Subverting logic, public health, & the environment

A handful of my neighbours, falsely purporting to repesent the residents of Boularderie Island, noisely oppose a plan to put up a couple of wind turbines at Hillside, Boularderie, near Bras d’Or.

Their arguments deserve scrutiny because of what they reveal about the logic underpinning the anti-wind movement.

In a CBC interview this morning, a spokesperson for the NIMBYists pointed to an elderly lifelong Hillside resident who has grown distraught about the project, and worries it will render her unable to live out her years in the beautiful place she has always called home.

bertrand-russell-200Back in March, an Australian researcher cataloged every illness complaint related to wind turbines in that country and concluded that “wind turbine syndrome” was a disease spread by word of mouth. Its prevalence bears no relationship to the number and proximity of wind turbines, but correlates closely with the intensity of nearby protests against wind farms.

The Boularderie NIMBYists have spent months promoting fear of wind farms, with little success. Now they cite the fear they themselves aroused in a single elderly woman as a reason not to allow the project. This is akin to electroseining every fish in a disputed pond, and then citing the lack of fish as a reason to ban fishing.

In their magnanimity, however, the Boularderie NIMBYists would allow the turbines to go ahead as long as they are erected at least two kilometres from the nearest dwelling (a condition that would preclude their location on Boularderie, and virtually everywhere else in Nova Scotia), and as long as the proponents can prove they will do no harm — in other words, unless they prove, not just a negative, but every conceivable negative.

While it is sometimes possible to prove a specific negative proposition, it is impossible to prove an ill-defined an all-encompassing set of imaginary negatives. We’d have a better chance of disproving the existence of Bertrand Russell’s celestial teapot.

The really sad thing is to see environmentalism—probably the most important -ism of our time—distorted and corrupted to fight trivial or imaginary problems, at the expense of fighting real and pressing environmental threats, like emissions from burning coal.

And where do we burn coal? Why at the Point Aconi Generating Station, barely 10 kilometres upwind from Hillside.