Thursday, April 13, 2006

Sea Shepherd opposes Cape Wind project

Add to the growing list of opponents to Cape Wind's proposed windmill farm on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound the no-compromise direct action organization Sea Shepherd. Captain Paul Watson, founder and president of Sea Shepherd and once co-founder of Greenpeace International, told this reporter that "this project is a threat to seabirds and as a marine wildlife conservation organization, we represent our clients, marine wildlife and this Cape Wind project is not in their interest".

Back in December, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. came out against the project in an op-ed piece in the New York Times. Kennedy, a seasoned and highly respected environmentalist, wrote "Environmental groups have been enticed by Cape Wind, but they should be wary of lending support to energy companies that are trying to privatize the commons". In the article Kennedy went on to point out the ecological drawbacks of the project point by point in a reasonable and respectful tone. Important questions of the projects potential air and sea traffic safety have also been raised. Almost before the ink was dry on the page however, a storm of controversy arose and it has been brewing ever since.

Some backers of Cape Wind took the low road, attacking Kennedy and using some of the same corporate tactics and name-calling they themselves have been subjected to in the past. It hasn’t been very pretty. Others, like John Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA, cast doubt on the integrity of Cape Wind opponents with statements such as "The opponents of Cape Wind would have you believe that to protect the environment, we need to oppose the wind farm", as if their efforts were contrived and their motives of concern for the environment were less than genuine.

Paul Watson says, “The position of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society on Cape Wind is that we are in full support of Bobbi Kennedy Jr.’s position. We also agree with Mike Roselle". Roselle, one of the founders of Earth First! also sided with Kennedy and took his attackers to task on his website. It makes for strange bedfellows given that Kennedy is very much a product of establishment politics, a lawyer and NRDC stalwart, while Watson and Roselle are leading voices in the radical direct action segment of the environmental movement. In addition, while most working class fisher organizations oppose Cape Wind's plan, as do many area residents, some of the members of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound are millionaire yachtsmen. Perhaps even stranger is the fact that Massachusetts Republican governor Mitt Romney also opposes Cape Wind's plans, though more likely for reasons having to do with his presidential aspirations rather than any concern for Nantucket Sound and those who dwell there.

Regardless of the strange alliance of opponents, what seems lost in the ongoing argument brings us back to Kennedy's statement about privatizing the commons. While it may seem odd coming from a nominal patrician, the fact is that Cape Wind, the combined corporate entity of Energy Management Inc. and Wind Management LLP, intends to errect their industrial operation in public space, and not just any public space. Nantucket Sound, like the adjoining National Seashore where Thoreau walked the "Great Beach", is a national treasure. The question begs to be asked: would Cape Wind and its supporters propose errecting its derricks on the edge of the Grand Canyon? Maybe the Grand Tetons? Yellowstone? We think not, but proposing a windfarm or ANY industrial facility to be built in Nantucket Sound seems just as absurd when other already developed sites exist. In fact, given the growing intensity of storms in this day and age, one wonders why anyone would wish to build on the ocean at all.

Yes, climate disruption driven by a collapsing industrial civilization is a critical issue for the health and wellbieng, indeed the very survuval of the biosphere. Alternative energy facilities like windmills and solar voltaics, along with REAL energy conservation efforts, can help ease the increasing CO2 loading of Earth's atmosphere if they actually replace fossil fuel power plants (not anywhere near the needed attention is being paid to on-site power production for individual homes and businesses). But the question remains: just what are we going to sacrafice in order to stem the tide of global climate change? Will our grandchildren inherit a world of ruined land and seascapes developed for the maintainence of contemporary consumer lifestyles? Do we cast aside ecological integrity, the lives of countless other creatures and indeed unparralelled natural beauty so that we can continue shopping for the next big thing? We don't need to trash our natural biogems to "save the planet", we need to trash our unsustainable lifestyles, our deadly mindsets.

- d.o.

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