Should churches be powered by wind as well as the Holy Spirit?
Are wind farms God’s gift or the devils work? A recent article in the Daily Telegraph asks this question. What do CELers think? Should there be any limits to the “industrialisation of our countryside” as described by Dr Hall in the article?
Prior to my interview with Christopher Middleton for this article I wrote these few thoughts:
Why the church? The church’s job is to love its neighbour. But our neighbour is not just the people next door, but also the farmer in Africa. It has to balance the wishes of neighbours locally, who obviously feel very strongly about the aesthetics of their countryside, with the church’s contribution to climate change, which is killing people now in the developing world and threatens future generations with war and famine.
At Christian Ecology Link, we think that it’s also the church’s job to be taking the lead on doing the right thing. How it does that amidst such aggressive opposition is hard to see. But it must continue to try.
Why wind? Both to meet our carbon emission targets and to reduce our reliance on foreign gas, we have to increase our electricity generation capacity in this country. Well placed wind is a very efficient way of doing that. Wind energy is an important part of the decarbonisation that has got to happen if we are to fulfil our responsibilities to leaving a viable earth for our children.
Doubt about climate change being human-caused? All I can say to those who are unsure about the human causes of climate change is that if 97% of the world’s climate scientists are wrong, and there is no problem, the turbines can be dismantled. If they are right and we don’t act, natural feedbacks will soon take over and we may not be able to stop a climate meltdown.
Industrialisation of the countryside? In the Devon case at least, it was not a wind farm that was being proposed, just a couple of turbines in each place, all far smaller than the electricity pylons that are already in our countryside. The diocese was clearly trying to take potential objections into account.
Operation Noah’s vision of total decarbonisation by 2030? CEL and Operation Noah see their role as prophetic. We must call for what is scientifically and morally necessary however politically impossible it seems.
In the same edition as the “ill wind” article, on the back of the paper, there was a small column by Louise Gray called “climate change and the long not summer” where she says “could this wet weather be climate change?” and goes on to quote Peter Stott from the Hadley Centre “it would take much more research to know if climate change was a factor in the recent wet weather, but man-made global warming certainly appears to already be affecting weather patterns around the world. Our vulnerability to extreme weather is much greater than it used to be.” And it ends there…with no counter argument at all…well done, Torygraph! A very similar article can be found here.
So, over to you! Please leave a comment below on what you think about the church getting involvd with wind turbines!
Comments on "Should churches be powered by wind as well as the Holy Spirit?"
A report has come out saying wind is an effective technology www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/aug/29/wind-power-study-claims-unfounded. Last year onshore wind produced 11TWh of electricity. However, although I personally like the look of turbines and consider them a necessary technology I am concerned about "infill". With a set of turbines in one place and another nearby there is a tendency to put them in between. There have to be places left "wild". So in some way there needs to be limits in the planning system.
The phrase 'industrialisation of the countryside' is an interesting expression. I must say I did not read the Telegraph article so I hope I do not get the wrong end of the stick. When you think what has been and what is covering our countryside it makes you think. I think of the many wheelhouses that cover Cornwall, wasn't this industrialisation? In bygone eras windmills were all over the place, industrialisation? I could go on about power stations, mobile phone masts, electricity pylons, cars, motorways, roads, railway lines, the list goes on and on. All these things exist in the countryside and nobody seems to complain! Is it because we think we need these things, or have got used to them. When I see a turbine I see something producing electricty, pollution free making less impact than all the others referred to. So lets have some more and quick and if we are going to ban them we should start removing some of the other industrial eyesores!
For goodness sake, the churches should get on with it - we're supposed to be leaders in putting into practice the teachings of Jesus about love your neighbour and share with the poor. Making sure the world has a future I would have thought was more important than whether somewhere is 'nice'. The Victorians were against building railways and bridges and viaducts that 'spoilt' the countryside and now we regard them as constructions to preserve! Let's have wind,solar and water power, but let's not just waste it on silly gadgets and over-processed goods.
