Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nonviolent energy

The approval of an offshore windfarm in Nantucket Sound near Cape Cod is a welcome step to those who are deeply angered by the oil spill from an offshore rig near New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico.

Despite ill-advised objections from Not-In-My-Backbay 'environmentalists' and tribal members from two local tribes who have a stronger historical claim but no real argument aside from that, the project is going forward. It presages more such large wind developments and that is to the good.

We are not likely to invade a country to secure more wind for our multinational profiteers. We are not likely to see seabirds or shorebirds threatened by massive wind spills. Simply put, wind is a nonviolent choice, harnessing a natural and endlessly renewable resource that can sustain all of us without significant environmental problems.

I seldom disagree with tribes, but in this case I do. I strongly suspect that their objections might relate to a common problem experienced by tribes--disrespect. In the field of conflict resolution, this is a predictor of a poor process and even if no one actively or overtly disrespected the tribes in this particular case, it is likely that two factors contributed to the strong perception of disrespect.

One, history. Tribes not only had their land stolen, they were subsequently treated with disregard, disrespect and often quite overt racism and blatant imperiousness. All tribal members carry this collective memory that has lasted since contact and the Cape Cod tribes thus carry almost 500 years of this identity.

Two, our command and control decisionmaking process as a society usually brings in significant stakeholders long after some basic decisions have been made. There is no decisionmaking process worse than sham inclusivity or ersatz democracy. The field of environmental conflict is rife with examples of the ill-advised nature of such a system and the bumpy process it produces.

So to the tribes who opposed this, I say I'm sorry. Environmentally, there is no anthropogenic activity free of some impact and offshore windfarms have some small perturbance guaranteed. Even desert solarfarms change things, but when we look at the results of coal, nuclear, oil and other sources of energy, anyone with a modicum of sense would choose a windfarm. (pictured is the Vindeby wind farm, one of many offshore Denmark).

Obama approved more nukes and more offshore oil and gas drilling. This is just one of many of his 'Obamanations.' When we consider those poor decisions and then the windfarms on or offshore I hope we have the rational ability to support the one that doesn't involve war on humans or nature. Indeed, with enough solar and windfarms, we could generate enough electricity to power our new generations of all-electric cars and really start building a peace ecology instead of our current war system.

Someday, perhaps, we will have an actual national discussion about these crucial matters and we will, for once, feel consulted. Such a process could serve to also mitigate our political bipolar disorder by achieving a civil discourse that trumps the current national spectacle of the two party breakdown. All these common sense developments would serve us well and would bring us much closer to a society based on nonviolence.

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