Interesting to see new resistance emerging to wind energy in NS, using disappointingly familiar language. For instance, in Inverness County last week, to paraphrase, we’re not opposed to wind energy, of course, but this is the wrong place for it. A few weeks ago I submitted a letter to a process that was underway in the Municipality of Cumberland to review their wind turbine regulations, as a result of conflict over the proposed Higgins Mountain wind project. I drew on research by MES students Ellen Chappell and Mehrnoosh Mohammadi in that letter (it is included as Appendix C, p. 46-47, in Plan Cumberland’s Public Engagement report of their review). Ellen’s thesis work showed that wind energy support is quite strong in the Amherst area, even among those who can see wind turbines currently. Mehrnoosh’s work on renewable energy in amenity landscapes like vineyards showed that visitors accept that landscapes are for more than just the reason they are visiting. In fact, if vineyards brag about their energy infrastructure, it is possible that visitors will see it as an asset. Resistance threatens the next phase of Nova Scotia’s energy transition, and is characteristic of climax thinking: erroneously believing that our landscapes are in a final and stable state. A few highlights to my letter to Plan Cumberland follow:
I believe it is important to transition to what is often called a ‘multifunctional’ landscape norm, where we allow for a layering of energy into other land uses. In Canada we have not had to do much of this yet thanks to our large area, but others have. In NS we must learn how to as our population grows and electrification proceeds to reduce carbon emissions. Evidence from some national survey work I have collaborated on (also attached) suggests it is good for us to be exposed to the energy sources on which we depend. This strengthens our support for renewable modes, and may in fact inspire decisions to conserve energy, which I’ll talk more about next. The truth is that energy has a footprint—and deserves a footprint—in our lives. Hiding that footprint only makes us less likely to understand our dependency and its costs. …
… When it came to trying to predict people’s willingness to have wind energy in view of their home the two strongest predictors were agreement to the following two statements:
• Seeing wind turbines from my home reminds me that electricity I use has to be generated somewhere.
• Energy is just a commodity; if we can develop it to sell elsewhere (e.g. New England), then we should.
… those who agreed to both statements have made a shift in their thinking: putting energy alongside other regional commodities as viable for export beyond local needs (as they do in more established energy-producing regions and potentially enabling a more resilient regional grid), while taking responsibility for bearing the costs of their own energy consumption too. …
Survey responses speak to the importance of being willing to tackle new challenges and seize new opportunities rather than hide from them by trying to hold landscapes as they are—particularly those designed for needs other than the ones we face today—or otherwise trying to exclude energy from ideas of what our landscape is ‘for’.