Its amusing watching governments and their green lobby group allies trying to dodge around concerns that might reflect badly upon their politically correct green projects. Recently Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips pronounced that bird and bat deaths from wind turbines were vastly overrated. The government estimates that only a few bird deaths per turbine occur on an annual basis, and apparently that’s a small price to pay to save the planet from climate catastrophe. The Minister referred to a federal government study that claimed that of 269 million bird deaths annually in Canada, 95% were caused by cat predation and collisions with buildings, vehicles, and power lines – windmills did not rate among the top death causes. One wonders how the study came up with that figure – did cat owners provide reports on the numbers of birds killed by their pets to a central database? Did animal bylaw inspectors report on every bird carcass found near tall buildings and power line rights-of-way? 269 million is a lot of dead birds – there must be piles of carcasses and bones somewhere for researchers to come up with such an enormous number. I know the study number is based on case studies using monitoring techniques of specifically measured sites and then extrapolated into a national measurement. It’s easy to poke holes into the figure – with that many millions of deaths you would think there would be dead birds raining down from skyscrapers every day. But when was the last time you saw any dead birds on downtown city streets? Perhaps street sweepers are remarkably efficient at cleaning them up. I doubt researchers ever asked those folks about the number of dead birds they found from building collisions.
It’s generally agreed (except by wind energy lobbyists) that turbines cause a lot of bat and bird deaths although it varies between sites according to local bird species, populations and migratory patterns. But here is the real inconvenient truth – the actual numbers are being covered up, mostly by landowners and windmill operators. That’s because the actual number of deaths would indeed be inconvenient. Several years ago, your humble columnist, in another capacity, assigned a reporter to approach landowners who had windmills about the number of bird and bat casualties caused by turbines on their property. The reporter was met with a wall of silence, resistance and denial. Access to the turbine sites was denied. Now if bird and bat deaths were as few as the wind energy lobby claims, why wouldn’t land owners allow access to sites for reporters to see for themselves? One thing that outside observers have noted is that there are always healthy coyote and fox populations around wind farms. I would suggest they didn’t get that way from chewing on sagebrush. The government and lobby groups state that monitoring studies have been done to prove that windmill bird deaths are just a few per year. Really, how was that done? Were scavengers excluded from the research sites? Were catch nets placed under the turbines? Was there a daily count made on site? I suspect not because the actual casualty numbers would likely be politically unwelcome.
The big problem is what looks like ideological collusion between the wind turbine business, wildlife and green lobby groups, and green-friendly governments. All of them support the ideology of politically correct green energy produced by windmills. That gives them incentive to suppress the annoying reality of bird and bat deaths caused by these killing machines. To be fair, wildlife groups have expressed their dismay at the losses, noting that they are probably much higher than the government estimates, but they seem very unenthusiastic about criticizing the government or suggesting it curb its zeal in creating more forests of windmills across the province. They tend to rationalize that windmills are still far better than coal-fired plants – ideological solidarity trumps bird and bat deaths. One does ponder how many birds died from those evil coal plants compared to the windmill death machines.
Finally, one can’t help the glaring comparison with the over-the-top response of the green lobby to a few hundred duck deaths caused by oil sands tailings ponds and their virtual silence on the annual slaughter of thousands of birds and bats by windmills. If these self-righteous groups had any moral fibre they would be suing governments for honest wildlife impact assessments of windmill sites. It’s another classic example of the perversion of political correctness. Shame on those conniving groups and government apologists. firstname.lastname@example.org