One Rant at a Time

Whatever heaves into view........better keep its head down.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Nimbys and how to eliminate them

Let me introduce you to the Nimbies. Mr & Mrs Nimby live out in the great green sward that rolls up north from London, dotted with small villages and towns that house the millions who toil in the great financial sweatshops of London. Mr Nimby made a decent pile in Thatcher's 1980s flogging something, while Mrs Nimby raised the family spawn. All well and good.

Now Mr Nimby is a bit overheated these days. He's heard that some power company wants to put up a whacking great windfarm not three miles from his house - great big ugly propeller things that will blight the landscape and decimate the value of his property. He's penned a stiff letter to the Times, he's attended the county council's planning meeting where he heckled and harrumphed on demand, and now he's looking about him for yet more reasons why a wind farm can't possibly be put up nearby.

Sadly, it looks like it's my job to educate the poor sap.

Mr Nimby (and everyone else who takes your line on this issue): we have simply no choice in this matter. I'm not going to rant on about glonbal warming except to say that scientists (and even most politicians) agree that it's happening, and in a short while things will have heated up to the point where the climate change becomes irreversible. So we need to use less power, and what power we do use needs to come from renewable sources that don't create carbon dioxide. Okay?

Now, you object to that wind farm; you say it's ugly, and it spoils an area of outstanding natural beauty. Tough. Your car's ugly too. And that great big gas boiler that you run 24/7 so that there's always hot water to wash it with. So is the fact that you leave every electric appliance in the house on all the time, even if it's on stand-by. So is the fact that when your mobile phone is charged and you slip it into your pocket, you don't disconnect the charger. If everyone in the country decided to unplug the damn things, we could shut down a couple of power stations immediately.

You're a bird-watcher, you say? And the great big propeller is going to kill untold numbers of birds? Well, I'll do a deal with you. The day you and your twitcher friends turn up to the blind on bicycles instead of SUVs, having ridden all the way from your homes, THEN we'll stop the propeller. Deal?

You say the windfarm's going to lower property values in the area nearby? Sorry, there's nothing we can do about the property market, except to try and ensure there still is one in a hundred years' time. And you know, some people think those great big turbines are beautiful. Have you ever seen a real, working windfarm? They're fantastic things, graceful, elegant and even a little humbling.

You say it's expensive? That the power company's going to have to rip up the countryside to run new cables? Of course it is. How do you think the power gets from A to B? But in a cojple of years' time, when the cables are laid, the landscape will look just as good as it did before.

Now, Mr Nimby's son is a surfer. He's ridden the Severn Bore a couple of times, and he's deeply pissed off that someone's planning to build a barrier across the Severn Estuary to harness the tide for some clean energy. His environmentalist friends are saying that the barrier will irreversibly alter the ecology of the estuary. Which to me sounds a little like a horse/stable door interface. Like the ecology hasn't been altered already?

You know, if we're going to do the things that we have to in order to develop more green sources of power, we're going to have to change the way we think and live. And a few things that we've taken for granted -- popping down the shops in our car for a pint of milk, surfing the Severn Bore, that lovely view on the horizon -- are going to have to take second place to the fact that changes are already happening elsewhere.

Mr Nimby, I'd like you to meet Jean-Luc. He owns a ski chalet in Andermatt in Switzerland, slap bang in front of a glacier that is melting at the rate of 1% a year. Now, Jean-Luc here doesn't have any choice in whether he does something about global warming, because global warming is doing something about him already. In a few years, skiing will be history except for those few than can afford a helicopter to the summit. And Jean-Luc will be out of a living.

I won't bother introducing you to the fisherman from the Maldives whose island home is getting smaller every year, or the polar bears in Canada who are running out of ice, and who are having litters of just one cub rather than the usual two or even three. Or anyone from the city of New Orleans...

It's (more than) high time we all stopped thinking with our wallets and started using our brains again.


At 12:37 PM, Blogger Minerva said...

I just love the way you write..and the tone of this piece is just right...

Incidentally, I am in the humbling camp...


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