Philip Clarkson Webb:
John Anderson has a point when he writes that the most effective action in tackling CO2 emissions is to change to green electricity. But what is the most effective action we can REFRAIN from taking? Latest census figures show that nearly 4 million more people live in the UK than 10 years ago. Alongside population growth lies growth in pollution, housing demand, school and transport overcrowding, road congestion and worries over energy and water security. Growth in demand for everything is fuelled by population growth. Yet primary care trusts do not allow over-25s to use community contraceptive clinics nor to access oral contraceptives except through a GP. Currently they run contraceptive services on a residents-only basis. A report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Sexual and Reproductive Health recommends removal of these restrictions. It cannot happen soon enough. Meanwhile, 215 million women and girls throughout the world have no access to family planning. Education and empowerment is urgently needed.
I am amazed that people feel that wind turbines should not be allowed when we think back to what spoil heaps at coal mines look like and how dangerous nuclear waste remains for thousands of years. Maybe the question to the objectors should be, 'what electrical gadgets will you do without?'
The 'industrialisation' of the countryside is an emotive phrase and one that is no doubt meant to be pejorative. But the 'industrialisation' of the countryside is not new and the countryside of Great Britain contains many examples of former industrial landscapes. In Argyll, where I stay, there are many remnants of Atlantic rain forest, now protected, cherished and valued for their exceptional biodiversity. They are particularly rich in bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and lichens) and contribute to Argyll's claim to have the richest biodiversity in Britain. However they are not natural but are a product of eighteenth century industrial development. Cumbrian iron masters, wanting charcoal at home, moved operations to the western highlands and built the iron furnace at Bonawe by Loch Etive. It was easier to iron ore from Cumbria to Argyll than to ship the bulky charcoal to the iron, hence this early industrial development in the western highlands. Contrary to myth the iron masters did not destroy the oak woods; rather they protected and managed them, to ensure a supply of oak charcoal for the furnaces. The result two centuries later has been the development of a rich and diverse habitat but not one that can be called ‘natural’. There are some lessons we can draw from this. It is far too easy to use words like ‘natural’ or ‘industrial’ in a loose and inaccurate manner. The evolution of Scotland’s landscapes has been a long drawn out affair and just as in England there are layers of former activity, much of it industrial that have shaped the places we now call countryside. We also need to be very careful about looking back to some golden age of prehistory when everything was ‘natural’ or ‘pristine’ or untouched and assume this was a more righteous state. The meaning of ‘man’s dominion’ is something we should consider in more depth; both to reflect on what we have done and to guide our future actions.
John D Anderson:
The single action of a church - or an individual - in changing to green electricity from the grid saves more CO2 emissions than any other single action possible for us. Nationally, about 20 % of our CO2 emissions come from our use of 'brown' electricity. Baildon Methodist Church Bradford has solar PV panels wired to our kitchen where we make 60 meals a day in daylight. We changed to green electricity for the rest of our supply four years ago. Sadly we use the Scottish and Southern green option. I am still working to get a switch to Good Energy or Ecotricity, the only two companies that are dedicated to green and not brown electricity. At home we make 70% of the electricity from our roof and have used Good Energy for six years. This company has not raised its price since 2008: for the cost of their wind has not risen.
While in principle I agree with most of what's been written above, being Christian also means standing with those who are hurting, and in parts of the country, erecting windfarms will definitely change the aesthetic quality of the environment, and damage places that people love. The "greater good" argument may work, but in mid-Wales - the subject of the article - it's a sore point. The locals have long objected to pylons and to reservoirs, which are there more for the needs of the English Midlands than them. Wales is a net exporter of water and power, although clearly an importer of many things that are made with water and power elsewhere. So, while I think there is a clear case for windfarms, the argument isn't all one way, and we need to be more sensitive in the way we present things.
