Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The View

Recently, for my job, I've been researching various "green" technologies, learning about the cutting edge science and newest thinking on many fronts in the battle to create a sustainable way of life for modern humans.

I've also inevitably run across some naysayers, climate-change deniers, people who can't be bothered to go green or think it will be too difficult (especially now that the economy is in the toilet), or who simply don't want to change what they currently have/do, no matter what the consequences.

One example of this, which I find particularly frustrating, occurs around the question of whether or not, and where, to install large, utility-scale wind-turbine electric generators. Some of the places best-suited to this clean technology are at high unobstructed elevations, the tops of rolling hills and so forth, places which can be quite scenic. There are people who can't bear the thought of marring the view of such currently unspoiled natural places with obviously man-made distracting structures -- giant spinning propellers on sticks.

Now, my personal opinion is that these wind-turbines, spinning slowly in unison on a distant hill, mountain or plain, or just off the coast in the ocean, are actually quite aesthetically pleasing. But I'm also a big fan of unspoiled nature and can understand how people would prefer the view of the ocean or local mountain range sans turbines.

The problem is that these people aren't basing their aesthetic preference on enough reality.

Reality, as we humans typically experience it, consists of all this physical space around us. But it also has this other dimension, a "fourth" dimension if you will. Something called "time."

Time, for those of you unfamiliar with it, is that aspect of reality responsible for making us miss our flights. It is also the reason why the number of candles on your birthday cake keeps increasing. And as it turns out, it isn't separate from space. Space and time are actually one thing -- spacetime -- and this makes all sorts of nifty things possible, like...

- motion
- music
- stories
- growth
- evolution
- coincidences
- boredom
- getting the pizza for free

Of course, spacetime (and thus, time) is ultimately an illusion, but that's not relevant to this discussion.

What IS relevant to this discussion is that the folks who prefer the hilltop with no windmills, are only basing that preference upon a regard for space. They're completely ignoring time. As such, they think that the choice they have to make is: "should we go with the view of a lovely unspoiled mountain, or should we opt for the mountain with a bunch of annoying spinny things on it?"

But when you add time back into the equation, the real choice turns out to be between a view of a mountain with a bunch of spinny things on it, versus a view of a barren worldwide hellscape.

Now, just how MUCH time it takes to become the lifeless hellscape is impossible to determine, but if current trends persist, it could happen relatively soon. How relatively? Well... in terms of my relatives: my parents won't live to see it, but my niece and nephew absolutely will. Absolutely.

So, if you know and care about any humans whose next birthday cake will have fewer than, say, 25 candles on it, you owe it to them to take the long view of the scenic view.

3 comments:

Christian Roman said...

Make sure you keep the birds in mind. They learned that the hard way nearby me in the Altamont Pass:

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/07/altamont_wind.php

http://www.treehugger.com/files/2006/04/common_misconce.php

Microzen said...

You have a niece & nephew? Wow! how old?

Mazel Tov!

(& good points, btw.)

Dr. Brainwave said...

Chris: Yes, we must try not to harm the birds. I believe the Danish are working on windmill designs that certain species of birds can see better. Or they've discovered that seabirds have no trouble avoiding the propellers whereas other birds do. I don't recall the thing I read now.

Mike: niece is 6 and nephew is 4. Both adorable of course, and not just sayin' that cause they're kin.