Originally $26.99, Nunavik is available through my online book store for $18.89! Learn about a northern Inuit village and meet the musk-ox than roam the tundra. Free shipping to U.S. addresses!
Alright, so up to this point I have cited all the advantages of wind turbines. Unfortunately, their downside is that they kill 140,000 to 328,00 birds in North America, annually. Both the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the Audubon Society support the growing use of wind turbines, provided they are properly sited—the one known, effective means of minimizing wind turbine bird strikes. The major reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is paramount for our biosphere. To ignore the threat of climate change would not only threaten far more birds over time, but most of the current flora and fauna.
We now know that birds migrate along the same flyways each season. The Atlantic flyway, passing through New York, extends from the bottom of South America to the Canadian Tundra. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends that all new wind developments consider: avoiding bird migration routes, places where raptors’ prey congregates, and water-filled landscapes that would encourage birds to flock, such as wetlands. These are guidelines only, however.
There is current testing of technical approaches, including: using purple turbine blades (white attracts insects which then attract birds), bird averse lighting systems, and GPS/radar the latter designed to detect flocks in time to shut down the turbines. However, the effectiveness of these approaches are not clear at this time.
This is all I have to say about wind turbines. I still have to get one more good panorama when I have the best evening sky. I will place a collection of my wind turbine photographs in my online gallery soon. I will let you know when I do.
Please contact me with any questions or comments about our growing use of renewable energy.
As regular readers of this blog know, I have presented aesthetic, environmental photographs to raise people’s awareness of the threats to our environment posed by global climate change. During the past few years I have studied the likely effects of climate change on public health. So, I’m pleased to announce that I have been invited to take part on a panel this fall at the Association for Applied & Clinical Sociology to discuss the relationship between climate change and health, along with the policy implications for reducing climate change’s threat.
I’ll have more to say on this over the coming weeks. In the meantime, you can find a climate overview in NOAA’s 2018 Global Climate Report.
This past winter I began thinking about what might be an interesting local photographic project. Then, while on a trip through the countryside, I rediscovered wind turbines that I saw along the hilltops. So, I began exploring some of these fields from the surrounding roads. I will admit that my bias is towards renewable energy. I have no financial ties to any energy company (except for my monthly utility and gasoline bills). Rather, my bias results from data. Fossil fuels are not only warming the planet, but they will run out at current consumption levels over the next 50 to 100 years. The geological, climatic, and biological data (presented earlier on this website) all point to the critical importance of finding alternate energy sources.
Beginning in March I began photographing the turbines under different weather and lighting conditions and eventually got access to photograph some of the turbines up close. Contrary to what you might have heard, they
only make only a soft whirring sound. To my ear, it is almost as pleasant as listening to the surf. There are times, however, when some become noisy, producing whistling or other noxious sounds. This is due to rough surfaces developing on the leading edges of the blades from wear and tear, or small blade holes caused by lightning strikes. However, power companies replace the blades once noise becomes a nuisance. The turbines in this field (almost 100 of them) are certainly tall, standing 280 feet to the hubs with each blade extending out to 120 feet. And they are even taller in the west, some going 500 feet to the hub!
While I will grant you that wind turbines are not as aesthetic as trees and
flowering plants, they do present a majestic look over the landscape. Although many communities have rejected these (particularly when proposed for
offshore), they have a small footprint and have far more grace than traditional power plants. They take little time to erect and when finished the land is not compromised so crops or cattle can be farmed. Some folks almost have them in their back yards.
Wind turbines are not the total solution to our energy needs. There are several forms of renewable energy besides wind: solar, hydroelectric, biomass, hydrogen and fuel cells, geothermal, and tidal. Collectively, these sources will diversity our energy grid as the cost of these technologies decrease. This would have the added advantage of minimizing the risk of power plant shutdowns due to damage or maintenance.
I will present more photos and comments about wind turbines in future posts. I will add the best photos to my online gallery later and I anticipate a printed photo exhibition in the more distant future.
Do let me know your thoughts, positive or negative, on renewable energies.
You can learn more about wind turbines, including engineering information and references, from Wikipedia.
