Many thanks to my terrific audience of 16 in Mt Gambier tonight. The presentation was a lot of fun, and I took some really intelligent questions about some of the practicalities of implementing nuclear power in South Australia. We discussed not just climate change, but the implications of nuclear power on pollution and health, and the cost and security of our energy here in South Australia. With any luck I will revisit the region, hopefully with a little more publicity and planning behind me, and give it another run; tonight was put together in some haste during a busy end of financial year period for ThinkClimate Consulting. Nonetheless, hugely worthwhile, and I hope a few attendees call in to ABC tomorrow to talk me up.

As an added benefit to the trip, I was able to pop into The Whistling Fish Bookshop and Cafe in Robe, greatest book shop in the world. Hmmm, let me qualify that. I have not yet visited every bookshop in the world. Of those I have visited, it is the greatest. Check it out.

I also took the tourist drive along the largest wind farm in Australia, near Millicent. Wow. Big. Biiiiiiiiiiiiiig. I’m glad I did it. I stopped for a listen, and yes they do make noise where previously there would have been very little. Whether it is bad noise or not is another matter; the cows milling around didn’t seem to mind, but I would if I could hear it in my back yard. Hopefully the setbacks take care of that. Visually, well there’s no doubt that it’s a highly modified environment that they are in, and romanticising our arcadian landscapes is all well and good, but let’s not pretend it’s wilderness. It’s surely a matter of opinion. From a distance, I didn’t mind it. On the tourist drive though I must say they are an overwhelming presence and I was actually pleased to leave. I think the visit improved my appreciation of the impacts of that particular source of electricity generation.

It has been a very worthwhile road trip, but tomorrow it’s home to family. I’m glad!

7 comments

  1. Back when I still believed renewables were sufficient, I thought the complaints about wind where pretty pathetic. What’s a little noise compared to the overwhelming consequences of climate change? I figured I could live with the negatives because the positives where so great. Since I’ve learnt that wind is likely to play only a minor role in weaning us off fossil fuels, and is not actually necessary at all, winds risk/benefit equation has levelled quite substantially for me. I’m not exactly at the anti-wind stage, but I can see how one would want to be sure that they are actually doing some good, i.e. not just weaning us on to gas, before accepting the negatives (wildlife hazards, altered aesthetics, etc.) that may go along with them.

    It’s great that you’re getting out talking to people Ben. What do you feel the response was by the end of the evening?

  2. Oh, generally very positive, but I think it was an audience of largely converted on this occasion. Still, I have had sincere offers to arrange a larger session there, as well as accomodation which will really help to make the whole exercise more cost neutral for me. If I can mix it up with some work I will get back there again this year I hope.

    As for the wind farms, you are spot on I reckon. It really is all a matter of understanding the costs and benefits. For me the benefits have been dwindling a little lately, and my understanding of the costs was improved from that visit. This farm is 122 turbines and very imposing. It really makes you think about plans that assume 1,000s, 10,000s, 100,000s or even millions (as infamously suggested by a Scientific American article). The impact would be far from benign. I have also now seen everyone from the Premier down hanf sh!t on windfarm opponents. They need to be careful, because social acceptance looks like being a major limiting factor for wind.

  3. Marion, back when I thought renewables were sufficient, I was still troubled by their ecosystem impact. A strong conservation value that I had acquired in connection with rainforest preservation in the eighties was that of wilderness, that there is a particular value associated with landscapes and ecosystems that have not been transformed by humans. However, I was prepared to subordinate this value to what I see as the single greatest conservation issue we now face, namely climate change, which has the potential to unwind all the gains the conservation movement has ever made. So extensive windfarms had my grudging support.

    But when I found out more about nuclear power as I looked for responses to climate change, I was enormously relieved to find I did not need to compromise my conservation values to solve the greenhouse problem. Nuclear power is incredibly good news for conservationists! Anyone who paddled up the Franklin River in the 80s or took part in rainforest actions should be greatly relieved their good work in those times does not need to be unwound to accommodate large scale renewable energy.

  4. John, if you knew about their ecosystem impact you must have understood what it would take to scale renewable technologies, if you understood that, how could you have believed renewables were sufficient?
    I had no idea of the scale at which they would need to be deployed and thus no idea of their ecosystem impact. Indeed one of the reasons I supported them over such things as clean coal and nuclear power was because I believed they were the more environmentally benign option. That is still true of most of the people I talk to on this subject – and the majority of my peer group are of the non-anthropocentric, deep ecology, persuasion. Fairly or not (and I think not), they see the anti-wind groups as self serving whingers who are prepared to sacrifice the the future of every last ecosystem on this planet because of relatively minor inconveniences. Until people are disabused of this belief I don’t see how nuclear power can ever take hold in Australia

    1. Simple reason is, I hadn’t thought deeply enough about it, and also hadn’t really thought about nuclear power for a very long time, so had a bit of a blind spot in that direction. This is probably true for a lot of people in Australia.

      1. “…and also [I] hadn’t really thought about nuclear power for a very long time, so had a bit of a blind spot in that direction.”

        OK, true. If there appears to be no alternative I can see how a destructive rash of turbines and panels might look better than losing absolutely everything.

        Luckily for me, only a few months after the full inadequacy of an all renewable ‘solution’ had dawned on me, I experienced my first ‘green’ introduction to nuclear power. It came in the form of a UK doco which I stumbled upon quite by accident one evening. Frustratingly, I never discovered its name, or the presenter’s (he claimed to be an ex-member of the UK Greens (Mark Lynas?)), but anyway, it got me thinking about nuclear power again even while I remained cautious and a little resistant. A few months after that, Barry told me about IFR, I read ‘Prescription for the planet’ and I was hooked.

        That short few months between realising the futility of the all-renewable path and first ‘discovering’ the positives in nuclear power was a pretty dark, despondent time for me. I reckon a Damascus Conversion was on the cards.

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