We’re not buying what John Bennett of the Sierra Club is selling

by Rick Conroy, Wellington Times
Beware of folks who come to tell you the end of the world is near—they are inevitably trying to sell you something. While Harold Camping’s Judgment Day prediction, for May 21, didn’t pan out quite the way he figured, the U.S. radio preacher was lucky enough to fall back on about $80 million in donations he’d collected from his believers over the past few years. And so it was that John Bennett came to Picton last week—predicting doom and selling windmills.

Bennett is the executive director of Sierra Club Canada. The Sierra Club is an old and well-established environmental advocacy group, but one that is increasingly at odds with other nature and conservancy groups lately over its staunch defence of industrial wind factories and their developers in the face of growing harm to humans, animals and habitat.

Even Harold Camping or Al Gore would have blushed at Bennett’s hyperbole. Speaking with the hubris and certainty only snake oil salesmen can muster, Bennett sounded the alarm—warning council that climate change was the “greatest environmental threat the world has ever seen” and “on par with nuclear war.”

Then without missing a beat, and seemingly missing the irony in his own words, he proclaimed himself a man of science. “Without science all is lost,” Bennett offered breathlessly. “If we are going to have a debate about science it should be based on science and fact.”

Yet he offered no evidence. No science. No fact. All the committee got was opinion. One man’s viewpoint.

Bennett explained that his organization has reviewed the available literature and concluded that industrial wind turbines are safe, IF they are sited properly. Unfortunately he didn’t offer any advice, or specifications, about what “sited properly” means to him. The man of science was suddenly at a loss for precision or objective measure.

In fairness, Bennett wasn’t allowed to answer questions from the committee and perhaps that question might have come up. But for all his insistence on science, it was rather an important point to gloss over.

Asked after the meeting if the Sierra Club’s inability to find direct evidence of harm caused by wind turbines was the same thing as saying wind turbines don’t make people sick, Bennett emphatically assured this reporter it was.

“Absolutely, it means the same thing,” said Bennett.

Are we really at the end of knowledge? Do we really know everything there is to know about industrial wind factories and their effects on humans and other creatures?

DDT was used widely to control mosquitoes for four decades—most folks thought it to be safe and effective.Their government told them so.Yet even in the early ’40s some were warning of hazards with the chemical. It took another 30 years to ban its use.

Dr. Bob McMurtry hasn’t said that industrial wind turbines are safe or unsafe. He and other physicians continue to document and monitor cases of sickness and health problems associated with these machines. They are on the front lines of the assault of rural Ontario by industrial wind developers.

McMurtry’s position—and that of many other groups, organizations, municipalities and individuals— is that the onus is on the government to prove industrial wind turbines are safe before inflicting them upon rural residents.They want, simply, an epidemiological study conducted in this province to assure residents that wind factories won’t put their health, or their children’s health, at risk.

This is a reasonable, science-based expectation. A review of literature tells you only what has been learned to date. It tells you nothing about the type, relevance, quality or comprehensiveness of the investigation that has been conducted so far. It is like sending your child to the fridge for milk and when he comes back empty-handed, accepting that you are all out because he couldn’t find it.The milk was there he just couldn’t see it—or chose not to.

But set all this aside—when someone comes to your door telling you the end of times is near and they are offering salvation in the form of a product— shouldn’t we insist that they demonstrate how their product will help us avert doom?

Shouldn’t they be compelled to show us how erecting thousands, nay millions of turbines, will fix climate change? Opposing wind turbines, and the policies that underpin their proliferation across the Great Lakes horizon, isn’t an argument for the status quo; it is, however, a demand that we invest in science and fact—rather than snake oil and doomsday predictions.


9 thoughts on “We’re not buying what John Bennett of the Sierra Club is selling

  1. Bennett bailed on a meeting he was to have near Strathroy with town council. I attented, and give a 15 min presentation on the pathetic output of wind based on my analysis and erged the council to not go ahead with wind. They were quite receptive. Too bad I missed Bennett, I would have loved to cross swords with him.

    They were also very surprized to find out that residents who put in $60,000 solar panels, which they sell the power to the grid, cannot have their property assessments increased. The Provinicial government has dictated that such panels, even though selling all the power to the grid, is just part of your heating system.

