Readers write back about the Cape Cod wind-farm project and more
While I think RFK Jr. has been a huge and important presence in the enviro community, I can’t agree with him on this one. This project needs to be built, and built now.
He wants to send the windmills five miles farther out in the interests of the fishermen? Or is it because at five miles farther out he knows the windmills would be beyond the horizon and thus invisible from shore?
And please correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t these being built on a shoal precisely because it’s shallow? What sort of commercial navigation is taking place on a shallow shoal? The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound is grasping at straws.
C’mon, Bobby! Join us and support this project!
Robert Kennedy Jr. has done a disservice to the very interests he claims to protect. There is an important element missing in his commentary: a disclosure. Mr. Kennedy and other members of the Kennedy family own property that overlooks this area. The arguments they use against this project are the same as those used by opponents to action on global warming, whom Mr. Kennedy vigorously opposes. This glaring conflict weakens the political authority the Kennedy family has maintained over many years.
Mr. Kennedy makes many incorrect assertions. The first is that this area is a navigational danger. It is a shoal, which is shallow water and is marked as such on the navigational charts.
The second is that the fishing industry will face losses. Mr. Kennedy ignores the perilous condition of the fisheries, largely due to incompetent state and federal fisheries management, which has allowed the depletion of fish, dwindling numbers of species, and compromised habitat.
Mr. Kennedy uses data on tourism developed by the Beacon Hill Institute, known for developing positions for the special interests funding the study. Wind installations in Denmark actually increase tourism, which is directly attributable to people who include wind farms in their sightseeing plans.
The most important issue is that the nation’s thirst for energy will demand oil exploration and production off the coast of New England. Allowing the construction of this facility creates a strong position from which to argue against any drilling. Interestingly, there are no regulations against oil platforms in this area.
Mr. Kennedy needs to examine the facts before staking his claim. Surely the view of numerous oil drilling platforms would not be as pleasant as a stand of graceful wind machines.
I recently traveled to Germany and was amazed at the number of wind turbines that are in use. They were everywhere, but never did they cause me anxiety over how they fit into the landscape. It was fascinating to watch them turn, to see how many you could spot as you looked farther and farther to the horizon. It took a concerted effort to pick the low hum out of any other background noise — even in the countryside. I say: Bring on the turbines! They create clean energy and are so cool!
Crystal G. Gilchrist
There seems to be some feeling that looking out on the ocean and seeing windmills will spoil the perfect beauty of a natural paradise. Um, folks, turn around, stop looking at the ocean for a moment, and look at Cape Cod — it may be a nice place to live, but it’s no Yosemite National Park. I think the roads and houses, etc., sort of take away from that. So if you can put up with destroying what was probably a natural wonderland 400 years ago, why should these windmills make a difference? The word hypocrite comes to mind.
Maybe if you stop the windmills, your next project should be to reclaim Cape Cod’s natural beauty. OK, whose house is first to come down?
I am in complete agreement with Mr. Kennedy. First, Americans use and waste astounding amounts of energy. If we became responsible consumers of energy, we could shut down coal-fired plants without expanding the energy grid. Second, solar and wind power are best generated at the residential or commercial site where power is used so that it is not lost to grid transmission inefficiencies. Third, several other industrial wind parks are slated for some of the most scenic viewsheds in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. These wind parks involve towers 300 to 400 feet high, transmission lines, and roads into sensitive areas, as well as other structures.
It’s a damn shame that the environmental movement doesn’t focus on the simple and immediate benefits of energy-efficient appliances, light bulbs, and automobiles. That would impact global warming immediately without the sacrifice of our precious viewsheds. I live in Appalachia and am not a person of wealth, but I treasure the scenic beauty in my backyard just like Mr. Kennedy does. Industrial wind parks may have a role in a comprehensive energy policy, but not at the expense of pristine viewsheds while America continues daily to recklessly squander power.
It’s distressing to witness environmental activists bickering over wind generators off Cape Cod. Bill McKibben, Michael Shellenberger, Ted Nordhaus, and The New York Times find an easy target in Robert Kennedy Jr. — who, according to them, doesn’t want his view or sailing opportunities sullied by unsightly windmills. To me, the issue appears a little more complicated.
Cape Wind power generators are not “vitally important” in the fight against global warming, as these commentators claim. Cape Wind, “one of the biggest projects in the world,” will at best supply electrical energy for a projected 70 percent of Nantucket, Cape Cod, and Martha’s Vineyard. This is not even a drop in a barrel of oil compared to United States energy needs, and hardly the results that will allow us to stop worrying about global warming.
The simple truth is that we must cut our energy use. Rather than building noisy, ugly, bird-killing giant windmills for a billion dollars, we as a society with dwindling resources might well consider investing in mass rail transit and energy-saving technology. Merely lowering the speed limit to 55 mph would save more energy per year than could be produced in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Like drilling in ANWR, which is admittedly more about torturing the enviros and milking the taxpayers than solving our energy problems, I have to suspect that building a wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod entails motives beyond satisfying our craving for energy. And the motives are not pretty.
Thanks for this informative article. It is sad to see our community so divided.
The passing remark on the concerns of the Humane Society of the United States, Massachusetts Audubon, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare was of great interest to me, but you did not do much with it.
