Monday, September 19, 2005


In "A tilt at the Don Quixotes" (The Times (London), Sept. 15, 2005), Roy Hattersley insists how beautiful wind turbines are. Indeed, he says that is reason enough to build them. He compares their giant rotating blades to leaves reflecting the sun and their gravelly noise to the "gentle hum of swarming bees." Seeing them off shore at Tintagel, he imagines that "a dozen Ladies of the Lake were reaching out from the water to catch the discarded Excalibur."

So he does not agree that they desecrate the countryside, that they in fact affirm our natural place in it. Their oily rusty remains and concrete pads will be seen in the future as charming relics of an earlier age. Nature-lover that he claims to be, he thinks the escarpment ("the Edge") overlooking his own Derbyshire house would be vastly improved by a line of the "elegant" erections.

This is the same Roy Hattersley who, as Angela Kelly of Country Guardian has pointed out, wrote about the desecration of the Derbyshire Peak National Park and the Edge on Jubilee Day, 2002. As she quotes:
... somebody somewhere looks out each morning at what should be a miracle of nature and sees only the brutality of commerce.

Tomorrow, as I walk up toward the sight of desecration, I shall consider who -- in the judgment of the gods -- are the true patriots, the people who endorse whatever it costs to finance the four-day jubilee celebration or the men and women who would rather spend the money on preserving the splendours of the English countryside. God save the Edge.
There is an obvious contradiction here. Hattersley's divine judgement considers only the passing commerce of promoting the monarchy to be a violation of the landscape, not the commerce of industrializing that landscape with giant turbine towers of doubtful value except to the speculators taking swift advantage of the naïveté of people like Roy Hattersley.

The "splendours of the English countryside" mean different things to different people. But it is outrageous to argue that strings of 100-meter-high spinning turbines are "natural," no matter how much one likes them. And because so many people don't like them, or question their utility, the wise course is to err on the side of nature and avoid building them in otherwise unindustrialized landscapes.

What is "romantic" about ruined farmhouses and abandoned quarries is that nature is reclaiming them. It reminds us not that our impositions on the natural world are right but that they are at best temporary vanity and at worst destructive folly. The jagged remains of Hattersley's beloved erections are more likely to be in the latter category.

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