    Think I might build myself a coal fired mini-generator in my garage and sell the power to the grid…

  2. Well written and to the point. Most ” Green Energy ” supporters are missing the simple fact that all we want is scientific evidence. Not speculation. Where is the hard data proving there is enviornmental, economical, or social benefits to energy produced by windmills. Governments world wide seem to believe that we should just accept their idea that there is without hard data.
    These are the same politicians that have gotten just about every industrialized country in the world except India and China financially bankrupt with their hair brained unaffordable ideas.
    The most comical thing is when speaking to ” Green People “, if I ask hard questions, they have no answers other than I am anti – green. DEAD WRONG !! I am against ideas that are useless, uneconomical, unhealthy and proven to have no green effect.
    Show me the DATA saying otherwise from Ontario and other countries around the world that have these units running for years.

  3. Oh my, was this a normal day in the life of…….?
    Did the dog eat his homework?

    From above article:
    Bennett sounded the alarm—warning council that climate change was the “greatest environmental threat the world has ever seen” and “on par with nuclear war.”

    Wait a minute – 1st it was “Global Warming” – now it’s “Climate Change”
    – next the Cha, Cha, Cha…….

    Pssst! – I think it’s about money…..

    Mr. McGuinty decides to save the planet, re invents government, and this is what we get.

    My question is:
    – how many Billiions or Trillions will it take?

    Wise words to pass along to our children:
    “To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.” – Thomas Jefferson

  4. The author chose a bad example… Note that I am referring to the original author of the study that led to the ban on DDT retracting his claims many years later. In that sense it is a good example of how easy it can be to get it wrong… for whatever reason.

    DDT was used widely to control mosquitoes for four decades—most folks thought it to be safe and effective.Their government told them so.Yet even in the early ’40s some were warning of hazards with the chemical. It took another 30 years to ban its use.


    In 1968 two researchers, Drs. Joseph J. Hickey and Daniel W. Anderson, reported that high concentrations of DDT were found in the eggs of wild raptor populations. The two concluded that increased eggshell fragility in peregrine falcons, bald eagles, and ospreys was due to DDT exposure.9 Dr. Joel Bitman and associates at the U.S. Department of Agriculture likewise determined that Japanese quail fed DDT produced eggs with thinner shells and lower calcium content.10

    In addition, later research refuted the original studies that had pointed to DDT as a cause for eggshell thinning. After reassessing their findings using more modern methodology, Drs. Hickey and Anderson admitted that the egg extracts they had studied contained little or no DDT and said they were now pursuing PCBs, chemicals used as capacitor insulators, as the culprit.20

    It is tough to get the science right — isn’t it?

    I don’t buy much science these days without a good deal of thought. I think he chose a bad example and one indicative of the urge to “do science” to get headlines — or so it seems now.

  5. So Mr. Bennett, who as far as I know is not a medical professional and not qualified to state categorically that wind turbines cannot cause health problems, is advising municipal councils on this matter. He should consider carefully the wisdom of this course of action.

  6. The environmental movement has been extremely successful in promoting hysteria for their various causes, be it DDT, PCBs, radiation, Global Climate Catastrophe, or just plastic bags because fear and panic is what garners headines. Religions of every persuasion have employed this technique since the beginning of human history. Nothing fills the collection box faster than a little guilt.

    Much of that time, science and religion were at odds with each other. Now that our secular society has generally accepted that the earth is not flat, it is useful for the religion of Gaia to co-opt science and brand all alternate ideology as heretical.

    (If) when the ICC runs out of war criminals, they will simply rebrand themselves as the International Climate Court.

  7. The Sierra Club must be going another route: that of coercing other, minor, environmentalist organizations. Here in the Ottawa area, they have Ecology Ottawa mounting a campaign to save the Green Energy Act because otherwise it will cost us clean air and clean jobs by the thousands! Appalling.

  8. Here is a thought for the day about Environmental Pushers, Scoundrels and Mavens…


    Linda Pilkey-Jarvis
    Washington Department of Ecology
    Orrin H. Pilkey
    Duke University

    Useless Arithmetic: Ten Points to Ponder When Using Mathematical Models in Environmental Decision Making

    Lesson 7: Models may be used as “fig leaves” for politicians, refuges for scoundrels, and ways for consultants to find the truth according to their clients’ needs. As Pogo so famously put it, “We have seen the enemy and he is us.” Models can be misused as fig leaves behind which policy makers hide to promote a policy or make an unpopular decision. This is what happened in the failure of the Grand Banks cod fishery in the early 1990s. Beginning with the Portuguese,
    the banks were fished for 500 years. The failure of the fishery off Labrador and Newfoundland, Canada may well have been the end of the greatest fishery the world has ever known.

    There is lots more in that very readable article. After you read it think about every scare you have ever pondered or read about.

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