April 7, 2006
Are Aesthetics Part of Ecological Sustainability?
The NYTimes reported today on the fate of the offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound:
A Senate-House conference committee has approved a measure that would effectively kill a proposal for the first large offshore wind farm in the United States, in Nantucket Sound south of Cape Cod, Mass. The measure, an amendment to a Coast Guard budget bill, gives the governor of "the adjacent state," Massachusetts, veto power over any wind farm in the sound. Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, opposes the wind farm, and most of the candidates running to replace him in the election for governor this fall have also come out against it, as have most of the state's prominent politicians. The budget bill now goes to the full Congress, and members are expected to consider it after their recess.Wind Farm
A decade ago, a student of mine Averill Rothrock wrote an article on whether Oregon's land use laws adequately reflected ecological sustainability. Obviously her task started with defining ecological sustainability and she chose to include aesthetic values as part of her definition of ecological sustainability. Then and now I disagree. And the battle in Massachusetts over the Nantucket offshore wind farm may be the perfect example of the danger of a policy that gives primacy to aesthetics.
I understand that the objections of Massachusetts politicians dooming this project are not based on adverse ecological impacts -- but rather they are based on the impact of the project on aesthetics and tourism (and, of course, the state's elite for whom the Sound is a playground).
To meet the challenge of moderating climate change, we will need extraordinary efforts harnessing carbon-neutral energy sources. Allowing aesthetic factors, rather than ecological impact or necessity, to determine whether such projects are built is a fatal error.
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