It’s a beautiful blue sky crisp Autumn morning. Lady Dog and I are enjoying the view from the top of the hillock we call Grassy Knoll. Below us the bog has turned the deepest russet red.
In the far distance the tops of Connemara’s hills are dusted with a sheet of white, reflecting the bright sunlight back into the frosty morning air. Between us and the 12 Pins, wind turbines spin on the hills around Spiddal.
Sighing with gentle satisfaction I feel relief. Those propellors make me feel we have a chance. Maybe one day I will stop quoting Mahatma Gandhi, who when asked what he thought of western civilisation suggested that it “would be a good idea.”
I want to live in a world where this beautiful view will remain just that.
I want to be a part of a society that understands we cannot forever exploit the planet which offers us a home.
I want to be part of a population that realises we have to make sacrifices to ensure that Ireland is a safe place for the next generation.
Of course there are problems inherent in the supply of wind power. I wouldn’t like to live close to a wind farm, as I’m sure the noise, buffeting and light strobing must be distrubing.
I understand that when wind farms are planted on the ocean floor their presence interrupts the local ecosystem and the structure of the sea bed.
Nothing is perfect, least of all our own species. In recent years I’ve become completely confused by the attitudes of people who describe themselves as ‘green’ yet protest against the provision of wind farms.
Naturally people become concerned when turbines are erected near their homes, but as my eyes stretch out over this perfect Irish landscape I wonder at what they want.
Do they want to see their country's unique beauty burnt by acid rain?
Do they want wi-fi?
Do they fancy their chances of surviving a nuclear winter?
Do they want the light to come on when they flick a switch?
Do they want their children to sleep in warm houses?
Do they want their children to die of radiation poisioning?
Do they want to watch the big game on TV?
I suspect that some of these people are so intent on being righteous, they have lost sight of what they want. They certainly don’t want nuclear power, and they post on Facebook campaigning against electricity pylons running around the countryside.
They stand by the famers who don’t want underground cables running through their fields and then they march in the streets protesting against wind farms, because they are an eyesore, a noise hazard and a danger to all when falling down hillsides in mudslides.
I grew up in London during the height of the Cold War, lying in my bed as a paranoiac child, ready for the Russian ICBMs to hit.
We’re all gone.
It was a terrifying time that thankfully today’s children do not have to endure. Neither me nor any of my friends thought we’d ever make it to adulthood.
We stood up to be counted, marching each weekend from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square, shouting one week in favour of CND (Campaign For Nuclear Disarmament), the next wearing those yellow sun logos as we cried and stamped our feet, shouting
“Nuclear Power No Thanks!”
We watched Raymond Briggs’ brilliant film ‘When The Wind Blows’, which through animation showed the true horrors of nuclear fallout.
Years later we watched that same horror unfold on the TV weather forecast, as it followed the nuclear fallout cloud from Chernobyl, the presenter explaining how the future of our wildlife, food supply and drinking water relied on the direction of the wind.
I remember feeling shocked and appalled at how nonchalantly everyone seemed to accept that situation. Oh there’s been a nuclear disaster and now we might be living and subsequently dying under nuclear fallout and radiation poisoning. Oh look, it’s gone to Scandinavia, so never mind. What’s for dinner?
Do we want to see the wind as a killer or a benign supplier of our needs?
After the Fukushima disaster in Japan, the German government made the eminently sensible decision to stop building nuclear power plants, yet the UK has just agreed to allow the French and Chinese to build a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
The entire business is a scandalous sham, as nuclear ‘always-on’ power is no longer economically viable or necessary. Thanks to the development of sodium-ion and redox flow batteries, we can now store energy created by renewable sources efficiently.
All electricity comes at a cost. Fossil fuels pollute our atmosphere and offer only a depleting resource that cannot be replaced. Nuclear energy will inevitably create nuclear disasters, as we invariably exercise our human right to be fallible.
Last May, Portugal ran for four days on wind and solar power. In the same month, Britain produced more energy through solar power than coal-fired stations. When the wind blew at 115mph at the beginning of August, land and offshore propellers span and created 106% of Scotland’s energy needs.
Right here in County Galway the people of Lettermore have worked with Muintearas, Udaras na Gaeltachta and the Sustainable Energy Authority to erect two 6.0W wind turbines, wholly owned by the local community.
The power they create supplies 100% of the needs of both the creche and the local water treatment plant.
Hurrah for humans! We might yet build a civilisation, once we learn to worry less selfishly of our own needs.
Rather than fearing the wind might bring lethal poison, let’s live in a world that greets the wind and gives thanks for it.