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The Though Kitchen - Dedicated to Stirring the Pot

Blinded by the “Green?”

Posted by Rick | January 14th, 2008 | Filed under Environmental Change, Outdoor Sport, Sustainability

01news.jpgI just got an email from David Hirsh, a lawyer, environmental professional, and longtime surfer who is currently fighting a proposal to place 350 wave energy conversion buoys in and around the surf at Westhaven State Park in Washington. Not only would these buoys potentially destroy the waves at Westport‘s most popular break, but according to Hirsh’s research, these harvesters would have a negative impact on the local ecosystem. Hirsh’s attempt to raise public awareness of the project and to convince local city and county leaders to adjust the proposed location of the buoy array makes me wonder:

When does carbon-free energy trump outdoor recreation? Shouldn’t we all take the time to research the holistic impact of “green” projects, even if the intent is good on a macro level? Am I just being a selfish outdoor enthusiast who doesn’t want to sacrifice a limited commodity”a surf spot”to increase a necessary commodity”carbon neutral energy?

Other issues that are similar to this, and that definitely fall into this line of thinking, are the dam being built on the Ashlu River in BC (see our Collective Video on the subject), and the wind farm controversy currently taking place in a number of eastern states. When do you have to give up part of your backyard to ensure there will be any yards at all?

4 Responses to “Blinded by the “Green?””

  • January 14, 2008 at 3:28 pm | Mark says

    As much as I feel recreation is important, if we treat this any differently that the way the wind farms are being treated around Martha’s Vineyard, we run the risk of the wish to be green trumped by personal recreation and esthetics.

    Off Martha’s vineyard, the sport fishing, sailing and recreation needs are being used to make a case not to do a wind farm. When in reality, the real reason is some VERY wealthy land owners don’t want their view (15 miles away) impeded.

    Be ready to have good intentions turned upside-down if surfing needs trumps the ‘green’ needs. I too feel torn, but the only thing that should be used to make the determination is verifiable research (from an independent 3rd party) showing that their is an ecological issue. Otherwise, the sport enthusiast will lose in more than just one place like this…

  • January 14, 2008 at 3:51 pm | Rick says

    Mark,

    I totally agree with you and would like go further down your line of thinking on the subject of green energy initiatives getting in the way of our selfish desires to enjoy the waves, rivers, or even an unmarred view of a landscape.

    If there are alternate locations where these energy harvesters can still be efficient, they should be fully explored. Governing bodies should step in and weigh the sacrifices that would be made by relocating these power sources along with the toll they may or may not take on the natural ecosystem. If there really are no other options, only then should we be forced to martyr a surf break, a river, a pristine mountain range.

    My concern is that when green energy projects become more common (and more lucrative for corporations), sustainably-minded people will continue take the time to analyze the holistic effect of their implementation, and not just blindly accept them because they are “green.”

  • January 15, 2008 at 5:15 pm | David says

    Rick–Thanks so much for thinking enough of my original note to use it in this forum. And thanks to Nau for both the “Thought Kitchen” and selecting Futurewise as one of the Washington State non-profits they support with their giving campaign.

    Mark–Thanks for the couterpoint. To me this issue is not one of “either/or” and that’s what makes it a difficult situation. If only the venture proponents cared enough about the pre-existing uses to be as sensitive to them in their planning as I am being in framing my own position as a participant in the permitting and licensing process.

    Careful location of proposals like the one in Westport, Washington is essential to its success, and can be accomplished if FERC does its job correctly and the applicant is truly entrepreneurial. But if the process merely acts to subjugate one value for another, because the lower priority value is something “frivolous” like recreation, as opposed to the high-minded-ness of the pursuit of “green energy,” then the public loses, not just the surfers.

    All the best.

  • January 22, 2008 at 10:12 pm | jane spencer says

    Hi, My name is Jane Spencer and I write about environmental issues for The Wall Street Journal. I’m trying to reach Rick regarding one of his past posts. Would someone at Nau forward this this message to him? Thanks so much—I can explain what I’m interested im once I reach him. Best way to contact me is email: Jane.Spencer@wsj.com.
    Thanks!

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