Hideous, Elegant, Monstrous Beauties

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When you walk, get the train, drive past a wind farm, what do you think? Do you scowl, whilst thinking to yourself “What Hideous Technological Monstrosities dominating that serene looking hill!”; or do you gaze at them, calmly thinking “What elegant white beauties they are…”? A wind turbine is a wind turbine- steel and fibreglass put together to generate mechanical energy. So why, how can they cause so much debate and different opinions?

There are plenty of supporters who see them as invaluable resources for clean renewable energy. At a time when the UK’s nuclear power stations are due to imminently close and we are striving to reduce carbon emissions and fossil fuel dependency, they appear to be the Golden choice. The opponents are strong in numbers, considering the turbines as destructive to the “natural” landscape, threatening bat and bird life. The pros and cons can be found elsewhere, this article wants to go deeper than the surface arguments that people quote in such debates and answers why people feel so differently.

The answer is simply scale. Most individuals normally will have already made up their minds about their position on wind farms, regardless of the specific arguments. This is because, at the end of the day, every person has a preferred perspective on life. If you whittle the debate down to the bare essentials, it mostly comes down to whether your outlook is global and long-term or local and short-term. The global and long-term thinkers among us would surely argue that in the face of climate change and finite carbon resources, it would be ridiculous not to use such a plentiful energy supply. Those of us, who lean to the local and short-term side, would surely regard landscape value and wildlife as top priorities.

Undoubtedly both perspectives are important to consider- after all, we live locally, but are part of a global world. Nevertheless, it is clear that the wind energy debate is sometimes overcomplicated, and by simplifying the argument down to these scales, we can start to speak more coherently together. It is not possible to argue which is the more important aspect- that wind farms can provide renewable energy or that they disturb human experience of the landscape- without first accepting that these arguments are fighting from different platforms or scales. Accepting this, is like agreeing to communicate in the same language- without it our discussion would be meaningless.

NIMBYism- the “Not In My Back Yard” condition is another reason why it is important to look at scale. Whilst many of us might on paper fully support a proposal, we might have very different ideas when we see the signs going up in our local countryside. Although it is essential to sensitively plan new sites, it will always be in someone’s backyard. If the locals could try to consider the global, long-term side and the supporters could empathise with the locals, then maybe public discussions could progress a little further.

Charlotte Owen

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