Monday, August 29, 2011

Wind Power and Bird Mortality

Life would be so much easier if our decisions could be based on black-and-white options!  Unfortunately, life is not that way and the mere presence of humans on the planet generates some negative environmental impacts.  Our goal should be to minimize our negative impacts whenever possible.

If you are reading this, you are most likely using an electronic device, which contains materials mined from the Earth, had to be manufactured using energy and other resources, had to be transported to its point of purchase, and requires some form of energy to operate.  There are negative impacts at every point of the process, but there are also opportunities to minimize those impacts.

Today, The Washington Post reports on the controversy between the wind power industry and various wildlife conservation groups regarding the danger to birds from spinning turbine blades at wind farms.

Wind farms currently kill far fewer birds than the estimated 100 million that fly into glass buildings, or up to 500 million killed yearly by cats. Power lines kill an estimated 10 million, and nearly 11 million are hit by automobiles, according to studies.--The Washington Post, 8/28/11

Obviously, we are not going to eliminate buildings and windows, but there are ways to minimize the impact our structures have on birds.  For example, there is the San Francisco Planning Department's newly-adopted Standards for Bird-safe Buildings, including a reference to an article published in Audubon.  Nor should we ignore other dangers to birds simply because they are not as deadly.

“We’re not against wind power,” said Johns of the (The American Bird) conservancy. “It’s clean and it’s better than blowing the tops off mountains. But we are not willing to overlook the problems that come with it. If you’re going to do it, do it right so that you don’t have to look up one day and say, ‘Hey, we’ve killed all the birds.’ ”--The Washington Post, 8/28/11

Alternative energy does not come without costs and it is not easy to process the information generated by all sides of a complex issue, but nobody said that life was easy.

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