Part 1 of this post (here) dealt with an opinion poll published by Ipsos MORI last summer. This showed a surprising level of global warming scepticism among the UK public and also indicated a high degree of confusion among the respondents.Before moving on to discuss a couple of more recent polls, I want to look at some more results from the July ‘07 poll. These seem to confirm the impression that public opinion on this very important subject may be shaped more by a failure to understand the issues than by informed judgements. Here is an example:

Q2 Which of the actions on this list, if any, do you think will do the most to help reduce climate change?


Recycling 40
Developing cleaner engines for cars 34
Avoiding creating waste in the first place 22
Making fewer car journeys 17
Using less electricity 16
Taking fewer foreign holidays 11
Using public transport 10
Walking or cycling 10
Buying locally-grown food 7
Using water sparingly 4
Reusing bottles/containers 4
People having fewer children 4
Buying organic produce 1
None of these 2
Don’t know 3

More recycling seems a very strange choice to head this list. Although reprocessing waste may lead to a minor reduction in CO2 emissions, it is unlikely that a scientist would seriously claim that this could have a really dramatic effect; cuts in emissions from electricity generation, industry, and transport would be far more relevant. So why do so many people seem to hold this view? Continue reading »

Apr 102008

If you would like to sign a petition against wind farms, you can do so on the Downing Street website when you click this link:

Petitions like this can be very effective, so if you can help publicise it by telling friends, putting a link on your website or posting links on other blogs, then please do so. This is something positive that you can do to help protect our beautiful and precious countryside.

The deadline for signatures is 13th May, so sign it now, and please leave a comment to let me know that Harmless Sky is playing a part in this campaign.

For more information about wind turbines and the landscape see:

High Wind in a Small Island

The Visual Issue: Wind Farms and Virtual Landscapes

The Wind, the Climate and the Media

About Harmless Sky

As more and more of our precious British landscape is disfigured and by wind farm developments, many of us may wonder how planning authorities can justify some of the decisions that they are taking. On what evidence are they deciding that an important part of our heritage should be sacrificed?The outcomes of planning applications for wind farms largely depend on images that predict what the development would look like. These are produced by photographing the proposed site and then creating a photomontage by superimposing representations of the turbines. There is an old adage that the camera never lies, but this seems not to apply to visual impact assessments. If you want to minimise the visual impact of an elephant in your garden, it is quite easy to do so by photographing it with a wide-angle lens that shows as much background as possible and a very small elephant.

Someone kindly sent me a fascinating document called The Visual Issue that I might not otherwise have seen. It is a detailed, closely reasoned, and very well written critique of the way in which photomontages are used by developers to predict what proposed wind turbine developments might look like. I say ‘might’, because even this scrupulously fair-minded paper cannot disguise the extent to which plausible, but misleading, visual representations are used for this purpose.

The two images below illustrate this problem dramatically. They were both taken from the same viewpoint, using a standard lens, and demonstrate the shrinking technique employed by developers, although these are simulated images and not pictures of a real wind farm .

Courtesy of Alan Macdonald,


Clearly the visual impact of the turbines is quite different. In the upper picture they seem quite inconspicuous, small and far away. In the lower one they dominate the landscape and the viewer in a way that is almost threatening. They also seem much nearer although a telephoto lens has not been used.

Alan Macdonald, author of The Visual Issue, is an architect who, for the last 15 years, has specialised in preparing images for clients to use in planning applications, initially in the Far East, but more recently in Scotland. When small rural communities in the Highlands approached him because they were concerned that developers were submitting misleading photomontage for visual impact assessments, he was astonished by what he discovered. Continue reading »

5 High Wind in a Small Island

Posted by TonyN on 15/01/2008 at 10:51 am The Wind 3 Responses »
Jan 152008

An old friend, a successful sculptor who lives in British Columbia on the west coast of Canada, has commented on a post (here) that I wrote as an introduction to this blog:

I’ll keep this brief – I’m a hunt-and-pecker. I have no concerns with ‘environmentalists’ as long as they live as they would like the environment to be – many don’t realise though just how much they’re impacting the environment by just living. However, they’re trying which the majority are not.

Regarding windpower, in the 80’s & 90’s, I remember a single wind turbine visible from my parents’ place in Ilfracombe, N. Devon and I though it quite a fascinating piece of kinetic sculpture just as does Jim Lishman of ultralight and whooping crane fame. However, when some years ago I saw a mass of these in S. California, I saw them as a visual blight on the landscape not to mention the damage they were inflicting on migrating raptors. This is the problem though – too many people wanting too much power so they seem the lesser evil to me at present. We have yet to have a windfarm in BC though an off-shore one is planned for off the Queen Charlotte islands – 90% of our generating capacity (BCHydro claim) is from hydro power with the rest imported as needed.

These are all good points made by someone whose views I respect, and yet I see things quite differently, so here is what I want to say in reply: Continue reading »

Dec 172007

Most of us rely on the media to form our opinions on current affairs, but few of us would claim that newspapers, television and the radio are entirely impartial and reliable in their news coverage. This can be particularly true when the stories that they are reporting are likely to catch the public’s imagination and add a little drama to their lives.

Three years ago I started to research a book about the British landscape, and particularly the countryside. Wind farms were beginning to appear in remote and beautiful rural areas, introducing conspicuous industrial development to places that had formerly been rigorously protected — with the general support of the public, politicians and planners — from such intrusion. Although small groups of protesters were vigorously objecting to planning applications at a local level, there was no public outcry or general support for their cause. This seemed strange, because I had always thought that the unique beauty of the British countryside was a vital part of our heritage, to be enjoyed, and jealously guarded, by all.

It seemed to me that our attitude to the countryside was changing, and I wanted to understand why this was happening. Monitoring media coverage of wind energy was an obvious first step. It appeared that the merit of wind farms was being heavily promoted by government, environmental pressure groups and the British Wind Energy Association, and that many of the claims that were being made for this new panacea for pollution were, at the very least, exaggerated. Continue reading »

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