Environmentalists and "tree-huggers"

Wind Turbine. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

A few days ago I wrote about my experiences with Big Oil. Little did I know that I would manage to upset a friend who posted a comment, which I am reproducing here:

"Tree-hugers huh? Don't you think that is a little harsh? Idealists are idiots until their ideas take momentum, after that they are known as visionaries. Not before.

Alternative energy doesn't work? Hell, that's were we will agree to disagree (being a wind turbine engineer and all).
Oil is only the cheapest ECONOMIC source of energ: it is dirty, chemically dangerous, prone to explosion, and its biggest charge is to the enviroment it is IRREPARABLY destroying. Plus, it is not renewable.

I don't want to live as if I were the last generation to use the earth, and I don't even have kids like you do.

Anyway, as I said, this is a point were we will have to agree to disagree.
I have a TREMENDOUS respect for you, and it is only such respect that allows me to retort; I know you are a rational person who will not corner me to the ground just because I think differently about a subject.

In any case, the best of lucks in your new endevours. All the best to you and your family. ^__^


I also have Arc in the highest of regards and this comment provides a footing to talk about some ideas I have been juggling in my head.

First, the use of the words "tree-hugger" is not casual - it is deliberate. I am certainly not very diplomatic when I am dealing with prejudiced or dishonest people and I find a lot of those in the "green" movement.

Before going any further, I am all for preserving the environment, as much as it is possible to reconcile such preservation with the needed economic development for poor people/countries. I think all life is precious and while I cannot accept the killing of one more marine mammal, for instance, I also think the life of some members of a rather abundant species of two-legged land mammals is also important to preserve.

However, the tree-huggers I am refering to are people who use the banner of the green movement in order to further their perverse agendas, which seemingly do not include the well being of many of those two-legged land mammals. I do not really understand what those agendas may be, if they exist at all: it seems to me that many of these infamous characters are in the game only for personal gain.

And they are dishonest. I was outraged last year when a well known (in my country) catholic bishop called a press conference in order to present his findings after conducting some water analysis in the neighborhood of a gold mine. He accused the mining company of poisoning the river with "heavy metals". What heavy metals? Aluminum, magnesium and silicon... some of the most abundant materials in the Earth's crust.

So, I stand by my use of the word tree hugger. I am an environmentalist, an advocate of conservancy, not of poverty and famine for those who could use a good job in a gold mine - as long as the mine complies with good environmental practices. But the tree huggers will have none of that and they want all those jobs to go away.

As for renewable energy, I am all for developing renewable and alternate energy sources. However, I don't think they are all quite ready for prime time.

My good friend Arc says he is a wind turbine engineer. Nice job. I like wind turbines. They are one of the most mature technologies for renewable/alternate energy around. Unfortunately, they have two shortcomings:

1) Mostly, they are not good for providing base energy as the wind does not always blow the same when you need it and 2) They are not that reliable as yet.

I tried to indicate that alternate energy would come into its own sometime later this century. Wind power is a good example. There is already work underway to make wind turbines more reliable, going to direct drive and avoiding those pesky, difficult to maintain gearboxes. Yes, Big Oil will suffer at not being able to sell lubricants to the wind turbines anymore (with direct drive) but I, for one, aplaud the idea as the gearbox is the weakest link in a power system comprising wind turbines.

And, I have to say, wind power is also attacked by the green movement. Migrating birds are killed by the spinning blades and pressure differentials between one side of the turbine and the other kills bats. I sympathize with the birds and the bats but I also believe that good locations can be found for those needed wind farms where they will make the least damage to the flying fauna.

Not that all of them will be spared. But you have to give some to get some, right? Which, would bring me back to the gold mine...

So, friend Arc. we do not disagree at all. We are in violent agreement. But it is all a matter of balancing the pros and the cons and coming up with the best solution for all - marine mammals, flying fauna and those insipid two-legged land dwellers that tree-huggers don't seem to consider worthy of conservation.

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1 comment:

Arc said...

Oh brother, not at all, I didn't got upset. It takes far too much to push me over that line.

Now I understand in what context you used the word, and as you said, we do not disagree at all. There will always be people who push their own agenda under the revolutionary banner of new energy.

You are correct that wind energy is not 100% dependable, but just as with ANY other technology, the most important thing is to NOT depend on any ONE technology.
We also have, as alternative and limitless technology (for the time being, anyway), solar power, geothermal power (which I also feel very strong about), and water turbines that feed of coastal sea movement.

As you can see, they all have their disadvantages: not all days are sunny, sometimes geothermal activity will be lacking and hell, I bet some few days a year the sea won't be so stirry. But they are renewable, which is key for the future. Renewable and produce little contamination.

Yes, wind energy can have its negative effects (and water turbines that feed on sea waving, too). It can disturb bird life and that is a sad and troubling fact. There is very little we can do about it, as wind currents are seeked as much for birds as for us. We could either try and teach the birds to fly at higher altitudes, like certain migrating birds (ducks and swans come to mind) and we can also have a fund to raise certain kinds of species that the turbines kill, in an effort to "even out" the losses.

I cannot but wonder, how many birds have already been killed by the exxon-valdez spilling and the new BP Gulf of Mexico leakage? If we put both technologies in the balance (wind energy vs oil), how do they compare? What about air contamination, and the fact that complete wars have taken place in name of energy-thirsty nations like the U.S.?
I don't know about you, but no one has ever gone to war over a windy hill.

These are all just reflective thoughts; I strongly suspect you are aware of them all. By no means I condemn the use of oils; I am not that naive, we NEED petroleum for a large number of things, from plastics to lubricants. I rather dig for oil to use for lube than to kill ANY whale for the same lubricant.

Given such limited resource, it feels like a travesty to use for fueling anything other than big trucks and heavy machinery. The use of gasoline for recreational purposes (like cars) is a terribly misuse of a finite and ever depleting valuable resource.

The problem here, as you can see, is that big oil companies WANT to extract more oil every single year, month, week and day. They DO NOT care about careful management of its use; on the contrary, I would argue that they encourage you to get those big and useless S.U.V. vehicles, and consume as much oil as you can possibly can.

A government regulation must be in order, because the world cannot keep giving like this.

Well! I've over-extended my comment, but I want to remark that I am not, nor was upset at any time. I am glad that after this talk we find out we are pretty much on par and in line about the subject. Yes, there are anarchists who want nothing else but the world to burn, and some of them hide under the tree-hugging banner.

I'm glad there are also sensible people working on both sides of the fence, too.