Sustainable development principles are intended to balance environmental protection with economic development. This concept, which is the main focus of this year’s Rio+20 Summit being held in Brazil, is lauded by advocates all over the world as the requisite paradigm shift needed to sustain our planet for future generations.
While coal, natural gas and oil companies get the thumbs down by many world leaders and environmentalists because of their unsustainable impacts on the environment, wind farms and solar panel fields developers are getting the thumbs up. These businesses are praised and supported because they promise ‘green’ jobs and ‘clean, green’ energy. Any business venture that moves the economy in the direction of sustainable development gets the ‘green‘ light. In America, developers and planners are even getting environmental impact report waivers (EIR), tax incentives, and public funding for these projects.
Governments’ attempts at solving the impacts of climate change and man’s alleged impact on the environment are proving to be clumsy at best and at worst, deadly. The U.S. Federal government is now proposing first-of-its-kind “take permits” that would allow the Oregon West Butte Wind Power LLC “to kill as many as three protected golden eagles over five years if the company fulfills its conservation commitments.” This despite the 1940 Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act against harassment and killing. What happens when more birds die than the law allows or when these ‘take permits’ are granted across all 50 states?
Wind farms and solar panel fields are killing a lot more than Golden Eagles. Kit Fox, Desert Tortoise, and Bat populations are just some of the fauna that are being impacted. Flora, vistas and open space are being devastated as well. Trees are being cut down, agricultural land is being re-purposed, hillsides and canyon passes are morphing into steel forests and deserts are laid with hectares of photovoltaic carpets.
The ‘green’ movement message is confusing. Take the devastating stories of the California Delta Smelt or the Klamath River Coho Salmon as examples. In the case of the Delta Smelt, the EPA, USFWS, and litigious environmentalists sacrificed an entire region of food producing farm land (the Central Valley) to protect one fish species. By turning off the water pumping stations to protect the fish, thousands of farmers can no longer grow crops that feed millions of people around the world.
The Klamath River case is also wrought with controversy. The Northern California river that snakes its way along the California and Oregon border is home to a species of salmon called the Coho. Despite conflicting opinions about the salmons’ origins, Indian tribes and environmentalists claim the damns are preventing the natural spawning of these fish and want four of the damns destroyed. Ironically, six of the damns on the Klamath River generate ‘green, clean’ hydro electric power. The federal license to operate these power plants has expired and now Pacificorp, must either invest its own money in renovations or use a combination of its own money and tax payer money for their destruction. Residents and businesses who own property along the river and farmers and fisheries who depend on water rights are feeling the financial squeeze the destruction of these damns would cause. As it stands now, property values have plummeted because of this Klamath River controversy. Furthermore, an EIR released back in September determined that “there is an estimated 13.4 million cubic yards of sediment behind the Klamath River dams, much of which would remain on the banks if the dams were removed.” There are some conservationists who are concerned that the impact of the sediment will destroy the fishes’ breeding grounds and kill the fish that will be in the path of the silt tsunami. In the end, if the damns are destroyed, it is possible that the salmon may not even make it to their historic spawning grounds after all.
These are just a few examples of the hypocrisy going on in this move toward sustainable development. What is the priority agenda behind this green movement? Is sustainable development really about balancing environmental protection with economic development? Between the “take permits” that legally condone the killing of ‘endangered’ species for the purpose of ‘green’ energy, and the destruction of people’s livelihoods and private property for the purpose of saving ‘endangered’ species; is it any wonder we are confused?
Common sense is taking a back seat to corruption, greed, and power mongering. Apparently, when it comes to anything ‘green’ the ends justify the means.
For a full report on the recommendations of the Independent Science Advisors for The California Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), click here.