Town hall meetings are a longstanding feature of democratic engagement in Australia. Those following the development of wind energy will be well aware of the evolution (or should that be de-evolution) of the community meeting.
At first, town hall meetings were used as a way for the nascent wind energy sector to engage the community, explain how the technology works, and the outline benefits wind farming can have for our economy and environment. In recent times, however, town hall meetings have been stacked by anti-wind farm activists and have become a hotbed for what might be called ‘anti-enlightenment’ extremism.
The latest example of a well-meaning town hall meeting ending in was held in Baringhup, Victoria. The Mount Alexander Community Wind have identified the central Victorian town as a potential location for a community-initiated and owned wind farm. The proposal would see two to four windmills erected to offset the carbon emissions generated by electricity consumption in Castlemaine and surrounding towns. The project is anticipated to power at least 3000 homes and reduce the town’s carbon footprint by 50 percent.
The benefits of the project sound great, don’t they? But not everyone is convinced. Unfortunately, some in the community have been duped by psuedo-scientific nonsense claiming wind farms cause a range of health problems (‘wind turbines cause can
scer’ can be seen spray-painted in the Baringhup area).
A local newspaper published an eyewitness account of the meeting. The author, Graham Pitts of Maldon, has kindly allowed Yes 2 Renewables to republish it:
[On Tuesday March 19], I was lucky enough to attend a public meeting about a proposed small wind farm in Baringhup. I urge all readers to go to any future such gatherings because for sheer entertainment value they surely can’t be surpassed. The important thing is to make sure there will be representatives from the two anti-wind farm groups present last night. Some of these were on the panel of speakers and the rest of them were stacked together down the front with carefully written questions to ask their leaders.
Usually courtesy demands that when attempts are made to stack a meeting there be some pretence of spontaneity and genuine-ness. Thank goodness this didn’t happen last night. The followers spent the night studying their written-down questions with furrowed brows whilst at same time incessantly waving their arms in the air for attention and swearing amongst themselves whenever someone gave a fact that could be checked or verified. Apparently, amongst such people, this is forbidden as like wind farms themselves (and, I suspect, fluoride in drinking water, metric measurements and daylight saving) offering any verifiable scientific data will bring about the end of Western Civilisation.
It really was superb entertainment. And free, too. I’m a resident of merry Maldon where people have senses of humour and was told that I should go to Baringhup because people there can be funnier. Little did I guess that the Baringhup Hall would be blessed with such a hysterical pack of anti-wind farm visitors intent on spreading fear, gaining attention and pleasing their leaders. These, for their part, kept telling us that wind farm noise that was below hearing level would destroy the health of people a hundred kilometres away, that wind farms would not be a source of alternative energy and would add to global warming! The evidence for this was because someone had spoken on the telephone to an unnamed “top electrical person” in the USA and someone else had spoken allegedly at first hand to an “engineer in a coal-fired power station” whom sadly they couldn’t name because it was “commercial in confidence, or something or that.” Well, you might say, it’s hard to argue with well-reasoned, science-based and verifiable evidence like that isn’t it? Goodness gracious, why don’t they move on to proving that the earth is flat?
Personally, until last night I knew relatively little about wind farms though I have at times, in Europe, thought them graceful. But beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, one must admit. Some people do not find them beautiful and apparently would prefer the visual allure of vistas of dead trees and ruined farm lands that global warming will cause unless we create alternative sources of energy.
Yet I do wish to be better informed. The essential problem last night was that the people from MACWind gave rational explanations of the project and calmly offered many case studies and reviews of evidence that could be checked and verified. On the other hand the anti-wind farm proponents offered much sound, fury and fear but not one fact or source that could be checked out by anyone with an objective curiosity. Please, is there anyone out there who can present a rational, sane and genuinely scientific case against wind-farms? I really am interested. Being entertained by ranters and ravers is one thing but genuine knowledge is another.