• Beware the glossy brochure
    October 28,2012

    Beware the glossy brochure

    I worked for 11 years designing and building water supply projects to supply drinking water to people in need. This was done mostly in many parts of Africa and parts of the Mid East and Indonesia. On my last assignment, before I moved back to my farm, I was in Uganda building water systems for the people displaced by the Lord’s Resistance Army. I was neither the first nor the last environmental health expert to work there.

    When I arrived in country and inspected the camps that needed an improved water supply system I found many concrete blocks with dimensions of 1 foot by 1 foot by 3.5 feet with a hollow interior and one open end. They were everywhere and mostly being used as benches or grown over with weeds. Upon further investigation I found that my predecessor had wanted to introduce a family-sized sand filter water treatment device. (S)he received this nice brochure outlining the success of this filter. (S)he applied for a grant and built 4,000 of them. Come to find out, the proper sand was hard to obtain and it was high maintenance to keep the filter operating properly. No one was found using them, the donor was upset and cut all funding.

    The brochure came from the organization promoting the filter; needless to say it was glossy. My predecessor did no research before the first one was built and instead of building a few (two to five) for researching, 4,000 were built. It was a complete disaster and a waste of money.

    Gov. Peter Shumlin is doing the same thing with industrial-sized wind towers. He is going all out to build as many as he can before the subsidies run out. These projects cost hundreds of millions. Much of the cost for construction comes from your tax dollars.

    There are numerous objections to this size of wind project in Vermont, a few arguments are; they fragment wildlife habitat, of which we have precious little left here on the East Coast, the development of the ridge lines alters the infiltration and overland flow of hydrology of the area, and there is a growing body of evidence that they can have adverse affects on the health of the neighbors. Not to mention the energy they produce is impossible to predict and difficult for grid operators to use. And, they do very little to reduce CO2 or our dependence on fossil fuels because the original power plants still need to run to compensate for the intermittent power supply. So why won’t Mr. Shumlin declare a moratorium on further construction to research the impacts? If we find out that they are cost beneficial then by all means build more.

    However, the corporations building them will not disclose information on the wind velocities, the rate of energy output and other vital information needed to research and do a cost benefit analysis of these wind towers. They claim it is a corporate liability to disclose this information, information you are paying for. They tell you that the project can provide electricity for “X” number of homes. What they fail to tell you is that number is zero when the wind is not blowing sufficiently to generate electricity and they won’t release the information to tell you how often that is (they say 33 percent, others say 23 percent). They also won’t measure infrasound which is said to cause adverse health impacts. Also, what price do you put on damaging environmental impacts?

    If Shumlin was really serious about reducing Vermont’s carbon footprint he’d offer subsidies so you could buy a car that gets 60 miles per gallon, weatherize every home, fix our roads and bridges and get families to invest in solar and wind, not corporations, so that there would be no habitat destruction and the subsidies would go to you and me, not his cronies in the big corporations. The subsidies for one of the projects would be enough to cover thousands of homes, even when the wind is not blowing on a cloudy day.

    Mr. Shumlin must have received a very glossy brochure of the effectiveness of these wind towers by the industry promoting them.



    Bill and Lou a bigger issue

    Though I appreciate differing emotions regarding Bill and Lou, the oxen at Green Mountain College, I feel frustrated that so much publicity and angst has arisen over these animals that have led productive and well-cared-for lives.

    There seems a disconnect when I drive by farms with calves imprisoned in tiny spaces with hot plastic coops their only shelter. These animals suffer every day of their lives, never having lived as a calf cavorting and finding their legs under them, never eating grass their natural food. All this so we can have larger unhealthy veal.

    I’d be more impressed by the demonstrators if they continued on up the road to one of these farms and then on to Montpelier to lobby for laws to prevent such cruelty to animals.

    Bill and Lou never suffered like that.



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