Wind power

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evolving beyond evolutionary psychology

What makes people anti wind power?

16th November 2014

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of pro-wind campaigning to support wind power, to say YES to wind power.

I’ve met dozens of hard core anti wind NIMBYs. NIMBY - (Not In My Back Yard) And I’ve heard it all; every conspiracy theory under the sun. “The RSPB are in bed with the government” or “rich scientists have invented the theory of climate change in order to line their own pockets via research budgets.”

Nonsense aside, why do these hard core anti-windies really object to wind power?

The primary response is actually something quite basic – fear. Whilst running my campaigns I have met many people over the years that tell me that they are literally afraid of wind turbines. They find them frightening. This is a very honest and childlike expression. These people are usually not anti-windies as such. They tend to be mild mannered, emotionally open and are quite happy to tell me something that many people might find embarrassing to say to a total stranger that they’ve just met in the street – that they are ‘afraid.’

Anti-wind NIMBYs are not as emotionally honest. And fear plays a large part in why anti-windies commit themselves to their campaigns.

Fear.

Is fear something to base energy policy on? No. Is fear a good starting point for a rational exploration of the science of climate change? No.

The fear response of most anti-windies isn’t expressed as innocently or felt as deeply as those few folks who will simply tell me that they are afraid. It’s a subtle feeling that they are trying to ignore, to gloss over and to deny. It’s very human to deny something that causes emotional discomfort. It’s also not good for mental health.

Fear and denial are perfectly natural human processes and reactions. We’ve evolved with them over millions of years. Fear in a modern context is something that I deal with in my book.

Another aspect of this fear is ‘fear of change.’ The rate of change in global human society is accelerating all the time. The human population grows more or less exponentially. The extinction rate is also on an upwards trajectory. All this ‘growth’ is fuelled by fossil fuels, on the whole, and sucking all that carbon out of the earth’s crust and sticking it into the atmosphere is leading to a change in the earth’s climate. These problems need solutions. All energy production, ultimately, has to be renewable and sustainable. This means, at this point in time, that we’re going to need a certain amount of wind power. For a certain section of our community, this rapid change is just all too much. Increasing movement of people globally, climate change, wind turbines… it’s all just too much, emotionally.

The healthy response would be to admit that “this is all too much, it makes me feel uncomfortable.” It also goes along with “why can’t things be like they used to be?” This is also a denial statement as obviously, they can’t. To get to grips with the feelings associated with those statements would be healthy; a good starting point to move forward to a better grasp of reality and better mental health and a more rewarding and fulfilling life. With anti-wind campaigners, it gets channelled into their nonsense campaigns.

Now, if they were running the Flat Earth Society or running a campaign to colonise the interior of the hollow earth, they would be rightly side-lined as ‘eccentrics’ and ignored. But renewable energy is a significant threat, in a business sense, to other competing industries such as nuclear or fossil fuels and these industries spend a lot of time and money on lobbying to protect and promote their own industry whilst at the same time rubbishing their renewable energy rivals. The Global Warming Policy Foundation is a great example of a lobbying group that denies climate change and rubbishes renewables… because they are trying to protect and support fossil fuel industry. From a business perspective, this makes perfect sense. From a human perspective, it’s morally reprehensible. These fossil fuel lobby groups fit together with anti-wind groups in a symbiosis of insanity.

Because of their emotional denial, anti-windies are not reasonable people. You can’t have a reasoned argument with them. Naturally, I do meet a lot of rational people who are mildly anti-wind and who are open to argument. And being rational people, they are often happy to accept most of my arguments and if at the end of our conversation, they’re still anti-wind (and a lot of them do change their minds) their parting shot is usually “well, I just don’t like wind turbines.” ‘Dislike’ is also an emotional response. ‘Dislike’ based on what wind turbines look like is simply not good enough, emotionally or pragmatically. I dislike nuclear power, but not because of the way it looks but because of the associated costs and environmental issues. I quite like the look of Drax power station. It’s an impressive chunk of engineering. However, I dislike Drax because of its fossil fuel use of climate change causing coal. As an aside – Drax is increasingly burning more biomass. This has other problems in terms of deforestation. Does cutting down forests to burn to make electricity seem intuitively a good idea? I’d say not. Biomass is great – on a small scale.

The rise of UKIP is also symptomatic of this mental pattern of fear of change. On close examination, much of what UKIP says is simply untrue or ridiculous. Quite naturally, various aspects of fear of modern change feature in UKIP campaigns including opposing wind turbines and denying climate change. They just don’t ‘like’ either of those things. As soon as someone realises that a political party’s policies are based on fear and they what they say has no basis in fact, the healthy thing, at that point, is to turn your back on it. But again, it’s a very natural if unhealthy response, to carry on with the denial. This allows you to have very simple (and incorrect) solutions to complex problems. It’s easy to believe in a simple solution. Comforting. Truth and reality and real solutions are much harder and are more unsettling.

Anti-windies will also overly romanticise the UK countryside, referring to it as pristine or unspoilt. Again this relates to fear of change and ‘why can’t thing be like they used to be.’ From an ecological perspective, the UK countryside is very much a spoilt landscape. The vast majority of it is a man-managed landscape and seemingly untouched areas are in fact semi-natural and species poor compared to how it could be had humanity never existed. If the UK was truly an untouched landscape, we’d have bears, lynx and wolves and huge tracts of ancient forest with giant trees. There’s nothing wrong with finding the UK countryside attractive. I find a lot of it attractive, but a lot of it looks the same because of how we’ve managed it.

In our rapidly changing world with its complex problems we need a fact-based approach to dealing with issues. Fear-based reactions are unlikely to take us in the right direction.

So c’mon anti-windies – take a deep breath and face your fear. You’ll feel better for it. We’ll still have all those global problems, but emotionally you’ll be in a better place from which to engage with them.

One thing that still mystifies me – why do anti-windies wear pink jumpers?

 

 

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evolving beyond evolutionary psychology