Monday, June 10, 2013

Golf courses or wind farms? For avian ethicists, it's neither

I recently wrote a longish rant that, while primarily being religion-focused, touched on some non-religious points. In essence, those humans who speak on behalf of non-humans really aren't speaking on their behalf.

You see a similar humanism in the so-called "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals." Ignore the controversies surrounding this group for the moment. Take a look at the group's very name, and ask yourself - whose ethics? Apparently not the ethics of the animals themselves, if you watch videos of animals hunting and killing each other.

At the end of the rant, I began talking about a group called Rocks for the Ethical Treatment of Carbon-based Humans - the acronym is RETCH.

Well, if RETCH has an avian equivalent, the avian organization's membership isn't pleased at the debate going on in Scotland.

Donald Trump has visited the site of his proposed second golf course on the Menie estate in Aberdeenshire....

The US tycoon flew into Aberdeen the previous day, when he reiterated his opposition to a planned offshore wind farm off his development.

The wind farm, known as the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) plans to deploy enough wind from its centre to provide energy for more than 49,000 homes.

To some people, it's an easy decision. Golf courses are not necessarily the most efficient use of a parcel of land, so why not provide power to real people instead of indulging the habits of the wealthy?

Yes, it's an easy choice for some people. But it's not that easy a choice if you're a bird.

Why would a bird care about a wind farm? James Ulvog explains by citing a story in the United States:

[A Los Angeles Times] article said the [Department of Water and Power] wind farm in the Tehachapie Mountains has killed 8 golden eagles in the two years ending February 2012. That’s four a year done in by the 90 turbines in the wind farm.

Four a year is small potatoes compared to the staggering toll at the Altamont Pass wind farm in California.

Multiple sources put the toll at around 70 a year.

Now if I take a gun and kill a golden eagle, a bird that is protected under Federal law, I'm liable for a fine of $250,000 and two years in jail. But if I set up a "slice-and-dice" (Ulvog's term) wind farm and kill a few thousand protected birds, the state and Federal governments look the other way.

And what of the aforementioned PEOPLE who are dedicated to the ethical treatment of animals? Well...

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) also expressed concern about the high number of bird deaths that result from wind turbines, but has not gone so far as to call for a ban.

“Unfortunately they do kill and maim birds and bats. Not only do they harm these birds, but they also hurt the young who depend on them and end up suffering as well. There are ways to reduce harm,” senior PETA campaigner Ashley Byrne told TheDC “There are more wildlife friendly turbines that spin more slowly and pose less of a risk and there is even a company that manufactures hoop shaped blades that are far more wildlife friendly.”

Ulvog addressed these kinder, gentler turbines also:

Mitigation efforts cut the death count by about 50% from 2005 to 2010. The article reports the fatalities for American krestels, burrowing owls, red-tail hawks, and golden eagles:

"At the start of the study period, deaths of all those species combined averaged 1,245 per year. By the end, the total had fallen to 625."

I guess that’s good news. ONLY 625 raptors a year.

Of course, in all of these debates, the birds themselves are not heard. Birds certainly don't like being hit by golf balls, and they definitely don't like being sliced and diced.

But we had better watch out, because we don't want the birds to get mad. Alfred Hitchcock already made that movie:

And if a bird believes that he or she is defending his or her life, the behavior is entirely...ethical.

blog comments powered by Disqus