Precautionary double standards
By Rich Kozlovich
Jessica Marszelek, federal politics reporter for Australia's News Limited Network, recently posted an article titled, "Australia: Wind power 'terrorising' rural communities." Some 150 people turned up for a three-hour rally at Canberra's Parliament House, she reported, to express their concern about the health effects of wind turbines.
The residents from small towns around the country complain that the giant turbines cause "a constant rumbling and pulsing in their heads and a feeling of oppressive anxiety," she noted. "Everyday farmers" are upset over growing numbers of turbines in their communities.
"Retired Naval electronics engineering officer and beef farmer" David Mortimer receives Aus$12,000 a year to allow these avian Cuisinarts on his land, and 17 more are planned. However, Mr. Mortimer says he now "suffers night-time panic attacks, acute anxiety, heart palpitations, tinnitus, earaches, headaches and angina-like pains, and his wife has dizzy spells."
Doctors can't find anything wrong, but the problems continue, and he claims that he gets "this sensation of absolute acute anxiety, and it feels like someone is pushing an x-ray blanket over me and weighting me down into the chair and I can't get out. We've got this constant turmoil, constant pulsing in our head, constant rumbling," he continues, and is afraid the added windmills will kill him and his wife.
Clean Energy Council Policy Director Russell Marsh dismissed the claims, saying no international research has confirmed the health impacts attributed to wind power. One rally attendee said there is "not enough research into the effects of wind energy."
I don't know whether more research needs to be done – though the dearth of such studies seems unjustifiable – or if these monsters of the skyline really are causing any or all of the health problems these people are suffering. However, there is a monumental lack of consistency in all of this.
These are essentially the same kinds of complaints, comments and anecdotal evidence that the green movement repeatedly raises over just about every chemical on the market, and every drilling, pipeline and other hydrocarbon development proposal they dislike. These are the same speculative, anecdotal arguments that prompted governments all over the world to pass anti-chemical regulations such as the European Union's costly, burdensome and complex regulatory system known as REACH.
In the USA, REACH has inspired the Safe Chemicals Act of 2011 ( SCA), which is intended to replace the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), supposedly to "modernize" the country's chemical laws. In promoting the bill, the late Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) said it would impose "a mandate on companies to confirm safety before chemicals reach the market."
In short, he wanted to impose the Precautionary Principle (PP), which asserts two precepts.
First, all products must be proven totally safe under all circumstances before they can be used – which is physically and scientifically impossible (and the greens know it). It's like demanding that spouses prove they aren't cheating on their mates; it can't be done. Second, even if there is no scientific evidence of harm, everyone should assume there is harm and forbid the sale and use of – well, just about everything.
As one observer noted, with the Precautionary Principle, "no evidence is needed that something is harmful or even could be harmful." In many cases, no amount of scientific evidence is ever enough to counter the argument that a refinery, pipeline, nuclear power plant or other technology is "not proven safe" beyond all doubt – even if it is "astronomically unlikely" that a particular harm would occur.
"The Precautionary Principle insists that no new technology should be permitted until it can be shown that it will pose no threat to human health or the environment," environmental analyst Paul Driessen adds, "even if there is no evidence that cause-and-effect dangers actually exist." This too is impossible.
The PP "focuses on the risks of using chemicals and technologies – but never on the risks of not using them," Driessen notes. "It highlights risks that a technology might cause, but ignores the risks that the technology would reduce or prevent."
This brings me to the thrust of my concern. Why aren't these assertions of adverse health effects from wind turbines – especially from citizens who are receiving royalties for having turbines on their property – just as important as wildly speculative claims by green activists regarding insecticides and other chemicals? Why isn't the Precautionary Principle being applied in this case?
We absolutely know these monsters are killing at least 573,000 birds every year, including some 83,000 eagles, hawks and other raptors – in clear violation of US laws. Other estimates put the toll at closer to 13,000,000 birds and bats annually. Why are the "precautionary" activists stone-cold silent about that?
Larry Katzenstein, in his chapter in the book Silent Spring at 50, credits Rachel Carson's work as the inspiration for the so-called "principle." The PP can certainly be traced to Europe, where it was first brought up in the context of the 1969 Swedish Environmental Protection Act. That's probably why the "principle" is so deeply entrenched in the EU, compared to the rest of the world, and was included in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty.
As Katzenstein points out, "In the united States Silent Spring's popularity spurred enactment of key federal laws that embody aspects of precaution regulation: the National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act; the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act; the Safer Drinking Water Act, Environmental Pesticides Control Act, Toxic Substances Control Act and Endangered Species Act." The PP may be a European creation, but "it was inspired by Silent Spring, as was REACH."
Rachel Carson's real legacy, the Precautionary Principle, has become a potent weapon for anti-technology activists. The problem with regard to consistency get larger as we come to realize that whatever they support is permitted; whatever they oppose violates the precautionary principle. They support windmills; therefore there is no violation. They oppose fracking; therefore it violates the principle.
Moreover, as Driessen has observed, eco-activists "never use the precautionary dictum to control regulatory excess, by insisting that regulators refrain from implementing new regulations, policies or energy programs, until they can prove their proposed actions will not harm people, wildlife or the environment." In the view of activists and regulators, regulations exist to delay, block or destroy things they oppose. The fact that regulatory actions may well cause prolonged energy deprivation, poverty, unemployment, disease, malnutrition or premature death is irrelevant to them.
Returning to where we started: Why do "eco-minded" activists, regulators and politicians fail to use the Precautionary Principle to assess the harmful effects of wind turbines on birds and bats, and thus on insects and other pests that these creatures control? Why do they fail to consider the impacts that constant subsonic noise and vibrations from wind turbines have on human health and welfare? Because these are deliberate oversights!
The hard reality is that the green movement does not care about facts, wildlife or humans – and logical consistency is totally alien to them. Advancing environmentalism as the secular religion of urban atheists is all that matters. Green elites "know" what is best for all of humanity. The Precautionary Principle is merely another weapon to promote junk science and Hard Green ideologies, in order to destroy every advancement mankind has made over the last 100 years – advancements that have given us better, longer, healthier lives than at any other time in history – and to keep others from enjoying those blessings.
We need to understand that and stop pandering to these misfits. Why is that so difficult to grasp?
Rich Kozlovich is the owner of Pest Management, Incorporated and is active in local and state pest control associations. He also publishes Paradigms and Demographics, an online pro-humanity blogspot.