Posted by: kaleidophonic | July 24, 2012

Wind Turbines and Noise Pollution

Photo courtesy of ruralgrubby, a wind-power watcher from Wolfe Island, Ontario.

Hey peeps. Sorry I’ve been a little AWOL lately. What can I say, it’s summertime and I’ve been expending my energies elsewhere. But it is important to me to keep up the blog, so today I thought I’d tackle an issue that has hit the front pages of Canadian newspapers in recent days: the debate over whether or not the low-frequency pulses generated by wind turbines are hazardous to human health.

This issue, which is by no means new, and has been boiling on the fringes of both the environmental movement as well as in sound-studies circles for some time now, came to the forefront with an announcement that the government is considering a moratorium on future turbine construction, at least until more research is done regarding possible health effects.

The debate has taken on a tone and perspective that seems to miss the point. Because conservative governments here in Canada have proven themselves to be pretty anti-environment, most citizens see the move as nothing more than a clampdown on alternative energy sources. This may be true — the Harper government, for example, is openly hostile to the environmental movement, and is hugely beholden to corporate oil and gas interests. It is totally in character for them to shut down wind power research and turbine construction – at least from an ideological point of view.

But what many of the environmentalists are glossing over is the fact that this is really an issue about noise pollution. I, for one, am consistently ashamed at how little noise pollution figures in environmental movement thinking. Water pollution, air pollution, pollution of the soil, of our food source, even intellectual pollution such as the crap on TV. Everyone can agree that shit is bad. But when it comes to noise pollution, most people don’t ever think about it.

The issue with the wind turbines is an issue of noise pollution. The people who live near these giant machines are getting sick. Many report insomnia, headaches, anxiety, even cardio-vascular problems. Given that our bodies are regulated by our own internal pulses (i.e. the heart, the breath, etc), is it really so hard to understand how the constant throbbing of a low-frequency pulse might wreak havoc on our human systems?

I’m not even going to get into the impact that wind turbines and wind farms have on other species, especially migratory birds… let’s just say it ain’t pretty.

Basically what I’m trying to get at here, is that this wind turbine debate deserves to be discussed on the grounds of noise pollution, and that environmentalists need to take a critical look at wind power rather than blindly seeing it as a ‘good’ since it’s an alternative to fossil fuels or nuclear. Yes, the government moratorium would stall wind turbine construction, which is a setback for those of us who think we need to wean our society off fossil fuels. But are we really willing to defend a technology that has proven to make people sick? Isn’t this contrary to the whole spirit of the environmental movement?

I, for one, think that any research into the health effects of wind turbines is a good thing – hopefully it will lead to better turbine design, more widespread concern over noise pollution, and a better understanding of how living bodies react to low-frequencies.

Only then will we come up with an alternative energy source that is truly in harmony with our bodies, our landscapes, and the other creatures with whom we share this planet.

Some more reading:

mainstream news articles dealing with the recent debate:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/story/2011/09/21/wind-turbines.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/07/11/pol-cp-wind-turbines-health-canada-study.html

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-takes-new-interest-in-the-health-effects-of-wind-energy/article4409322/

Also of interest:

http://ruralgrubby.wordpress.com/2009/07/06/wolfe-island-fights-back/

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Responses

  1. Hey Kaleidophonic, I’m interested in finding out how you determined that industrial wind turbines are a viable alternative to coal and Natural Gas (fossil fuels) generation or even can replace the need for Nuclear. Please don’t misunderstand me like most do, who automatically assume that I come from the nuke or oil fan club when I’ve determined from my research that wind energy is inefficient, intermittent, unreliable, non-dispatchable, and expensive, which will have NO effect on our GHG emissions, mainly because NG and coal are used as the backup generation needed to counter wind’s fickle and pitiful generation. You might want to read this blog http://www.windfarmrealities.org to find out how wind really performs as an “alternative”.

    As for understanding how the environmental movement has taken over the political landscape, I would suggest you read articles from Vivian Krause.


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