Do wind farms make you sick? Not so, according to new research out of Australia. It appears more likely that “wind farm syndrome” is caused not by the turning of wind turbines, but by scaremongering about wind turbines. What’s quite notable about this is just how much in common this has with certain types of Green scaremongering over power sources, touched on here by Keith Kloor in a post comparing “wind farm syndrome” with some of the more outlandish and evidence free claims about the health impacts of fracking.
If environmental groups wish to get on their high horse about scaremongering about wind farms, they must also ask themselves about the damage caused by scaremongering over nuclear power plants. A mainstream position within the environmental movement is that nuclear power plants cause cancer in surrounding. A more outrageous example of this would be the endorsement in 2002 by the Green Party’s only MP, Caroline Lucas, of a report into nuclear power, which made the following claim:
radioactive releases up to 1989 have caused, or will eventually cause, the death of 65 million people world-wide.
A claim based on the rather strange ideas of Chris Busby, a former Green Party science spokesman and all round crank. Claims such as the above should be borne in mind by those believing the environmental movement can be turned away from its opposition to nuclear power. Many Greens simply have an alternative set of facts. If Caroline Lucas really believes the dangerous nonsense I noted above then you are probably as likely to convince her to drop her opposition to nuclear power as convince the new Pope that condoms are no bad thing. Consider also the scaremongering around genetically modified crops. In September 2012 a piece of junk science was published, Seralini et al. to give it its academic name. This study got a reception from scientists akin to that of a Ku Klux Klan member in Harlem. However, instead of recognising that this was junk science many Green groups simply leapt to its defence. Friends of the Earth Europe issued a conspiracy theorist press release alleging that it was the European Food Standards Agency who were in the wrong for ruling Seralini et al. was flawed science, and not Seralini et al. for being fundamentally flawed. And just today we had the supposedly serious Guardian newspaper publishing a video featuring the Seralini research, including a rather pleasant montage of images of tumour covered rats:
So, the conclusion here is obvious. If the environmental movement wishes to successfully counter scaremongering about wind farms they should perhaps consider the damage done by their own scaremongering around nuclear power and GM crops. The activities of anti-nuclear campaigners are a template the anti-wind farm movement can borrow, and with very little modification needed.
What we need is an environmental movement that heeds that great sentence from the beginning of Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March:
Everybody knows there is no fineness or accuracy of suppression; if you hold down one thing, you hold down the adjoining.
[Update: It turns out that the source of the above video is in fact Friends of the Earth. With seemingly no regard for journalistic integrity, the Guardian republished a Friends of the Earth anti-GM video with zero attribution. The original video is GM_Edit_v2_CLEAN here. Here we have an extreme case of what Linus Blomqvist has called the complete intellectual closure of much of environmental journalism. But in this case the "journalism" is written by an NGO, and perhaps read by members of the same NGO under the assumption that it is independent journalism. An essentially rotten state of affairs.]