Solutions to the Wind Wars

Solutions to the Wind Wars

The debate about wind farms in Australia, including in Far North Queensland, was the subject of a recent ABC Four Corners programme, The Wind Wars. This mentioned a local wildlife photographer and environmentalist, Steven Nowakowski, and his work to stop wind farms in areas of high biodiversity.

While Friends of the Earth Far North Queensland commend Steven for his dedication to preserving the wildlife in our beautiful region, we are concerned that the debate about the siting of renewable energy projects has been hijacked and politicised. Other serious threats to a sustainable and safe future for our children and future generations are being minimised or even ignored.

The Nuclear Threat

While some wind farm opponents advocate nuclear energy, we cannot forget its sad, sorry history, including its appalling safety record, such as the catastrophic events at Chernobyl and in Fukishima.

The aftermath of Fukishima included hundreds of square miles of uninhabitable land, tens of thousands of relocated people, and billions of dollars of economic loss — ranking it alongside Chernobyl as one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters.

The disadvantages of nuclear energy are summed up well in Building Renewables to Benefit Nature and Communities, the joint statement by 14 Australian conservation groups, including Friends of the Earth Australia: 'Going nuclear would delay the transition to clean energy, increase household electricity bills, introduce the possibility of catastrophic accidents and create multi-generational risks associated with the management of high-level nuclear waste.'

The Threat of the Climate Crisis

As climate change denialists add their voices to the wind farm debate, we need to remember that continuing with coal and gas is not an option. Climate change is already impacting on the health and safety of both humans and nature, with an increase in extreme weather events, and is producing threats to the existence of entire ecosystems, such as the Great Barrier Reef.

Renewables A Better Solution

Friends of the Earth Far North Queensland believe that a rapid transition to less damaging forms of energy production, such as wind farms and solar energy, is urgently needed. However large scale renewable energy projects must be placed on degraded land, avoid wildlife corridors and the destruction of remnant vegetation, especially in areas of high biodiversity, and have community backing, including that of First Nations custodians.

Better Planning Laws

To achieve this, nature protection and planning laws at all levels of government need to be strengthened and the assessment and compliance units of these laws and regulations adequately resourced. These measures would benefit all involved, bringing certainty - both to those investing in renewable projects and to communities, while protecting nature and cultural heritage sites.

Living Within the World's Carrying Capacity

Transition from a growth to a circular economy is essential to stop over-consumption and energy waste, especially by the richest 1% of the world’s people. It is unacceptable that the super rich, produce 15% of the world’s carbon emissions: twice the combined impact of the poorest 50%. As George Mobiot, the British investigative journalist writes, 'The very rich claim to be wealth creators. But in ecological terms, they do not create wealth. They take it from everyone else. '

Diplomacy not Conflict

Australia now needs to develop an independent foreign policy that focuses on diplomacy and not arms sales and militarisation. In the decade to 2030, Australia plans to spend $575 billion on defence – resources better spent rebuilding after natural disasters and improving our housing and health systems. Global militaries are also helping to fuel the climate crisis. Indeed, they have a carbon footprint larger than Russia's, accounting for around 5.5%  of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

A Better Future

Friends of the Earth Far North Queensland believe that it is still possible to protect wildlife and biodiversity if we start to live within the capacity of this beautiful, tired world, transitioning rapidly to well planned, renewable energy projects.