Roger Tory Peterson, Chautauqua County's favorite son and, for much of the last century, the nation's most prominent naturalist, knew this. When a bird on territory sees someone approaching the nest, its first instinct is often to attack in defense. But when it sees the size of the intruder, the next instinct is to flee. Caught between two equally powerful conflicting emotions, what does the bird do? It pecks its foot. Knowing it should do something, the bird performs a grooming displacement behavior at odds with the situation.
Our culture is awash in displacement behavior. It is noticeable in the widespread virtual realities of super heroes and wonkish wizards. We are also pleasurably distracted by ritual spectacle in our movies, our sports, and our celebrities. Formulaic news stories told in high melodrama permeate our media. Weather reporting is now the Severe Weather Forecast. Adults join with children to play in fantasy baseball and football leagues.University faculty "reconstruct" new historical realities, convinced these are as viable as those imposed by reason and experience. Is it any wonder that our children know so little of the natural world, or even recent history? Or that the spin of corporate lobbyists now dominates the political process?
There's a lot of footpecking going on.
Why else would anyone unquestioningly accept the claims of wind salesmen, unless their good intentions were whipsawed between the desire to do something about climate change, as if they could, while clinging to the comforts of a life fossil fuels make possible. Since wind developers promote their technology as both environmentally benign and effective, support for wind technology allows people to footpeckingly sooth their consciences without affecting their highenergy lifestyles.
As an environmentalist who believes we should minimize our footprint on the earth while conserving the land, I too was seduced some years ago by the lure of wind technology, hoping it would provide, as a reporter recently wrote, "abundant power without pollution or carbon emissions"-and, as claimed, replace dirty burning coal plants, eliminate the destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining, clean the air, improve public health, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and mitigate the forces evidently causing the warming of the earth. However, I knew that if something seems too good to be true, it almost always is. I could have continued to peck my foot on this issue, or I could look beyond my prejudices, as I ask you to do tonight.
Start, as I did, by a more considered evaluation of the potential for "renewable energy," and I think you'll find it's not all that it's cracked up to be. A few hundred years ago, timber seemed inexhaustible, but our demand made short work of the supply. Coal, too, is renewable, but again, our demand will at some time overrun supply-and our meager lifespan won't extend the tens of millions of years necessary to replenish it. A few generations ago, hydroelectric dams symbolized clean, sustainable, renewable energy. Because it generates bulk levels of reliable, highly responsive power, hydroelectricity became the symbol for renewable energy during much of the twentieth century; it still provides New York with 20% of its electricity production. But it is now clear hydro is so environmentally treacherous, responsible for degrading millions of acres of invaluable watersheds, that no one outside China and some third world countries is building new hydro plants; many are being dismantled across the continent, at taxpayer expense. Although all power generators have downsides, none are as destructive to as much land as hydro. Simply because a power source is renewable and produces cleanly without burning carbon does not mean it is green.
Now there is a swell of support for wind.
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