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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Windpower – Don’t be Fooled

A New Wind Farm in Swanton, Vermont

By George Harvey

Some debate has been developing over a wind farm in the town of Swanton, Vermont. Whenever I consider of such a debate, I think of an old Lily Tomlin skit in which she plays Edith Ann, a bratty five-year-old, who forcefully asserts that making up lies is bad, but adds, “You can make up the truth if you know how!”

If you follow the debates over windpower, you will find a lot of people making up a lot of things. With a mix of truth and fancy, it is hard to know how much of what they say actually is true. My advice is never to believe anyone’s claims, regardless of how appealing they are (especially to your “dark side”), until you have checked them with verifiable sources.

Some assertions come, resounding passionately, only to dissipate like smoke when people realize how silly they are. Others stick around, such as those that say wind turbines depress values of nearby property, kill birds, and make people sick. All three can be refuted with facts.

When they are refuted, however, anti-wind activists resort to what sound like made-up “truths.” For example, the Massachusetts Audubon Society supported Cape Wind because they had determined that wind turbines save many more birds than they kill. When this was pointed out, one anti-wind activist responded by asserting that the Audubon Society had been bought off by “big wind.” Edith Ann’s made-up “truths” came naturally to mind. (I am not inclined to believe in conspiracy theories, but I wonder whether this activist is caught up in one.)

The question of human health effects provides an excellent reason for caution. After numerous studies appeared in peer-reviewed publications, the Australian Medical Association issued the first position paper on the subject by a national medical organization. That paper said that wind turbines cannot be shown to produce illness. However, stress, such as that coming from anti-wind activists, can cause all manner of illness, and the stress-caused illness around wind farms correlated with stressful activities of anti-wind activists. Wind turbine syndrome, in other words, is a placebo effect; people are told they will get sick, they believe it, and so they do get sick. (see bit.ly/wind-turbine-syndrome-report)

One reason for people to make up assertions intended to slow our transition to renewable power might be that they are in the pay of fossil fuel companies, to produce advertising or provide pro-fossil-fuel political positions. Clearly there are other reasons, and hateful spite might be one of these. Regardless, the Australian Medical Association’s position suggests people should consider limiting their exposure to anti-wind activists who might, literally, make them sick.

We have these three pieces of advice. Avoid spiteful people and the stress-filled organizations that can damage your health and happiness. Avoid organizations that function more like mind-controlling cults than groups of thoughtful environmentalists. And think for yourself.

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