How this blog got its name

On a perfect winter afternoon two years ago, we attended a lecture on Changing Perceptions of the Countryside over 300 Years in a small Welsh seaside town.

The speaker worked for a government agency and had the power to influence what some of the most beautiful parts of the British landscape will look like in the future. The chairman was a one-time senior functionary with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. For an hour we listened to an extremely fluent and accomplished presentation on the importance of preserving the natural beauty of the countryside for the benefit of future generations. The value and importance of ‘natural beauty’ was hammered home again and again, and we listened with growing alarm.

It seemed that the speaker had no conception of the influence that humans have had in creating, shaping, enhancing and disfiguring the landscape that we know today. For him the ‘natural beauty’ of our countryside was something that has occurred spontaneously; millennia of agriculture had no meaning for him. The word ‘farm’ only passed his lips twice, when he approvingly mentioned ‘wind farms’.

Eventually he sat down, but we were too dispirited to ask questions and left quickly after the man from the IPCC had delivered his vote of thanks. The sun was setting so we took a short path that ran down to the beach. Vermilion edged clouds, silhouetted against a background of palest blue, pink and green, framed a faded mid-winter sun. As we watched it dip towards the sea, the sand at out feet turned a luminous ochre in the dying light. Looking westwards there was no sign of man’s influence, just sky and water. This truly was natural beauty, quite untouched by man and safely beyond the reach of our lecturer*. A scene that was the same ten million years ago, before hominids began to evolve in Africa, and one that will be the same in ten million years time, whether there are intelligent beings to stand and marvel at its beauty or not.

We turned and looked inland, towards the close cropped mountainsides behind the little town. Lights were beginning to appear in the windows of ancient farmhouses set among small, stone walled pastures. Oak woods, which have been managed for many hundreds of years to yield fuel and timber, darkened the valley bottoms. At the water’s edge, sheep and cattle grazed on salt marshes that the sea reclaims at each spring tide. This was a landscape that had been transformed from primeval forest and barren waste by the efforts of people who depended on nature’s bounty to provide food, clothing, warmth and shelter. It was a man-made landscape, and it too was very beautiful.

Turning a little further, we looked out across the river mouth. This used to be one of the most tranquil places in the land, but now the hills on the further shore were covered with wind turbines, their vast blades idly clawing at a harmless sky.

* Since writing this, the government has announced that 7,000 giant wind turbines will be built around our coast. (here)

11 Responses to “How this blog got its name”

  1. 1
    Roger M Says:

    Having read this I have to ask where you were at the time.

    Why?

    Because I think I know….

  2. 2
    Hamish Grant Says:

    My first time at this site.

    Has anyone done the “carbon footprint” calculations for the manufacture & installation of a typical wind turbine power generator?

    One design spec on the web requires approx 700-800 cubic meters of concrete for the base. That’s a huge amount of energy just for the installation – then there’s the steel for the tower, copper for the generator wire, etc.

    A back-of-the-envelope calculation I have seen for a 250MWatt array of turbines would use 4 times the volume of concrete as a 1GWatt 3rd generation nuclear power plant.

  3. 3
    TonyN Says:

    Hamish:

    If you follow the links in the left-hand sidebar to ‘The Case Against Wind Farms’ and ‘Country Guardian’ I think that you will find the answer there. The Co2 budget of wind turbines has certainly been calculated but I don’t have any figures in my head and it may be difficult to find two calculations that agree. The wind industry tend to have their own highly individual way of assessing such things.

  4. 4
    KevinUK Says:

    TonyN

    Can I also ask where the ‘small Welsh seaside town’ is? I suspect I’m not very far away from you, living as I do in a city that use dto be a ‘muddy pool’!

    May I also ask who the ‘The chairman was a one-time senior functionary with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.’ is?

    Could the chairman be Bob Watson (or Sir John Houghton) by any chance?

    KevinUK

  5. 5
    Mike Fowle Says:

    That is very eloquently, even poetically, put. The notion that nature left to herself is always beautiful and man always disfigures – so beloved of greenies – is such harmful nonsense. Good luck to you.

  6. 6
    Charles Says:

    That is a truely beuatiful piece of writing AND absolutley spot on! I have had the privelege of seeing some of England’s open spaces. Much of the beauty is due to the tending by man. Man’s creation of beautiful landscapes is something to take joy in. Good luck against those hidious windfarms.

    Charles

  7. 7
    Charles Says:

    That is a truely beautiful piece of writing AND absolutley spot on! I have had the privelege of seeing some of England’s open spaces. Much of the beauty is due to the tending by man. Man’s creation of beautiful landscapes is something to take joy in. Good luck against those hidious windfarms.

    Charles

  8. 8
    Richard111 Says:

    Tony, are you aware of the 2,500 solar panels recently installed on port authority buildings around the harbour of Milford and the proposed 20,000 panels on Liddeston Ridge? Very sad.

  9. 9
    TonyN Says:

    Many thanks! More and more people seem to be rallying to the cause.

  10. 10
    Philip Ferguson Says:

    Sorry not to have been in touch for a while.

    Managed snowdon last week via the Rydd ddu track and was horrified by the way rubbish was being left at the top because the restaurant/cafe/carbuncle was closed. Rubbish bags to be collected now and again or is that too old fashioned?

    Attended a farming conference recently and bit my lip as we now carry out conservation by computer and cookies………
    Q “what is the reason for paying farmers to encourage red squirrels in that location?”
    A ” thats the only layer we can get on by computer without more cookies”.

    We were then showed how farmers can be paid for “tying up tonnes (i assume not tons) of carbon”
    It struck my me that i was now advising on something i knew nothing about…………
    Could you describe to me what a tonne of carbon is and what it looks like and even where i could find one and how one knows whether or not it has been successfully tied up? Could we send out an inspector with a carbon counter before and after the hypothetical event and if not are the taxpayers being hoodwinked?

    Caught an old David Bellamy clip the other day in which he says he has never worked for the BBC since he said on live TV that “global warming was poppycock!”

    I could go on………………….

    Regards

  11. 11
    TonyN Says:

    For some reason your comment left me with a vision of a tiny figure trudging up Snowdon in wind and driving snow bent double by the burden of a ton block of carbon on his back!

    Can you explain the bit about the red squirrels and the cookies? It promises to open up a realm of eco-delusion that is new to me.

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