Keith Stelling, Owen Sound Sun Times
David Suzuki’s recent column asks the question: are “turbine effects merely the power of suggestion?” His own dogma that “wind power installations are a necessary part of the shift from polluting fossil fuels to clean energy” certainly sounds like the suggestion of corporate lobbying and government spin. In the real world, wind turbines can never replace fossil fuels because they need additional fossil-fuelled generation kept running inefficiently 24/7 as backup for fluctuating wind. This increases emissions and operating costs.
The more wind turbines are added to the Ontario grid, the more gas-fired plants will have to be built and supplied. Has Dr. Suzuki forgotten the warning about gas plants that appeared on the Suzuki Foundation web site? According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, they produce dangerously small particulates that have the greatest impact on human health because they bypass our bodies’ natural respiratory filters and end up deep in the lungs? “In fact, many studies have found no safe limit for exposure to these substances”. So much for asthma sufferers!
Like our new premier, Dr. Suzuki has suddenly become concerned for asthma sufferers. If one studies the record of Ontario electrical generation, one will discover that 40TWh of coal generation has been shut down since 2003. The coal was replaced by 60 to 80 TWh of nuclear power coming back online; 20 TWh of gas coming online; the system load dropping 15 TWh due to the economic crunch; but coal was hardly replaced by the 3 TWh of wind that generally produces often when the system does not need it. Comparing the Statistics Canada data for deaths from respiratory disease and asthma for the same period, one might expect a big drop due to the major reduction in coal use, but looking carefully, the drop is certainly not significant. In fact, the asthma rate is ever so slightly increasing while coal use drops. Curiously, neither Dr. Suzuki nor the premier is demanding the curtailment of diesel fumes from road transport traffic—one of the main triggers of asthma attacks in Ontario.
One is alerted by the uncaring flippancy with which he dismisses the suffering of those living near wind turbines as “only minor effects”. Dr. Suzuki is not a medical doctor. Nor does he seem to have read widely among the growing body of peer reviewed studies published in respected international medical journals that link wind turbines with health problems. Grey-Bruce Medical officer of Health, Dr. Hazel Lynn found 18 peer reviewed studies that found evidence of an association between wind turbines and distress among some people who live near them. The Superior Court of Ontario recently heard evidence from Dr. Robert McMurtry (former Dean of Medicine at the University of Western Ontario) that turbines are likely to cause “sleep disturbance, annoyance, headache, tinnitus, ear pressure, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, visual blurring, tachycardia, irritability, problems with concentration and memory, and/or panic episodes.”
Referring to a Sydney University report, Dr. Suzuki suggests that peoples’ symptoms are triggered by “health scares . . . by anti wind farm groups”. But in Ontario many people initially welcomed the turbines and did not experience adverse health symptoms until after they began operating and others who had eagerly signed leases also suffer the same symptoms.
Instead of making the effort to talk to some real people living near industrial wind turbines, Dr. Suzuki refers to an experiment at the University of Auckland in which psychologists tricked their subjects into believing they were being exposed to two ten minute periods of infrasound while they were actually exposed only to one. Such an experiment proves nothing about the day and night waves of low frequency energy that gradually sensitize the body of many people living near the turbines. Victims describe their inability to sleep owing to continuous, low-frequency “pounding” waves of infrasound that vibrate through them: a constant vibrating or pulsing sensation felt throughout their bodies but particularly in the head and chest when the turbines are operating. The only way to escape it is by leaving home. These are our neighbours– members of our community. Their health problems are not psychosomatic!
Dr. Suzuki concedes that “we have to be careful to ensure that impacts on the environment and animals such as birds and bats are minimized”. Has he spoken out against the disastrous bird kills at Wolfe Island –a government approved wind turbine site on a major migratory flyway which now holds the record for raptor kills in North America second only to California? Has Dr. Suzuki denounced the unforeseen cumulative effect, the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of significant wildlife habitat already being caused by the turbines and documented by international biologists? Reality shows that the government continues to approve turbine developments without any consideration of the damage they will cause to our natural heritage.
Has Dr. Suzuki warned the public of the government’s surreptitious dismantling of Ontario’s environmental legislation in the Green Energy Act or the Minister of Natural Resources issuing permits to wind developers to destroy the habitat of an endangered species because it claims this is of “overall benefit to the species”? (Is this the power of suggestion or the world of Alice in Wonderland?)
And what was Dr. Suzuki doing appearing as a celebrity guest at the opening of a wind turbine installation on Manitoulin Island, a fragile ecosystem that has been identified as the most biologically diverse island in all of the Great Lakes and part of one of the most important migratory flyways? A recent report by the U.S. Nature Conservancy and its Canadian counterpart warns that Manitoulin is most at risk of losing this biodiversity, due in part to future development.
To paraphrase Dr. Suzuki’s conclusion: “We must also be aware of false arguments” for wind power.