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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/15/14

Betraying Vermont's Environment

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Message Suzanna Jones

Similarly, Hedges' perspective explains why environmental celebrity (and Vermont resident) Bill McKibben advocates the build-out of industrial wind in our last natural spaces -- energy development that would feed the very economy he once exposed as the source of our environmental problems. Behind the green curtain are what McKibben calls his "friends on Wall Street", whom he consults for advice on largely empty PR stunts designed to convince the public that something is being accomplished, while leaving the engines of economic 'progress' intact. Lauded as the world's "Most Important Environmental Writer" by Time magazine, McKibben's seat at the table of the elites is secured.

In this way the "watchdogs" have been inexorably transformed into "guardians of the faith". Now they actually help the powerful maintain control, by blocking the possibility for genuine solutions to emerge.

Environmentalism has suffered dearly at the hand of this disabled left. It is no longer about the protection of our wild places from the voracious appetite of industrial capitalism: it is instead about maintaining the comfort levels that Americans feel entitled to without completely devouring the resources needed (at least for now). Based more on image than action, it supports the profit system while allowing those in power to appear 'green'. This myopic, empty endeavor may be profitable for a few, but its consequences for the planet as a whole are fatal.

Despite the platitudes of its corporate and government backers, industrial wind has not reduced Vermont's carbon emissions. Its intermittent nature makes it dependent on gas-fired power plants that inefficiently ramp up and down with the vicissitudes of the wind. Worse, it has been exposed as a Renewable Energy Credit shell game that disguises and enables the burning of fossil fuels elsewhere. It also destroys the healthy natural places we need as carbon 'sinks', degrades wildlife habitat, kills bats and eagles, pollutes headwaters, fills valuable wetlands, polarizes communities, and makes people sick -- all so we can continue the meaningless acts of consumption that feed our destructive economic system.

Advocates for industrial wind say we need to make sacrifices. True enough. But where those sacrifices come from is at the heart of our dilemma. The sacrifices need to come from the bloated human economy and those that profit from it, not from the landbase.

We are often told that we must be "realistic". In other words, we should accept that the artificial construct of industrial capitalism -- with its cars, gadgets, mobility, and financial imperatives -- is reality. But this, too, is a Faustian bargain: in exchange we lose our ability to experience the sacred in the natural world, and put ourselves on the path to extinction.

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Suzanna Jones is an off-the-grid farmer living in rural Vermont.
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Betraying Vermont's Environment