Dakota is a land of both unmatched natural beauty and untapped potential. One potential that exists here is the potential for wind energy. By using wind energy, we will be less dependant on fossil fuels which pollute the atmosphere. By using the energy inherent in the air, we are able to keep the air clean. However, in order to tap into this potential, a sacrifice must be made. In order to offset fossil fuel use in a meaningful way, a large number of turbines must be constructed. With the construction of these turbines we disrupt the very same nature we sought to protect. There is no perfect solution to how we obtain the energy we as a society have developed an addiction for. Much like the air turbines themselves, the debate on wind turbines goes round and round. By trying to save the environment through wind turbines, are we going too far in disrupting the environment we are trying to save? Wind turbines have an inherent duality where they are both good and bad for the environment. By constructing wind turbines, we disrupt the natural ecosystem greatly in a small area in order to lessen the overall disruption of climate change.
Wind turbines press us on questions of ethics. They question us what we are willing to sacrifice in order to help the environment; if we are willing to sacrifice the environment in order to save it. They inquire if it is okay to disrupt a landscape and ecosystem to lessen the harm we are already doing to the earth as a whole. By testing if we as a society are willing to sacrifice a landscape, wind turbines also ask what makes a landscape valuable. A single piece of land can mean completely different things to different people. Is it just the dramatic mountains, waterfalls, and forests that make an area beautiful or valuable? Or is there beauty and value in flat and far horizons? Whatever you believe, wind turbines require us to make a judgement call on the value of an area and weigh that value against the possible benefits of a field full of turbines. There are no definite right answers to any of these questions, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to find them.
One problem that people have with wind turbines is the fact that they are large, make noise, and interrupt the enjoyment of the nature we have in the Dakotas. Is it worth saving the earth if we diminish its inherent grandeur and we lessen the awe it inspires? If we save the earth, but we are unable to preserve its natural beauty, will it be worth it? Another issue people mention is the effects on wildlife. Birds, bats and many other organisms can be harmed by the massive swirling blades of a wind turbine, and some creatures’ lives are disrupted by the constant whirring sound these constructs produce.
Wind turbines force us to consider why we want to save the earth. Wind turbines also ask us what we are willing to sacrifice to achieve this goal. By building wind turbines we say we are willing to sacrifice a certain amount of disruption, of both ecosystems and the grace of a landscape, in order to lessen the global impact we are having. Wind turbines are a complex issue in that they are both good and bad for the environment; it is no surprise there are differing opinions on them. All these questions are open-ended, and it is for us to decide the extent that we use them. It is up to us to determine to what extent we are okay with the cheapening of natural views and sights with the understanding that doing so will help save the very sights we are cheapening. There are no easy ethical answers to these questions, but I think that is part of the reason that these turbines are so interesting.
My name is Connor McSherry. I am a Sophomore Biology and Psychology major at Augustana University.