As the windmill turns: A native perspective
Who would have thought my sleepy little home town of Corpus Christi and nearby Padre Island would be in the news so much this year. First dead-eye Dick Cheney shoots his friend in the face at a ranch nearby, and the victim is whisked to our local hospital. Now the largest wind farm in the U.S. is slated for waters a little ways down the coast. (This picture showing the location of the wind farm even includes the town of Armstrong, near the Armstrong Ranch where the hunting of quail and shooting of friends took place!)
So as you might guess, the news of the new wind farm caught my attention.
I spent all of my first 18 years in the world, bar one, living in Corpus Christi, the largest city between Houston and Brownsville on the Texas Gulf Coast. My brother and his family still live in the vicinity. Our family spent an awful lot of time birding and on the beach. It’s a big part of why I’m an environmentalist today. Some of my earliest memories are of playing on the beaches of Mustang and Padre Islands: the waves, the sand, the birds, the jellyfish, the oil rigs on the horizon … you get the picture.
One of my less pleasant childhood memories of our local beaches was the tar — black blobs of it everywhere, especially when I was a very little girl and the remains of the Pemex-Ixtoc 1 oil spill, the largest unintentional oil spill in history, were washing ashore. After being at the beach, I wasn’t allowed back in the house until I had been cleaned of any remaining tar blobs on my person. And windmills aren’t the first energy project to confront Padre Island National Seashore; there are already a handful of active oil and natural gas wells operating in or near the park.
Much of the reaction to Dave’s initial post was about the potential threat to birds. And this issue can’t be dismissed easily. The Coastal Bend is a magical birding area and a major migratory pathway. Birding provides a significant boost to local economies in some of the poorest parts of the state. The impact on birds must be seriously considered as this project goes forward, and first indications are good that it will be.
Whenever I am asked about Cape Wind, the wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound off of Cape Cod, I can’t help but think of those blobs of tar and the oil rigs on the horizon of my childhood memories. My usual response is, “I would have traded my oil rigs for windmills any day.”
To some extent that day is arriving. It’s still not an even trade, since the coming turbines can’t yet replace the gasoline in our cars and trucks derived from the Texas tea coming out of those rigs. But it will keep some of our Texas coal from being burned in the short term, and be a step in the right direction for a longer term solution.
So barring any ornithological deal killers, the wind farm gets this native’s support.