Located at the eastern end of Lake Erie, the Dunkirk power plant, built in 1950, now burns natural gas, though coal can still be used as a backup fuel. As you can see, the stacks no longer emit that dense smoke plume as in years past. Coal only produces about 1/2% of New York State’s power. In 1950, coal power generated nearly 46 percent of electricity in the country, making it the largest power source at the time, according to the Energy Information Administration. However, by 2017 natural gas had overtaken coal , generating about 34 percent of electricity compared to coal’s 30 percent.
Still, natural gas emits some particulates, along with carbon dioxide. While natural gas is a step forward, greenhouse gases will continue to raise global temperatures, most pronounced at the poles and in the seas, at an alarming rate. The computer models all show that the planet’s flora and fauna will be drastically affected by the end of the century. Many coastal cities will be partly under water, agricultural land will be displaced, and summer heat will become dangerously high.
Nova recently aired a two-hour special on climate change, showing each step of how scientists from a range of disciplines have demonstrated how the level of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases such as methane and water vapor) have caused global temperature change over the past 800,000 years. Scientists have also documented the fossil fuel signature of modern carbon dioxide molecules, showing how they differ from those carbon dioxide molecules produced before the industrial revolution. This is the “smoking gun” proving not only that the global temperature is the hottest in 800,000 years, but that the warming climate is caused by human activity.
The documentary concludes with the political and economic realities, and the policy strategies needed to address this global threat. Addressing climate change is a formidable challenge not only because of politics and economics, but also because we not only have to stop emitting carbon dioxide, we have to go carbon negative to stop the steady increase of global temperatures.
This not only means producing nearly all of our power from renewable energy, it also means using far less power—leading us into what I call neo-industrialization. More on this in a future post.
Will we do it?
Even if you disagree with the findings of climate scientists, this Nova special is well worth watching. It is always useful to be familiar with one’s opponents’ arguments and evidence to know what one is refuting.
It really looks like the far North for a short while here on America’s north coast. Since fresh water begins to freeze at 32º F, you can get what looks a lot like Arctic ice, as shown in the first photo of Charlotte pier at the mouth of the Genesee River.
People love to build along the water, so clearly evident with the large estate in the second photo. Although the lake-level can be somewhat controlled via international agreement (see my earlier post about Great Lakes flooding) this house is vulnerable to flooding, due to changing climatic conditions. Nevertheless, it looks like a pretty nice place to be in June through September.
If you’re interested in photobooks about the natural environment and climate change, you can preview these at my bookstore. Nunavik, Exploring Maine’s Coast, and Shrinking Bird Populations contain wonderful photos examining these topics, each in their respective settings.
If you’ve searched for unique photos to grace your walls, my bookstore will show you the prices of my photos and direct you to my online gallery.
Please contact me if you have any questions!
You might recall from my post of March 12, 2017 that I returned to film using my old Yashica TL-electro 35 mm camera. It has been a slow process looking for good photo labs, being disappointed in their results and costs, then learning to develop my own film (originally with Mark Watts). The latter included loading the film developing reels in the dark and using film chemistry. At first, I was producing poorer quality negatives than the labs, many full of spots and chemistry blemishes (my negatives still are not perfect, but I am almost there.) I also had to relearn to use a manual camera effectively—no auto-advance, no autofocus, no zoom, no semi-auto exposure, no adjustable ISO or exposure meter. Yikes!
Therefore, with this camera in hand I recently shot some snowscapes this past February (some on a 15° F day). I take the social constructionist view that the photograph does not convey one objective impression; rather, each individual can see it differently (though there are some photos where the majority of people have the same impression, as with Alfred Eisenstaedt’s Winston Churchill. Of course, the then leaders of the Axis powers would not have had the same impression.
Having said this, I will give you my reason for shooting this particular subject along with my interpretation of these photographs. Photographically, winter displays form and texture–essences; it is a time
when nature converts to monochrome. Foliage is gone, most animals are gone or hibernating, and many plants are dormant. The natural environment, simplified, becomes a metaphor for reflection. For me, the reflection is on life. Although much of life dies with winter, it feeds the next cycle of spring growth. And it all begins with massive stars. All life forms are born of the physical elements originating in stars at least 8 to 15
times the solar mass of our sun. At the end of their relatively short lives (the larger the star the shorter its life) they cast the heavy elements they produced in their cores into the universe with supernova explosions. Stardust containing these elements eventually begin to coalesce around new or existing stars, creating planets, some of which are in the “Goldilocks zone” (i.e., not too hot, not too cold, thus providing for the possibility of liquid water) opening the potential for the evolution of life.
