Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cefn Croes windfarm - 14 seconds to make up your mind.


Let me start by sharing three recent conversations.

The first, with a writer who was once a prominent road protester. Would you have climbed those trees to stop the building of a wind farm, I asked?

The second, with a writer and environmentalist, as delightful as she was committed. I care most deeply about the landscape, I explained, my view on windfarms is really a matter of personal priorities.

And the third, with a writer whose generous mentoring has helped me more than any other. I've discovered the way to success, he said. Write nothing controversial, acknowledge all opinions and say bugger all of consequence.  He had a twinkle in his eye.

I recalled these snippets as I neared the summit of Pen y Garn on Saturday, walking on a treble-width forest track, five miles east of Devil's Bridge in the Cambrian Mountains. The 'road' leads to the Nant Rhys bothy, arguably the most perfect and isolated of all in Wales.

Of course, I knew what to expect. After all, I'd been this way before. I'd written of my hatred of the Cefn Croes windfarm, its impact on the landscape and  the inappropriateness of its turbines. I'd gone so far as to say that before passing judgement every campaigner (for or against) should stand under one of the monstrous contraptions.

You'll understand then, I'm no fence sitter on this issue - though it's fair to say that over recent years I've tried harder to listen to alternative views. Sometimes I even find myself nodding.

But as I crested the rise that visceral response hit me again... I began ranting to my walking companion... and again... reeling off photos... and again... spitting into my iphone's voice recorder: fucking turbines.. and again... arrogant, criminal... and again... they make me want to puke..  I was listening to no one and to trucking no arguments.

And you know, I was glad about that. For in those few minutes of rage I felt more authentic than any amount of reasoned argument, probing questions or careful assessment of perspectives. I didn't give a toss for the technical reports available as pdf downloads, the website propaganda of the energy companies or the paranoia of the eco-lobby that positions windfarms as a binary alternative to nuclear fuelled wastelands. Nor did I care about the European grants, the Welsh Assembly's Sustainability Strategy, or the 40,000 homes putatively benefiting from this 'clean' energy.

What I cared about was this place.

The Elenydd wilderness is one of the few mountain regions worthy of that epithet. The Cefn Croes windfarm is barely visible from the road, it takes miles of walking to get up close, it directly affects but a handful of homes and doesn't offend the tourist's windscreened view of Wales. And that's precisely why it matters so much.

This landscape is precious; it's rare and special, and I'm angry because we despoil it with industrialisation on a scale that would be unthinkable in any urban equivalent. This is wrong, and it's plain and obvious when you go there. But because most of you won't, I'd ask you to spend 14 seconds watching the video below.

Just sometimes it's entirely rational to follow our gut.

video

18 comments:

  1. They are an aesthetic crime.
    As you cross into Nicaruaga from Costa Rica the road runs alongside Lake Nicaragua...an inland see, with rising from it the twin peaks of the volcanoes of Omotepe Island.
    It is both beautiful and inspiring...so what do they do...put up lines of these landscape rapers to ruin the beauty.

    And why there of all places when geo thermal is so much better....the firms profiting from the green con are going to ruin Central America too.

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  2. In this area the small wind farms have a strange hypnotic beauty of their own. I've never thought about objecting before.
    But I can understand your rage. The photo in your post looks wrong - even to me.
    I've managed to get to a point in my life where I don't shrink from Honesty. Too many years I've hidden the strength of my views for fear of rocking the comfortable boat and creating an 'awkward' atmosphere... I've done with that. Compromise and tolerance are essential. But they are only arrived at when we say what we mean at the outset.
    Your rage is honest and your views well-founded. No need to hide them. You might even change some fence-sitting and defeat some apathy.

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    1. The "beauty" you describe only exists in theoretical isolation with a few turbines here and there. Surely you have at least as much respect for how the land used to look? It's dangerous to call wind turbines beautiful because it glorifies their continued invasion of landscapes. Their sheer numbers are the issue that's causing so much unrest. The globe already has over 250,000 of them with many more planned; up to several million if industry zealotry gets its way. If more people don't get angry enough to fight them, they'll build as many as possible. We can't be awestruck by them in some narrow context.

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  3. Hello Mark:
    How we applaud real passion as shown by you here. Yes, let our voices be heard loud and clear to proclaim what we believe in and what we hold most dear. Alas, this is but one example of the many ways in which the beauty of the British countryside is systematically being destroyed for all time. But the same could, we fear, be said of the world as a whole.

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  4. We are surrounded by wind-farms, small and large, in our part of Mid-Wales, and like la mujer libre I can actually see beauty in them, as well as appreciating why many people, like you, find them an abomination. I am ambivalent about them, aware that constant use of fossil fuel to provide electricity is radically altering our climate, yet recognising how much windfarms intrude on the landscape. But until we either learn to manage with less power, or find other, less visually or climatically polluting ways of producing it, I fear your passion and anger will fall on deaf ears.

