After blocking a proposed rock quarry two years ago, Digby Neck is fast establishing itself as the NIMBY* capital of Nova Scotia. Developments of any kind on the Neck are sure to face opposition that is relentless, emotive, and impervious to evidence.
So it was a relief this morning to hear Barry Zwicker of Scotia Windfields, co-developer of a 20-turbine, 30-megawatt wind farm on Digby Neck, stand up to project critics on Halifax’s Information Morning program in a manner that was calm, rational, and persuasive.
Doing this is harder than it seems. An emotionally appealing lie can be across town before the truth laces up its sneakers. Determined project opponents can rattle off a litany of awful sounding, heart-wrenching claims in a 30-second clip whose emotional impact is unimpaired by its lack of veracity. Refuting these claims, no matter how preposterous, is slow, painstaking, and tedious—in short, utterly unsuited to media warfare.
The problem is made worse because reporters who ought to know better often exempt citizen environmentalists from the skepticism they rightly apply to developers, politicians, and bureaucrats. The truth is that a certain breed of eco-narcissist plays far looser with the truth than your average civil servant.
Emotions admirably in check, Zwicker described the myriad independent environmental studies and reviews applied to the wind farm, and the numerous design changes incorporated in response to community concerns. He described how the same handful of Digby protesters who complain about a lack of democracy took over a local council meeting and prevented its elected members from conducting business, all the while chanting, “Heil Hitler!”
No one who has been involved in one of these disputes will be surprised by the tactics Zwicker describes; the wonder is that consumers of Nova Scotia news media will be.
That Nova Scotia desperately needs more windmills to meet its responsibilities in a real environmental crisis that threatens the future of humankind deepens the irony.
Unfortunately, the Information Morning has not posted its interview with Zwicker, so I cannot link to it. (Considering the central role it plays in Nova Scotia’s public discourse, the CBC might want to consider being less parsimonious in the interviews it archives on line.)
*NIMBY = not in my backyard. Related to BANANA = build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything.
[UPDATE] JM offers CASE = Citizens Against Virtually Everything.