When I grew up I thought I had ‘ugly’ pretty much pegged: oil spill, rancid rubbish dump, street brawls – pretty standard fare I would have thought. But boy how wrong a guy can be. It has been said recently by more than one politician that the festering sores of humanity, the blight on the landscape, are wait for it……windfarms! Seriously. Windfarms?
I reckon if I was asked to list the top 4000 ugly things in the country a windfarm wouldn’t even be able to bribe its way into the top 10,000. There is after all a bloody lot of competition. And I don’t think I am alone, most people would trot out a pretty standard list of visually challenging sites before a windfarm was even mentioned. And when you think about ugly it is not just the image. If you see a bird, covered in toxic black oil, flapping helplessly to escape the sludge, it is the realization that bird will have an agonizing death that makes it truly ugly. See a refinery belching toxic smoke and your lungs cant help but take an involuntary gasp, you know those fumes are fouling the very air you breath: Ugly is not just the image but the implication.
So when I see a wind turbine on a hill I cant help but marvel - the 3 blades whirring quietly (yes quietly! Anyone who thinks those blades are loud has clearly not slept near an open cut mine or a coal fired power station).
Here is a piece of technology making something out of nothing – literally generating power out of thin air. No mess, no fumes and if you had a thousand of them along a coastline, say in Japan, and they got savaged by a one in 500 year tsunami you would not be left with radiation fall out that will threaten humanity for thousands of years – just tonnes of scrap metal that will keep a band of post modern sculptors sourced for centuries.
So why the schism? Why do some of our leaders seem to have taken to the road less travelled when it comes to all things deemed ugly? Well, I can offer some possible explanations and none of them are pretty.
Firstly they just don’t get out much! I could take you to a whole world of butt ugly – the infamous Loy Yang Coal fired power station on a cold morning, a dredging machine pushing through the Great Barrier Reef, a six land free way crashing through a wetland.
Further when a former PM stood up and declared that ‘coal was good for humanity’ I reckon that was up there for policy vision with declaring something like ‘the horse and cart will liberate us from our transport woes’; one hell of a speech five hundred years ago where the distance you covered was down to the miles you could conjure from your tired feet, but not really relevant in the era of ‘very fast trains’.
Finally, they could simply be returning the favor. It is no secret fossil fuel companies have a predilection for emptying their particularly deep pockets into the fund raising coffers of conservative politicians, and if you own a coal mine or coal fired power station you grew up with two unshakeable certainties: (1). Renewable energy was nothing but the latest raving from the ‘loony left’ (2). You could count on hefty government subsidies and community support to make the cheapest power by a dirty mile.
But boy how things have changed. Even by the wildest predictions ‘renewables’ have gone gang busters. They now account for over 25% of the worlds power and represent over 50% of all new power added since 2010. Worldwide investment leapt from 130 billion in 2008 to 211 Billion in 2010 and ‘renewables’ employ over 3.5 million people worldwide. Make no mistake they are big business. And whilst fossil fuel seems an increasingly desperate and stranded ideology, the renewable energy sector bulges with ‘brain gain’, smart investor capital and precocious achievements. No wonder fossil fuel companies are calling in favors, expecting politicians to make outlandish claims about the ugly sin and depravity that is a windfarm, as they scramble to hold their place in a world that is changing all around them.
So we are left with the possibility that these same politicians who are trying desperately to reimagine what we see as ugly are out of touch, disconnected, or worse, using the privilege of governing our country not to usher in new and exciting change, but to mouth sentiments designed to keep us chained and marooned to a dirty, grimy fossilized past.
If this is true then I think we have found the truth about what is really ugly in our modern country.
By Chris Ferreira