Letter to the Editor – June 2020

Dear editor,

I refer to two recent letters in the Mirboo North Times regarding the proposed Delburn Wind Farm. It appears that those of us who support the wind farm are being criticised as naive or asking people to make some kind of sacrifice in the name of the greater good. But such arguments ignore the enormity of the reality of climate change and the impact it stands to have on all future generations. Not just locally, but everywhere. Not just human life, but all species. We were lucky in this area, to miss the impact of the Black Summer. It stayed quite green, there were no local fires. But I travelled extensively between Hobart and Tamworth this summer and everywhere I went, I saw the most heartbreaking evidence of climate change-driven drought and fire. I travelled through areas of New South Wales where it was almost impossible to see where the fires had stopped and the unburnt land started, so parched and dead was the unburnt land. I spent most of my summer doing bushfire relief for Mallacoota, where good friends of mine live. People love to celebrate how the bush returns after bushfire, with green leaves sprouting from the trunks of trees and green shoots appearing from the ground. But driving through hundreds of kilometres of burnt land, I could see large patches that were showing no signs of regrowth at all, even 10 weeks after the fires. The tops of hills and mountains were simply dead, the blasted soil washing into the waterways and coastal inlets and choking them with ash and debris. Now VicForests are doing their best to ‘salvage log’ burnt areas, therefore ensuring they and the pitiful remains of the wildlife population will never recover. The Morrison government is now spruiking a ‘gas-led’ recovery with the COVID Commission stacked with mining company executives intent on making as much money as possible from slowing down the transition to renewables. Truly we live in terrifying times.
Compared to the big picture of what is going on, the impact of the Delburn Wind Farm is negligible. Constantly, those who oppose it throw up new arguments, which get weaker and more spurious the longer this goes on. Yes, there will be some small environmental impact, but the reality is that you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs and the long-term benefits far outweigh the costs. Vegetation removal? Yes, a little. Mostly along roadsides. Nothing compared to the continued destruction of our remnants of old growth forest. If you are concerned about this, there are better places to put your energy. Opposing salvage logging of native forests, or getting involved in revegetation projects. Impact on bird life? A small amount. Raptors are known to adjust to the presence of wind farms and most smaller birds do not fly high enough to be affected. If you care about birds, you should look to the impact of domestic cats, birds flying into windows and being hit by cars. The idea that wildlife may be hit by construction vehicles is laughable – how fast would such vehicles be going on winding, unsealed roads? Better look along the side of the highway if that worries you. You will see the constant carnage we create as we go about our daily lives.
Visual impact? How strange that people should be so sentimental about the destruction of the Hazelwood towers and yet object to turbines slowly turning in the landscape. It just goes to show what people can get used to. Hazelwood was one of the dirtiest power stations in the world. But for some reason, decades of coal-generated electricity is a source of pride and hosting state-of-the-art wind turbines is not. Anyone who has taken the time to talk to OSMI and look at their visual projections will have been surprised and how little you can actually see of them. As I write, I see the constant toxic plume that rises over Loy Yang. I’d much rather be looking at turbine blades. Infrasound? You’ve been exposed to it since you were in the womb, from your mother’s heartbeat. Do you even notice the sound of the highway most of the time? Bushfires? Please. Tracks and turbines improve access to an already high-risk area. Not in your backyard? Where then? Who then? We will all have to change our way of life drastically if we are to have a viable future and we all seem to want to keep having electricity. Hosting a wind-farm in pine forest of low ecological value close to existing transmission lines is a very low-impact way to support transition.
To me, living next to this project is no sacrifice. I welcome it. It gives me hope. I’d host turbines in my paddocks if I could, just like farmers all over Europe do. But if you think you’re being asked to make a sacrifice then I urge you to look at the big picture. For the sake of those children going out of School Strike for Climate, for the sake of all people everywhere who live in fire-prone areas, for the sake of all species that are being slowly edged towards extinction by the disruption of the climate system. For the sake of the Great Barrier Reef. For your own sake and the future of your grandchildren. History shows us that once wind farms are built, community opposition dies off. Why? Because they’re really just not that bad. Not compared with the alternative. Look beyond your (currently) still-green horizons. There are bigger things at stake.

Penelope Swales,