A BLOT ON THE LANDSCAPE?

I was looking at the wonderful local scenery the other day and thinking about Wind Farms. One of the main arguments against them appears to be the assertion that the erection of wind turbines spoil the beauty of the natural landscape. I absolutely love the views that I see when I travel about the Scottish Borders, but how much of it is truly 100% natural.

I took a closer look at one of my photographs taken from Scott’s View; just how natural is it?

Well, the skyline silhouette and the sky above is certainly pretty much unaffected by man, although there will be times when aircraft vapour trails are temporarily visible.

On the other hand virtually everything else, apart from the general green colour and the course of the River Tweed, is in some way the result on human intervention. Without human intervention the whole landscape would probably be covered by wild forest, instead we can see patterns resulting from some areas having been cleared to create pasture and arable zones. At least one of the fields appears white due to the fleece covering to maximise crop growth. Other photos in my library show patchwork heather patterns on grouse moors, shooting butts, dry stane dykes, fences, roads, farm buildings, telegraph poles and electricity pylons. In fact, I would contend that the vast majority of the landscape here, although rural, is very much shaped by previous human intervention. Virtually all of the modifications have been as a result of humans seeking to create a more comfortable life for themselves and their families.

As we now seek to secure ongoing energy provision for the future, wind turbines offer a sustainable and less polluting method of generating electricity but the main objections seem to focus on the perceived effects on the landscape, despite the fact that so much of what is alleged to be natural landscape has been comprehensively modified by humans already. As a relatively new technology, we need to be very wary of less obvious problems, evidence is now suggesting that draining upland peat bogs for wind farm construction can increase carbon emissions from the drying ground. Personally, I find the sight of wind turbines to be rather reassuring as an example of humans working in tune with nature to harness the potential energy contained within our weather system. In the same way, a sympathetically designed dam will dramatically alter the upstream landscape yet will ultimately provide a fairly benign energy supply. I do accept that in the short term wind turbines may offer a very inefficient and expensive source of energy whilst the technology is developed. In the long term, however, we must learn how to best capture all sustainable energy sources that we can.

As we look to the future, and consider how we might ensure that we all have sufficient power to allow us to continue to benefit from the wide range of electrically powered equipment that enhances our lives, perhaps we should also look back and understand just how much of our environment has already been changed by human intervention. A great deal of what is accepted as going to make up engaging and wonderful scenery is very much shaped by human hands. I do believe that it is important that we continue to scrutinise construction and locations, but unless society can be persuaded to revert to one which consumes less energy, we will continue to need generation facilities, and they must be sited somewhere. There is a well known saying that ‘the camera never lies’ – that may not be entirely true, editing certainly can aim to influence; one photo that is widely published on the internet relies on the extreme foreshortening effect of ultra long zoom lenses to emphasise the appearance of the wind turbines at the Braes of Doune, which are around 14 miles away from Stirling.

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