Sunday, October 11, 2009

Folly dressed up as science

The Burlington Free Press describes the final presentations of "The Energy Project Vermont," a celebration of wind power by the ECHO museum and Burlington City Arts:
Bringing in the science behind wind power, Thomas Tailer, co-director of UVM's Engineering Institute, ... has worked in alternative energy and education since 1979. Tailer's passion for seeing engineering and environment at work together was clear throughout his presentation. ... Tailer said just as the iconic Quixote jousted windmills to fight the Industrial Revolution, people today are in denial of our changing climate and are fighting alternative energy sources. ... "The image of an angel is an icon, and to me the windmill is that kind of icon, an icon of a sustainable future for this planet."
First, Miquel Cervantes published the first volume of his history of Don Quixote 1605 (the same year William Shakespeare produced King Lear), long before the industrial revolution. Tailer may be thinking of William Blake's "dark Satanic Mills" (preface to Milton, 1804).

Second, if Don Quixote were nonetheless a proto-Luddite, then he has (like the English Luddites of Blake's time) been vindicated by the environmental and social devastation wrought by centralized industry, and his battle was not madness but prescience. To equate that with denial of the devastation thus foreseen therefore doesn't fly. It is Tailer who denies the devastation wrought by industrial windmills, and Don Quixote who is right to tilt against them.

Third, Tailer evokes angels only to denigrate them as mere icons. But so it must be with windmills. Their agency doesn't really exist. They serve only as symbols.

So let's get real. If large-scale wind actually worked, it wouldn't need all these twisted rationalizations to justify it. Tailer not only mocks Don Quixote and angels, he also makes a mockery of science.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, Vermont, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism