Thursday, January 24, 2013

What I would like to tell the Gayton-le-Marsh windfarm planning inquiry.

Discussion relating to the planning of windfarm locations often focuses on the landscape and the perceived detriment caused by the appearance of turbines.  Aesthetics is said to be a matter of subjective opinion, not open to rational argument, not a matter of right or wrong.  People’s opinions have to be taken at face value and included in the planning consideration.

However, aesthetics is not an immutable given.  It is the product of psychology, governed by our experience, knowledge and understanding.  Those of us who value nature and resent the intrusion of the man-made, who long for wilderness and care little for the use of electricity and, most importantly, do not make the connection between action today and survival of future generations, are likely to view wind turbines as a blot on the landscape.  They will regard them as ugly and will seek to oppose them by using any and all argument that they come by irrespective of any facts.  Aesthetics trumps the rational.  That is the human condition.

On the other hand, those of us who have a deep understanding of earth system science, who know what dangers global warming will bring to the current generation and fear for the very survival of our grandchildren, will see in a wind turbine a symbol of hope and of optimism.  We see elegance in the laws of physics that require the exquisite form of the turbine blade, a product at the pinnacle of our engineering skill.  We understand the connection between technology and a survivable future.  We are helpless and can do nothing but react with awe at the beauty of the windfarm.

The dynamics of the sweeping curves show to us that mankind is capable of acting in favour of the yet unborn.  And that is the most beautiful aspect of the human condition.

We have to trust that this inquiry will take aesthetics into account and find in favour of this application to build a windfarm.

Update Saturday 26th January 2013.

Yesterday I did indeed read out the above little essay to the Gayton-le-Marsh Windfarm Planning Inquiry.  I was the only member of the public to speak in favour of the proposal.  The gentleman who spoke before me was far from gentle in his vitriolic abuse of me personally and Transition Town Louth generally and one particular statement caused me to e-mail a note to the Inspector.  Here it is:

To the Inspector,  Gayton-le-Marsh Windfarm Inquiry.
The gentleman who spoke before me this morning, Friday 25th January, made an allegation regarding Transition Town Louth.
He suggested that we had received payments from Ecotricity.
The allegation has the potential to discredit my testimony in the Inquiry.
The allegation is not true.
The allegation is therefore a slander.
We have never received payments from Ecotricity.  Our accounts are publicly available on our website at (Near top left of page, under 'Last Meeting' or directly from
Doubtless Ecotricity could confirm that they have never paid us.
A couple of years ago, as a thankyou for distributing their leaflets and promoting them when we had the opportunity, Ecotricity did send us a £50 voucher for Naked Wines, which we converted into six bottles of wine that, in due course, we drank.
Biff Vernon

However, the other speakers were polite in the delivery of their statements (if not in their listening to mine).  What struck me particularly was their sincerity; they seemed genuinely upset about the prospect of the windfarm.  And angry.  I do feel for them.  Clearly they regarded turbines as ugly and sought to oppose them by using any and all arguments that they could come by irrespective of any facts, just as I had predicted.  Some of their objections were just plain weird; one person was concerned that the turbines would spoil her view of the sun glinting off the windscreens of cars on the distant A16, another talked about the seals at Donna Nook.  Doubtless the Inspector will be able to deal with these issues as appropriate in a planning inquiry.

But while the facts may be wrong, the arguments bizarre and irrational, we are left with genuine people trying to deal with their genuine emotions.  I am now more sure of my suggestions in the essay above, that appreciation of aesthetics is  the product of experience, knowledge and understanding.  If we are to persuade people to like wind turbines we must first persuade them of the truth of anthropomorphic global warming and the upcoming electricity crisis.

There is, as always, an alternative.  It is that proposed particularly by Paul Kingsnorth, of the Dark Mountain Project, who would probably also oppose the windfarm.  But his view is that of a deeper despair of civilisation, that windfarms will not solve our problems but merely allow us to believe further that our technological civilisation has a future.  I am inclined to think that Paul Kingsnorth is right, but nobody at the Inquiry yesterday was offering to live with less electricity.