Consciousness of the need for renewable energy sources is growing. On a recent trip to Northern Lower Michigan I found clear signs that a much larger proportion of the populace are becoming aware of the energy and pollution problems related to overpopulation. While the topic of overpopulation isn’t discussed much there is a great deal more concern about the need for renewable energy sources to replace fossil fuels. Especially in the areas near the shores of the Great Lakes, where winds are more constant and strong, there is much discussion and planning (and some construction) of wind power infrastructure. While I only saw one large scale wind turbine, I saw more small turbines, more advertisements by companies who install them, and evidence of townships making zoning changes to specifically regulate wind turbines.
A lot of work is being put into local planning for wind power infrastructure. Some townships have banned wind turbines, mostly for aesthetic reasons and noise concerns, while others are welcoming them as an economic engine – they want to gain jobs and become as energy self-sufficient as possible. The one large wind turbine I saw, which I estimate was over 200 feet tall at the top of the blades’ arc, had only a small electrical substation at its base, indicating it was directly feeding the power grid. A number of fruit orchards appeared to have medium-sized wind turbines on towers positioned far from power lines, which may be used to provide irrigation, though those also could have been large fans to move air and decrease the effects of frost on the crop in case of unseasonably cold weather. I also saw smaller turbines on towers above some homes and farms.
Northern lower Michigan attitudes about wind power and sustainability are changing. This area is known for fruit farming, wine making, and tourism, and one of the local tourist magazines I read, dated November 2009, contained an extensive article covering the different townships rationales for ordinances they were writing expressly addressing wind power facilities. There appears to be a strong consensus that wind power is a resource for the area, and that development of such facilities needs to be promoted.
Traditionally conservative attitudes are changing. The most encouraging thing, however, was the underlying understanding that the energy sources we’ve thrived on over the past century are not going to last, that we are exhausting them at a frightening rate and need sustainable replacements as well as greatly increased conservation efforts if we are to avoid severe economic hardships in the coming decades. Less than a decade ago I saw no evidence of such an understanding when I traveled in the same area, and I am heartened by the change. What we need more of, going forward, is the political will to regulate fossil fuel companies as we promote sustainable replacement means, and we can each help achieve this by communicating with our legislative representatives. It is easy for them to be swayed by the huge contributions coming into the political system from fossil fuel-based energy companies, but they still need votes to be elected, and the increasing consciousness of these enormous issues will hopefully translate into the political action that can coordinate badly-needed systemic changes on regional, national, and global levels.
Humans win by working together, both as individuals and in groups. I urge you to become part of the needed change by learning more and communicating directly and often with your political representatives. Join organizations that promote sustainability in every aspect and contribute what funds you can to make the desperately needed political changes. If we focus efforts at every level from our own back yards to that of global politics we have a chance to mitigate the negative effects of the inevitable changes that will take us towards sustainability. In effect, we can each do our part to smooth the road to the future, and need to do so if we care about the quality of lives our children, grandchildren, and descendants will live.
As always, I appreciate your comments — Tim