Inasmuch as we environmentalists can be divided into two groups — physicists and chemists on the one hand, i.e., those more interested in energy production and pollution issues, and biologists and ecologists and ethicists on the other, i.e., those more interested in preserving biodiversity and defending animal rights — Grist seems definitely on the side of the former. These two groups are by no means opposed to one another, of course. We are all worried about pollution; we are all worried about climate change. And we all (I hope!) recognize that we need to stick together. I only mean to point out that we who pay special attention to biodiversity-related issues are not receiving quite as much of your excellent journalistic attention as is fair.
Mark Stephen Caponigro
New York, N.Y.
Ross Gelbspan stated that Cape Wind is a landmark project that “would offset approximately 880,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year, the equivalent of keeping over 150,000 vehicles off the road.”
According to the EPA, if every American household replaced five of their current light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs, it would save as much energy as if we took 8 million cars off the roads. Perhaps Ross Gelbspan needs to go back to the basics, do the math, and advocate for conservation rather than the wind-power industry.
Terrific op-ed. The efforts of no environmentalist should be discounted, but global warming is a bigger, tougher, and more potentially devastating problem than any other in environmentalism. It is simply a difference of magnitude.
No issue needs to take a “back seat” because the fight against global warming is the struggle to save birds, plants, trees, ecosystems, and all the rest.
I am enormously grateful for Bill McKibben’s sightedness, and for his speaking out. As a person without name recognition, I have been fervently blowing this same horn at the NRDC for some time now. I am excited to see one of the trailblazers of eco-conscience doing so.
Editor’s note: You’ll find plenty more debate on Cape Wind in Gristmill, Grist‘s blog.
Re: Comic Relief
I really enjoyed Umbra’s Comic Relief article. She did a great job letting us chuckle at the topics without doing so at the expense of the letters’ authors. I’ve been a subscriber to Ask Umbra for over a year now, and I enjoy the information it provides on far-reaching topics and the fact that it isn’t too fanatical, but tries to look at the big picture. Thanks, Umbra!
Re: Comic Relief
Thanks to Umbra for her column about all the silly letters she receives. It made me realize something: You’re silly. We’re all silly. Everything’s silly.
I used to think your column was meant to inform your readers about how their deeds affect the environment and what they can do in their everyday lives to help. I thought this was an important service, because even the greatest problems have to be solved one person, activity, concern, attitude, feeling, vote, purchase, letter, licked plate, calorie, and soiled tissue at a time.
But now I find out that you’ve drawn a line distinguishing the silly from the serious. And I see how silly that line is, how silly the whole endeavor is, how silly it is to write you a letter. I finally get it.
Re: Comic Relief
The accepted practice in France is to use one’s bread to wipe up all that delicious sauce. My husband, a member of the Clean Plate Club since childhood, gives enthusiastic wipes of approval that are the delight of a number of French restaurant chefs.
Mary O’Keefe Kellogg
I’m afraid Umbra might have thrown the match out with the woodpile. Please check into masonry heaters. These beauties are an ancient solution to heating efficiently and cleanly and using a renewable resource. A good source of info is the Masonry Heater Association.
What about a pellet stove, Umbra? Benefits of using wood pellets: As a biomass fuel, pellets offer the advantages of sustainable-energy supplies through renewable raw materials; pellets are a byproduct, not a primary user, of these renewable materials; pellets reduce the use of dwindling fossil fuels, often imported from foreign countries; and pellets help reduce the costs and problems of waste disposal. As part of the tradition of the hearth, pellet burning offers the enjoyment of fire viewing and active participation in providing winter comfort in the home.
Editor’s note: You can find more discussion on heating and fireplaces in Gristmill, Grist‘s blog.
Re: Laptop Dance
I’ve seen Umbra’s articles on responsible computer purchasing and recycling, but didn’t actually see a link to the Pledge of True Stewardship and the recyclers nationwide who have been certified. This is the most comprehensive resource on guilt-free computer recycling.
Re: Laptop Dance
I recommend buying a machine that does double, triple, or quadruple duty. Your computer can take the place of your stereo, DVD player, slide projector, file cabinet, Tivo, and TV. It can even replace your shredder, since all good environmentalists pay their bills online and have opted out of paper junk-mail lists. I’ve outlined more hints on eco-electronics purchasing in a blog entry.
I feel compelled to make a comment on “It’s Just Another MLK Monday.” I’m assuming this was just another of your usual word plays. I’m positive, having been a subscriber for a long time, that you folks would never intentionally be so flip regarding the late Dr. King, but that’s the way it sounded. Just another MLK Monday, like all the others? It concerns me that we not trivialize the importance of this day.
Although Grist‘s famed irreverence is great under most conditions, I feel it was not at all appropriate here.
I agree Bush’s treatment of the Arctic wilderness is truly a rape. However, I think the cavalier use of “sloppy seconds” and “two-bit hookers” degrades the serious nature of sexual assault and prostitution. Words count.
Re: Dick’s Tricks
After reading a batch of letters from other readers, it seems that more and more have comments along the lines of, “This is serious stuff that needs to be taken seriously, so stop making light of the issues, and stop making offensive remarks.”
I hope that Grist continues to brush off the calls for seriousness and provide “gloom and doom with a sense of humor.” I don’t think Grist has ever made a truly offensive remark. The severity of your language toward conservatives has made me uncomfortable at times, and there have been some off-color remarks, but come on. Knock me out of my comfort zone! Rile me up and get me motivated to do something, to get involved and add my voice. Grist provides the most constructive motivation I’ve seen.