Who Decides Who Fuels the Future?
Elizabeth Kolbert’s “Island in the Wind”, uses a blend of personal testimonies from community members and resident living on the Danish island of Somsa and findings of environmental experts creates a more engaging and effective stance for Wind power used to create renewable electric energy. Thorough investigations by Kolbert are exhaustive of current research and trends focusing on fossil fuel usage and carbon emissions’ damaging domino effect on the natural environment as well as the people who enjoy and rely on natural resources. Kolbert’s defense of wind powered energy at first glance is more persuasive as she uses comparisons and contrast of various energy resources as well as analogies that help the reader imagine a society with more wind turbines. The voice of Burnett is softer in persuasion because he looks only at the negative impacts of Wind Power. The author does not use his reservoir of personal experiences, being member of several environmental boards, to strengthen his case and convince the audience of opposition to Wind Power. The absence of personal experience in Burnett’s article creates a disinterested tone that may easily undermine his intent. These two authors’ points of views appear to be at opposite ends of the spectrum. Kolbert deems the innovative issue can be dissipated through social reform or “people power” while Burnett leans toward the avenue of policy reform.
The objective for converting from conventional fossil fuels to wind powered energy is to create a greener more sustainable future for production while simultaneously reducing environmental pollution. Burnett argues that this reduction is not fully evident in past research. He also brings to the readers’ attention what kind of environmental conditions are necessary for turbines to function at a continuous level of production that will create more benefits than overall costs with greater clarity. The wind would have to blow continuously at speeds neither too strong nor too weak for the turbine to properly function and supply power to an electrical grid (Burnett 355). These ideal situations are limited geographically and may change seasonally as environmentalist understand.
Kolbert’s explanations are lengthened with flowery language, which becomes distracting to a person who is unfamiliar with green energy, turbines, and electric conversions. However, her chosen location gives the deepest insight to what lay of the land is best suited for wind farms. The Danish island Somsa consist of farm land and ocean, rich with natural resources and a nearly continuous flowing wind current across and around its territory (Kolbert 351). Burnett’s concern for the sanctity of lush natural resources is to be deeply considered as these areas of forestry and untapped potential for cleaner food and water; which should not be overshadowed by the industrialization of wind powered energy. The physical size of turbines alone requires massive acreage of land to be forfeited. “Wind farms are noisy, land-intensive and unsightly. The industry has tricked its way into unspoiled countryside in ‘green’ disguise by portraying win farms as ‘parks.’ In reality, wind farms are more similar to highways, industrial buildings, railways, and industrial farms.” (Burnett 355). Kolbert’s remarks state, carbon dioxide emitted from fossil fuels has already begun to and will continue to reduce the overall productivity of land and the increased acidy in ocean will kill a vast number of marine species that are equally vital for the survival of world populations(349). Environmental harm resulting from CO2 gases are also considered a leading cause in global warming.
The residents of Somsa do not fully see eye-to-eye with the opinions of Burnett who claims that the benefits of wind powered energy is completely undermined by fossil fuels. On one hand there is less land usage and more energy output per kilowatt from fossil fuels. “For instance…in Europe 159 turbines…take a year to produce less than four days’ output from a single 2,000 megawatt conventional power station- which takes up 100 times fewer acres” (Burnett 355). Still those who converted to wind powered energy in Somsa were creating more energy than they could use for their households alone; therefore these participants perpetuated their reduction of carbon emission by using the additional energy for water heating and the creation of hydrogen which is another usefulness of renewable energy. “A single offshore turbine generates roughly eight million kilowatt-hours of electricity each year…[which] is enough to satisfy the needs of some two thousand homes” (Kolbert 351, 352).
Understanding both the pros and cons of wind power allows each individual reader, who are also potential consumers, the opportunity to for an opinion based on knowledge rather than using a fantasy approach to finding solutions to environmental developments.
Written By: Kristin Richeson