Kingston is a beautiful city located on the northeastern shore of Lake Ontario. It is the original capital city of Canada and our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald was raised and evolved into a successful lawyer and then politician there. It is also home to Queen’s University, my alma mater and the first degree-granting institution in Canada (actually, “Canada” as a nation had yet to be founded when Queen’s was granted its charter by Queen Victoria in 1841).
The architecture of the city including the university is greatly influenced by its origins as a British colony. Scottish masons constructed buildings out of limestone, the locally available material similar to what was used in their homeland. The result is a city filled with stately grey stone buildings and quaint stone cabins, in which the original inhabitants of the city lived. In winter, smoke from hearths pours forth from chimneys and in summer ivy hangs like thick green curtains over cool stone walls.
I hadn’t been back to Kingston in several years, so I was excited to see old friends and familiar haunts. There is a vast waterfront in Kingston – it sits at the eastern end of Lake Ontario. And a favorite spot to run, walk and just sit and enjoy the scene has always been Lake Ontario Park. I pulled into the parking lot near a quaint little gazebo that overlooks the water. There was snow everywhere and the lake was partially frozen over, but some ducks were paddling by in the unfrozen section near the shore. Despite temperatures well below freezing and a light snow falling, people were out enjoying the scenery and the fresh air.
I took a narrow path cleared of snow joining the parking lot and the main path, nearer the lake, and headed towards the gazebo. Part way there, I stopped dead in my path, taken aback by what I saw. There were lots of them and they were huge and industrial looking. I blinked and rubbed my eyes, not believing what they were telling me. I think I even shook my head in disbelief. There on the horizon, dominating it, standing like a bunch of aliens out of War of the Worlds were dozens of wind turbines.
They were erected on Wolfe Island, a formerly bucolic little member of the Thousand Islands chain, an archipelago of 1793 islands that extend for 50 miles from Kingston in Lake Ontario down the Saint Lawrence River. Wolfe Island is accessible by ferry and was a place I went to bird watch, especially in winter, when it was a haven for Snowy Owls. It is also the home of the Wolfe Island Bakery, a haven for delicious pastries and breads. People used to jump on the ferry just to visit the bakery and to take in the scenery along the island’s dirt roads.
Looking at the scene before me, I found it hard to believe that the Snowy Owls were still there and, if they are, that they aren’t being killed off slowly, brutally by these monstrous towers with spinning tops. I found it even harder to believe that the City of Kingston and its citizens had not put a stop to such a plan to mar their beautiful waterfront. Kingston is, afterall, a major tourist destination and people flock there in summer to sail, kayak, windsurf and to enjoy the spectacular scenery.
“Something has gone terribly wrong,” I thought to myself.
Later that day I asked the friends I was visiting what they thought of them. “Oh! I think they’re great!” said the wife. Her husband looked less convinced and muttered something under his breath. The wife continued, saying that it was so great that they were providing sustainable energy to the city? “Maybe,” I thought, “but at what cost?”
At home I did some research. I couldn’t believe there hadn’t been a loud hew and cry over the implementation of this plan. Sure enough a great debate was found on the internet concerning this plan and several others like it yet to be completed. From the information available it quickly became apparent that once again, we humans had lost our minds. Thrown common sense out of the window and made a major decision without using all the facts, scientific and otherwise.
The bottom line is that there is an overwhelming body of evidence that wind turbines, especially the huge industrial sized ones looming on Wolfe Island, are not the great panacea that Global Warming Alarmists would have us believe. According to John Droz Jr,, a physicist who has also been an environmental activist for 25 years, “the only thing green in this whole matter is the substantial profit being made by the developers and their paid supporters.” The developers making money on the back of the green movement should therefore be labeled Greenbacks!
The benefits (renewable energy) in this case are not nearly as great as the people selling wind turbines would have you believe and the costs are many. Some costs are obvious, like aesthetic impacts, bird kills and destruction of habitat. Others are less so, like increased costs of electricity to the consumer to cover the costs of incentives paid to developers and owners of land on which turbines are located. Some people say aesthetics shouldn’t be a factor in the battle to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But imagine, if all of a sudden the value of your nest egg, the land upon which your home is built, plummets because your neighbors decide to build monstrosities all around you. The turbines can be seen more than two miles away. And there are plans to build more on several islands in the U.S. side of the islands – islands containing national and state parks and a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
Meanwhile, in Europe, they are dismantling wind turbines or relocating them because they have discovered the costs of operating them are too great to justify their visual and environmental impacts. Why then in North American must we fling ourselves headlong into repeating their mistakes?