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  5. Hello! Wow I think I've almost managed to work out how to follow your blog, hooray - we'll see what happens when I press send. - Am I one of the people mentioned? Because if so, as I remember, it wasn't a conversation as such, though it turned into one when we spoke about the psychology - but as to my opinion, I didn't give it. I just listened. I listened to yours and to everyones, but I didn't give mine. You're right though to assume that I take the opposite view, I do. I like to think I understand your visceral response and your passion for landscape as I do those of others whose landscapes and homes are disappearing completely and daily due to climate change. I applaud wave power and everything else that was approved of that evening. But the speed with which new energy is needed can only be met with wind - unfortunately wave power is not as ready to get up and go straight away - 20 years from now maybe we'll have other magic solutions and the wave power stations are supplying everything we need, and people have understood that they need to fly less, drive less, and eat less meat and dairy (rather than be faffing about with bags for life and recycling)then wonderful, we can take them down again. That's the beauty of wind. I hope that my response, passionate and visceral as yours, can be listened to and accepted in the same way I listened to and accepted yours... xxx www.zerocarbonbritain.com

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    1. Helo Julie - it wasn't exactly you; more of a vignette of recent conversations - artistic licence I suppose. It wasn't intended to imply disagreement so I've changed the words slightly (in fact back to what they were originally) to remove that suggestion.

      And as you know, I respect almost anyone with passionate views - sometimes its right we express them fully and that was really my point.

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  6. You may not like the windfarms, many don't. I find them beautiful in a way, and they don't offend me. And I am someone who is Yorkshire moors born and bred, so used to unspoilt landscape. But I also acknowledge that we have a looming energy crisis, so what's the alternative?

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    1. Serious conservation and SOLAR panels on existing man-made structures are a viable alternative, but the harsh truth is that no amount of renewable energy will replace the scale of fossil fuels. Starry-eyed greens are kidding themselves. You have to study the physics of the situation (energy per acre from wind is a pittance, and they need fossil fuels to exist anyhow). The human race needs to scale down its numbers for true sustainability, starting yesterday with a lot more birth control.

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  7. At my last house there was a wind farm about a mile and a half away over the other side of Soutra hill. It didn't bother me (Scottish Borders and visible on each side of the A68, the main road South, so it was pretty public) except when the wind was in a certain direction, and then the noise off the "brakes" was horrendous. Why have the brakes on when it's windy? In an area of beauty they should be banned. The newer ones are much taller than the Soutra ones - 90m compared with 60m, I think. We're a small island - can't we have offshore turbines instead? We need to do something, but surely we can do it unobtrusively? Jo

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  8. I can see beauty in the windmills on a small scale but I don't want the whole of Wales covered in them. We should invest more in coastal energy.

    I admire anyone with passionate views, there are too few around these days.

    I am reading your book (and enjoying).

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  9. I always thought them quite an interesting feature on the landscape in a Don Quixote sort of way until
    they were proposed for some hills near where we live and enjoy walking in an area of outstanding beauty on the Irish coast. Then, as I learned why local residents were objecting, I too became concerned about the impact which they'd have on the landscape and for those living close by.

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  10. Like others, I can see their beauty but I can also see your point too. I honestly don't know whether I am for or against them...something needs to be done about the energy crisis but whether this is the right way forward...I just don't know!

    C x

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  11. I cycle past this monstrosity from time to time.

    I would swap it for a few thousand wind turbines any day.

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    1. I understand these are monstrous too, and its incredibly difficult to balance. The world's largest wind farm, the Markbygden Wind Farm, has 1,101 turbines covering 500 km² to generate 4,000 MW, - about the same output as DRAX

      To cover 500KM in Wales would, I suggest, effectively blight almost the entire upland landscape.

      But really my post was about the visceral response I felt; I do accept that these are difficult decisions

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  12. Mark .. I don't see your rage as justified .. I think they add to the environment not detract. We do not live in a museum and much of your cherished landscape is man made anyway .. we have National Parks for preservation .. it is a question of priorities mine are different to yours - m

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    1. Thanks for the comment - i the point of my post was decidedly not to claim my response was 'justified' - but rather to openly declare my deep visceral response to what I feel is industrialisation on a large scale. We could trade arguments on the merits or otherwise of windfarms for week, but my plea is that those who support them should also go and see, stand underneath - feel the impact first hand. If their view remains the same, so be it, at least they have experienced the same as I did.

      My wider point is that sometimes we need to feel and experience to understand and not just make some distanced judgement - arguably that applies to many issues other than windfarms.

      I don't agree with you about national parks for protection though - they represent a tiny fraction of our landscape and in many cases they exclude the best and most wild - the mountains of mid wales are a perfect example, as is Belford Moor in Northumberland, or the Northumberland Coast... I could go on.

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    2. You must have little aesthetic respect for nature if you think a built-up landscape improves on it! Or, I wonder if you really comprehend how large and land-hogging wind turbines are? They are visible from great distances and when they ring scenic areas they destroy the sense of place, even at miles distant. Scots can now see wind turbines from 60% of locales in their country, according to the John Muir Trust. The entire windswept acreage of planet could be in such a predicament if they aren't stopped.

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