more of these metrics over time. If there were 200 species of bird spotted in a moorland location last year, and only 60 this year, that would be a quantitative indication of spoilt countryside.
How do farms and agriculture fit into one’s evaluation of the quality of the countryside? I don’t know enough about agriculture to hold forth upon the ecological impact of modern farming practices. What I do know is that wind turbines have changed the look and feel of the countryside more abruptly and incongruously than any other agricultural practice over my lifetime.
And yet, aside from the corporate wind farms, it’s farmers who have to live with these things. They depend on them to survive in many cases. That’s part the reason I find wind turbines give off a negative vibe. They denote failure, or at least a struggle. The irony of people who describe wind turbines as “majestic” is that, in reality, they tend to indicate reliance upon subsidies to stay afloat, rather than a lifestyle of comfortable affluence. Put it this way: what millionaire would move to the countryside only to block their own views?
Oh sure, there are some people getting filthy rich off wind farms, in general absentee landowners such as the New Zealand-based Lord of the Manor of Rochdale, who Labour should despise from deep within their DNA, yet strangely don’t. But those who erect a turbine outside their own window don’t appear to be motivated by greed. Just survival.
Someone, somewhere has to pay for the repair of these faulty turbines, and I wonder exactly who. I hope it’s not the farmers themselves. Are wind turbines sustainable as a source of income, even when they break? How many times does a turbine need fixing before it becomes untenable?
I’d love to live in a world where farmers didn’t need wind turbines to survive. Where we could say to any prospective turbine owners: “It’s OK, don’t worry about the turbine, we’ll just give you the money anyway!” Maybe we should be more proactive in helping subsidise struggling farmers by giving them cash incentives NOT to have a turbine!
In a way, that’s the long-term future for the countryside anyway: we country-lovers will place more and more premium on those areas that haven’t sold out their natural beauty. The very people most affected by what turbines do to a landscape are those most likely to cherish traditional country pubs in quaint little villages, keeping these independent rural businesses alive. Those city dwellers who believe in the abstract concept of wind energy will rarely actually visit these off-the-radar villages or support their economy in any way.
It makes good business sense to keep your local countryside turbine-free and popular with visitors!
Once again I make the claim that wind turbines exacerbate inequality: there is a clear and obvious difference between a pristine, turbine-free landscape and a degraded, turbine-blighted landscape. You’d have to be blind, deaf and almost inhuman not to be aware of the difference.
X marks the spot – this entire area has now been blighted and stigmatised for miles around, for the sole benefit of Jaytail Farm, and to the detriment of everyone else in the neighbourhood. Is this really good for the environment?
What’s the very least “green” feature of the above landscape?
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m very wary of being just another townie pontificating about country matters from the comfort of my suburban home. But the effects of blight upon the countryside touch a very deep, primal part of our collective consciousness. The archetype of the bucolic idyll spoilt by greed or temptation goes back as far as the Garden of Eden. Just ask Adam, ahem… There must be other ways we can keep our rural communities afloat, without paving paradise to put up a parking lot.
The truth is, the sad sight of a broken turbine – presumably damaged by the very wind it was supposed to be harnessing – helped my anger at its presence transform into a more reflective feeling.
I want to support our farmers and be a better friend to them than the suppliers of these shoddy turbines, I really do. I’m on their side. The farmers are the custodians of our countryside, after all.
I just think they’re deluding themselves, if they think they can rely upon the cruel, cruel wind to turn around the fortunes of a failing farm. And the more farmers alienate those most willing to support them, the harder they will end up making life for themselves.
MORE ABOUT THE BROKEN TEWITT HALL TURBINE:
By Jove, I think I’ve stumbled across a solution, or at least a partial one. Bravo to the farmers alongside the B6295 in Northumbria. I noticed about three matt grey wind turbines, and what an aesthetic difference! Now it might seem counter-intuitive that drab grey has a better appearance than brilliant white, but it’s all to do with the juxtaposition of the turbines against their brooding moorland backdrops. The brown-green countryside swallows up the unobtrusive grey shape of the turbines and renders them much harder to see from a distance. As such, these grey wind turbines seem humbler and more honest somehow, more NATURAL!
Ditching the dazzling, artificial, ostentatious white paint might not solve all our turbine problems, but it would certainly make their presence decidedly less brutal.