Ruth has expressed the need for wind power development very clearly and calmly. And I do agree with Barbara that Christianity means ‘coping with being unpopular by doing what is caring and empowering and by not drifting wherever the latest public relations wind takes you’. I would put the argument much more stridently (and less patiently!). We have a clear responsibility to develop all the renewable energy forms, and to conserve energy as much as possible, if we believe in love of our neighbour and care of Creation. The aesthetic argument against wind mills is at best subjective. I would like to put this challenge to the objectors: when did you last refuse to travel on a motorway or busy A-road through a beautiful piece of countryside? Or protest against the construction of such? Because there is far, far more damage being done to our natural world by such traffic and construction than there is by wind-farms. Many of us do not see a great visual problem with wind-farms in the countryside at all. But even if we did, this is a sacrifice we would make for the greater good. Tony
I am sorry to hear that the Church is still playing 'the devil's advocate' when all around are 'doing the right thing', spreading the news about social and environmental responsibility. The Church has been trying to push its message about social care and responsibility for nearly 2000 years now, but it's still not taking its own message on board. May God grant them the courage, wisdom and strength to hear its own messages and comply with them, and those of its local communities. Our journey led us back to the Church and help them to 'do the right thing when serving God with love and loyalty. Stephanie and Jim, Camberwell, SE5
I'm glad that churches are using windfarms to create power. They give off no harmful emissions - unlike nuclear power stations which produce radioactive waste which mankind has not found a safe way to dispose of. There is an increase children's cancer rates around some nuclear power stations. Some studies have shown increased leukaemia rates in children living close to electric pylons. We should care about people's health as Jesus did when he healed and fed them. Windmills give off no soot particles to damage the lungs, no fumes and no radioactivity so I'm in favour of them.
I'm entirely with Barbara: the Telegraph has something of a record for denying climate change and, in particular, finding fairly absurd stories against on-shore wind farms. There are, I think, two basic reasons for resisting on-shore wind farms, the first deriving from the same idiocy that named Natural England. Idiocy because there is very little that is 'natural' that remains in the British Isles. Our landscapes have been cultivated and built upon for centuries. Before that, the forests that once covered these islands have been all but destroyed and those that remain carry the marks of human interference. Logically, as well as stopping wind turbines from being erected, we should be at least pulling down all the human habitations that have been inflicted upon the landscape. There is another, sadder reason; we all want electricity but we want it to be generated somewhere else. It doesn't matter if it's produced by coal burning, even, and brings about life threatening pollution - as long as it's nowhere near to where we live. I have suggested to two successive Secretaries of State that we should go with objectors and then turn of their National Grid connections, but they both thought that I was joking. Several modern theologians have, in re-examining the Gospels, suggested that we should look for Jesus message about land ownership. The Promised Land was given to all of the Jewish people but, by the time of Jesus, already ownership had been concentrated in the hands of the few. The parable of the workers in the vineyard has long been interpreted as a comment on the equality of God's grace there are suggestions that this would have been understood, also, as a comment on the unfair collection of land, by the few. As Christians, we are called to follow the paths of justice, fairness and love. Barbara points out this aspect of fairness, I would add that it's not just about the damage that we inflict on communities in the developing world but also on the less affluent members of our own land. There is another point, too. Coal, oil and gas are rapidly depleting resources; so, for that matter are uranium ores. If we are aware that these will some day run out, is it right that we leave the problem of our profligacy to a future generation, or should we seek alternatives now? Remember, when those resources have gone, we may not then be able to manufacture the alternatives - it will be too late. Christian stewardship is surely about those who come after us as well as those who now share the Earth with us? I think that it is joyous that the Church is taking up these critical and contentious matters. We have spent decades, if not centuries, concentrating on the minutiae but staying astride the fence on aspects of justice.
I fully agree with Barbara's comments above, she has made the point very well. We can't keep poisoning this planet without even attempting to reduce our carbon footprint. I actually find them quite pleasing to look at too, when I'm next to one I feel they stand sentinel to God's creativity in making such wonderful natural resources and in giving us the skill to harness them for ourselves. Lynne
We will need windfarms throughout the country and the seas, dramatic energy efficiency improvements, solar PV and heating and nuclear to come anywhere near fuelling our current lifestyles if/when we don't use fossil fuels. Fossil fuel exploitation leads to pollution, global warming and resource depletion with the poorest the hardest hit. Surely caring for our neighbours is towards the top of the Christian agenda and windfarms are a visible way of affirming that we care about their present and their future.
I am delighted to see the churches taking real practical steps to help with tackling climate change. I read the Telegraph articles with interest and I am sad to see the opposition from within the church as well as outside. Being Christian should mean coping with being unpopular by doing what is caring and empowering and by not drifting wherever the latest public relations wind takes you. We in the affluent West have been the main contributors to global warming and if we have the discomfort of a few wind farms and one or two extra bits on a church tower, it is a very small reparation for what we have done and continue to do. As Ruth says, they are no worse than some of the electricity pylons that already litter the countryside and in time, I am sure they could become as much a part of the furniture and if not, they are a useful reminder of the damage we have caused and at least a sign that we are doing something about it.