The author states that the erection of wind turbines on ridgelines will have no effect on Vermont's greenhouse gas emissions. And, even worse, they will destroy Vermont's patrimony:
But it is those same Green Mountain ridgelines that attracted nearly 14 million visitors to Vermont in 2009, generating $1.4 billion in tourism spending. The mountains are integral to our identity as the Green Mountain State, and provide us with clean air and water and healthy wildlife populations.Vermont has a history of "leadership in developing innovative, effective environmental protection", which is now "tossed aside". And what do the author's environmentalist friends actually do?
Ironically, most of the state’s environmental groups have not taken a stand on this ecologically disastrous project. Apparently, they are unwilling to stand in the way of “green” energy development, no matter how much destruction it wreaks upon Vermont’s core asset: the landscape that has made us who we are.The author compares this case to similar ones in Cape Cod and in Maine, "the allure of wind power threatens to destroy environmentally sensitive landscapes". For him, these are the conflict lines:
The pursuit of large-scale, ridgeline wind power in Vermont represents a terrible error of vision and planning and a misunderstanding of what a responsible society must do to slow the warming of our planet. It also represents a profound failure to understand the value of our landscape to our souls and our economic future in Vermont.Before we discuss whether there should be wind turbines on the Vermont mountain ridges or not, I would like to direct your attention to the basic dilemma I see in environmentalism. As we have often discussed here, it is easy to detect a certain determinism in climate change discussion: because climate changes, we have to erect wind turbines or whatever. Political decisions are legitimized by the fact of climate change; political opitions are negated.
This kind of determinism has a long tradition, of course. In nature conservation, it was nature or specific species which served as an argument and legitimization for political action. An argument that the author picks up here: it is the "one of the largest tracts of private wild land" that is threatened; wild land which has "made us who we are"; which has value for the soul and the economic future of Vermont. Thus, it is untouched nature from which derives culture.
But is Vermont's wild nature really pure nature? Or do these forests maybe have a history? Were they inhabited by American Indians? I don't know; it would be interesting to learn more about. When were these forests privatized? When did tourism start in Vermont, and when did the Indian summer become one of the unique selling points in Vermont's tourism?
Thus, Vermont's nature is constructed. It is not just there, it has a (human) history. Nature doesn't serve well as an argument. "In the name of sacred nature" we have to prevent wind turbines meets "in the name of climate" we have to erect wind turbines. Here it is, the environmentalist's dilemma.
To find a solution for those conflicts, we have to turn to an understanding of political ecology which is sensitive to essentialisms, to the "naturalization" of forests, landscapes or climate. Vermont is a post-environmental landscape; neither nature conversation nor climate protection can argue anymore in the name of nature or climate. Instead, political decisions have to be taken. Landscapes are as dynamic as is history; cultural identity does not derive from a static landscape or a climate that produces Indian summers. Instead, Vermont, its landscapes and people's identity are permanently "under construction". Why shouldn't Vermont become proud of the wind turbines as it is proud of its colorful trees? Instead of staring at nature, I would recommend to have a look at the social history, at previous ownership conflicts, at those networks of people and things (Indian summer, for example), of environmentalism and politics, which make up the political landscape of Vermont. There are no easy solutions for conflicts like these in post-environmental landscapes!