There’s a story in this morning’s Dominion Post (not on-line, I’m sorry) about a proposed new windfarm. It will have 50 turbines, each 130 metres high, spread over the hills between Porirua and the Hutt Valley, just above the Pauatahanui inlet.
The reason why it’s news worthy? It turns out that the turbines will be visible from all over the city, and while some people in some areas will see only a few, many people will be in sight of all 50 turbines.
Of course, there is a “Preserve Pauatahauni” campaign. Here’s what they have to say:
Local opponents of the $50 million wind farm have been labelled Nimbys (not in my back yard) by some, but Preserve Pauatahanui spokeswoman Diane Strugnell said the leaked information shows that all Wellingtonians should be concerned.
“There is a slow growing awareness that this wind farm is going to be something big,” she said.
“People are realising that if it goes ahead then they will never see the hills the way they are supposed to be seen.”
I never realised that there was a way that hills ought to be seen. There’s two problems with this claim, one just a matter of logical fact, and the other a matter of moral reasoning. This error of logic – Strugnell moves from an idea of what is – the way the hills are seen now – to an idea of what ought to be – the way the hills ought to be seen. It’s the is-ought problem, famously identified by the greatest British philosopher ever, David Hume.
In addition to being poor at logic, I think that Strugnell is also embracing the naturalistic fallacy. If it’s natural, it must be good. You should be able to think of at least five counter examples to that before lunchtime. It’s a classic error in moral reasoning, and people use it all the time.
But errors of logic and philosophical thinking I can forgive – they are common, and not commonly understood, and often enough are sufficiently obscure that they will only be identified by people who have studied a little philosophy or logic or argumentation.
What I find absurd about the claims by the Preserve Pauatahanui group, and claims by similar groups, is that a view, any old view, is somehow worth more than an environmentally sustainable way of generating power. We aren’t talking about an iconic Grahame Sydney landscape here. Sure, the hills around Wellington are nice hills, as hills go, but even then, the Pauatahanui hills aren’t a patch on the Orongorongo ranges, or the Rimutaka hill. So, nice view, but what’s the priority here? A view, or the planet? Or do the Preserve Pauatahanui people think that the hills ought to be sere and brown, burned to a crisp and dessicated by endless dry winds?
I think there has to be a compelling argument before a view would take priority over a wind farm. Not just this wind farm, but any proposed wind farm in this windy and energy-poor country. So far, the Preserve Pauatahanui nimbys haven’t given us one.