Among animals, adults teach their young, except in the case of humans, the young also build on the social, cultural, economic, and scientific ideas of past generations. Winter reminds me that, in these respects, we are no fundamentally different from any other animals (though we like to think so). Clearly, this view is partly shaped by my training as a social scientist and my readings in the natural sciences.
So how does all this play out for me in the following photographs? With Silo I see the “dormancy” of a winter farm. The farm animals mostly inside,
the fields bereft of crops. However, it is not at all dormant. The farmer is planning the next season with equipment maintenance or replacement, placing orders for seeds and fertilizer, and applying for loans or federal agricultural grants. Unfortunately, recent seasons have seen heavier than average rainfall resulting in many lower lying fields flooded or made marshy during critical growing periods. I see this in ‘T‘ with the cattails in the middle of a several acre field. They do align in a somewhat pleasing T formation, however. Agricultural fields across the globe are under threat, due to climate change that results in precipitation, temperature, and insect variations; soil erosion and contamination from mining and fracking pose additional threats.
Loose Bark shows me a dead tree in Washington Grove within Rochester’s Cobbs Hill Park. During its life, it sheltered birds, mammals, insects,
mosses, and other life forms. It absorbed atmospheric carbon, gave off oxygen, and kept the ground beneath it cool in the summer. Eventually, high winds will knock it down where upon various fungi, worms, ants and termites will feed, decay it, leaving its remaining elements to be absorbed into the soil to one-day support new life. I see the culmination of this process in Snowbound where a baby tree grows in a picnic area at Hamlin Beach. It absorbs the nutrients from the soil of its plant, animal, and massive star predecessors, where perhaps one day a picnic table will be placed beneath it.
I would greatly appreciate receiving your interpretations, different as they might be.
We are truly entering Orwell’s age of doublespeak ( i.e., language used to deceive, usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth). One such example is the Trump Administration’s deletion of the term climate change from government websites (and funding agencies are suggesting that applicants do the same in their federal grant proposals), so it is up to the rest of us to keep this term in the public’s eye. Yes, the vast majority of us believe that climate change is occurring as we witness extreme weather events and fires in the west.
Long before producing hydro-electric power, the Allegheny was one of our original producers of petroleum. The Bradford oil field was founded in 1875. By 1881 it was the world leader in oil supply, producing over 90% of U. S. oil (26 million barrels per year); oil production
continues to this day (750,000 barrels per year, compared with 24 billion barrels worldwide). As I hiked along the North Country National Trail, I came upon an oil well. At first, I thought it was an abandoned relic until I noticed a modern electrical panel and motor. You could smell crude oil around the area. As I continued hiking I came across yet another, also with the smell of crude.
Today, a large refinery sits on Route 6 in Warren with large tankers coming and going. Given that the river wraps around two sides of the refinery, and busy Route 6 on the third side, the only vantage point for a photograph was at the west end. Unfortunately, with employees coming and going, and the security related to refineries, I felt pretty uncomfortable taking photos (I’ve previously been approached by security people photographing other facilities). The Kinzua Dam was an exception since it accommodated visitors and photos outside its gates.
Even if we had known early on how burning fossil fuels would change the planet, given that evolution has wired us to pursue short-term benefits for survival, and our transition to an industrialized economy enabling a higher standard of living for some, I suspect that we would have continued down this road, just as we have done over the past 40 years.
Our intelligence and our technology have given us the power to affect the climate. How will we use this power? Are we willing to tolerate ignorance and complacency in matters that affect the entire human family? Do we value short-term advantages above the welfare of the Earth? Or will we think on longer time scales, with concern for our children and our grandchildren, to understand and protect the complex life-support systems of our planet? The Earth is a tiny and fragile world. It needs to be cherished. (Carl Sagan, Cosmos, New York: Random House, 1980, p. 103)
I will show some photos of the flora I encountered along the North Country trail in my next post.