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The Big Picture

Posted by Natalie in Environment - 15 April 2011

The divisive and emotive nature of the current nuclear debate has caused fissions throughout society, from political infighting to awkward moments between friends over dinner.  Despite this, some German citizens have expressed satisfaction (if not pride) in their leaders’ definitive response: a U-turn on nuclear and a move towards renewable energy.

A €5 billion scheme to expand wind parks in the North and Baltic seas will launch in autumn, and in order to improve efficiency of process the planning restrictions have been slackened.  Speeding up the switch to renewables seems like a breath of fresh air in a country known for an atmosphere thick with bureaucracy.  Unfortunately, many people do not see it that way.  Perhaps the lack of restrictions is construed as insufficient process, negating the procedural transparency that Germany has worked so hard – and with exemplary success – to achieve.

Nevertheless, resistance to the wind-energy drive, in Germany as elsewhere, manifests itself in the NIMBY (not in my back yard!) response (not only to the turbines themselves but also the bulky infrastructure required to transport the  electricity).  Der Spiegel Online, for example, has taken a particularly conservative stance on the matter.   The Age of Stupid film highlights a British example of this, where local hero Piers develops a groundbreaking turbine-based energy solution, only to be stopped in his tracks by local residents worried about the effect of the view on their property prices. Similarly, in the Netherlands a case is about to be heard by the nation’s highest court. If the residents win, plans for the country’s largest wind farm, which would meet the energy needs of 900,000 people will be unable to proceed.

I find resistance like this incomprehensible because it represents such a closed-minded outlook. The same people who are supposedly empathetic with the people of Japan are also denying those much closer to home the opportunity to harness safe, clean energy; encouraging those dangerous contemporary alternatives (coal and nuclear) they’d just been fretting about.

A degree of short-sightedness and self-interest is to be expected, we are only human after all. But as humans we are uniquely able to contemplate the consequences of our actions and look at the big picture, ironically an image many are blind to when trying to protect their own precious view.

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