By George Harvey
In May, as debate was going on before the Vermont Public Service Board on the sound of wind turbines, we got an email from Sarah Wolfe, VPIRG’s Clean Energy Advocate. It began, “Last night, someone compared sound from wind turbines to genocide. I wish I were exaggerating. But this is the kind of misinformation and fear-mongering that has filled this discussion. When someone can be applauded for publicly comparing the annoyance of a few neighbors to the senseless murder of thousands, this has gone too far.”
We should observe a moment of silence in memory of the millions of people who have died in genocides.
The first Nazi concentration camp was opened in 1933, and the last was closed in 1945. During that time many millions of people died in those camps. No one really knows how many. But taking a medium estimated value, it comes to another human life lost about every 25 seconds, for twelve years. That is pretty horrifying.
There have been many genocides. One of special note is going on today. It is a genocide of randomly chosen victims around the world, who are being killed at a far greater rate than the average in Nazi concentration camps. It kills another person every ten seconds. Most of us do not notice it, because we think it is normal. It is a mass murder of people who die of lung cancer, asthma, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, liver cancer, kidney cancer, or other diseases. Many of these diseases are caused by air pollution associated with our cars, oil heating systems, coal-powered electric generating systems, and other uses of fossil fuels.
The damage is not just deaths. Scores of millions of people who have these diseases and others suffer because our society is unwilling to move to reduce their burdens. And many of those people live in Vermont.
A recent study by the California chapter of the American Lung Association concluded that of the states studied, six of which are in the Northeast, Vermont’s “clean” air had the highest health costs to those who breathe it. The study was limited to the health problems arising from the use of fossil fuels in transportation, for which Vermont’s costs came to $330,000,000 per year, about $480 per person. Since transportation is 47% of our fossil fuel use, the costs given are probably less than half of the total. These are burdens all of us bear, in our taxes and insurance premiums.
Clearly, there are reasons to say the sound of wind turbines is genocide. One is to spread fear, to induce others will take up the anti-wind cause. Another is folly, reacting to the fear spread by others. But one certainly is to prevent one specific real problem wind turbines create, which is the declining fortune of the fossil fuels industry, the same industry that is costing heavily, by destroying the health and lives of so many.