On Rio+20, wind farms and rural England
Published by Andy Boddington on Thursday, June 28th, 2012 at 15:42 pm
It is true of our time that in matters of the environment there is no consensus. The only miserable agreement that the 50,000 delegates and environmentalists could reach at the Rio+20 earth summit proved to be all too predicable. They made no commitment to act, just to talk more.
Since the original Rio summit in 1992, far too many environmental NGOs have forgotten they must voice their passion for the environment as well as pursue policy change. Too many greens now speak only in the measured language favoured by bureaucrats. Too many are shy of delivering their messages with excitement and enthusiasm. Too many are scared to offend people they hope to influence. Worse, as the journal Nature put it, the international environmental movement has become entangled in a “bureaucratic machine that has been set to indefinite idle.” The green movement that was once a crusade is now a contortion of committees chaired by people who have long confused access to the corridors of power with influence over the political and economic agenda.
Thank goodness then for Kumi Naidoo, the ardent leader of Greenpeace International. Drawing inspiration from the anti-apartheid and anti-slavery movements, he has put the green movement onto a “war footing” after the abject failure of Rio+20.
In an exquisite counterpoint to Naidoo, the UK dispatched Defra secretary Caroline Spelman to Brazil. She seemed to be living in her own genetically modified version of planet earth when she declared: “Rio+20 has shown that there is political ambition for change.” Her words are lamentable, even laughable, but that does not mean they are innocuous.
Wind farm policy is on the cusp of change. But beware. Wind farms are the most prominent way of politicians and greens activists demonstrating that they are serious about limiting climate change. The wind turbine has become a green leitmotif on par with whales (to be saved) and nuclear power (to be eliminated). Wind energy is also just about the only non-technical green policy left standing in this ‘greenest government ever’. The government will be wary of dropping reducing such an obvious statement of its own “political ambition for change”. But it will also not be able to ignore the rising tide of local protest against wind farms.
The green movement has rightly protested at the clearing of rainforest for biomass energy and the erosion of community land rights across the world by industrial giants. But here in the UK, many greens are believe industrialisation of rich country landscapes against the wish of local communities is just fine. It is not.
If we want to save Planet Earth for future generations, we must encourage all peoples to value the landscapes in which they live, and protect them against external demands for industrialisation. That’s what the green movement preaches to communities around the world. It applies here in England too. If this means abandoning the current tidal wave wind farms in England, so be it. And if it means abandoning 50,000 strong talk-ins that recommend more talking, that will be a bonus.