You hear it from the talking heads at every “green” organization: they say the only way to save the planet is solar and wind renewable energies and we must ditch coal, oil, and natural gas. What some of these groups fail to realize is that not only are the alternative energies not as effective, not able to sustain the energy needed to power even a small city, but they violate principles of leave no trace designed to protect and preserve the environment. Specifically, they violate the principles of using a durable surface, respecting wildlife, and respecting other visitors.
Wind energy, which is collected by turbines, is often touted as a reliable source of renewable energy. In Paul Driessen’s Eco-Imperialism it is pointed out that to power the country solely by wind only 1% of the land mass of the U.S. would need to be used. What one might miss and Dreissen explains is that 1% of the land in the U.S. would roughly be the size of the Commonwealth of Virginia. This would make an enormous impact not only in the sheer size of land needed to be used but the materials to make these turbines must come from somewhere. Thus, a massive impact would necessarily have to be made to make wind energy viable. The surfaces used would have a long recovery time thus violating the principle of using durable surfaces.
Further, this forest of turbines would then pose a serious risk to migratory birds. It is estimated that annually 328,000 birds killed by turbines, according to the Biological Conservation Journal, most of them protected species such as raptors and eagles. These are species which had they been killed in these numbers by oil fields or coal refineries would have shut down those operations. In being such a hazard to the birds, turbines violate the principle of being respectful of wildlife.
Turbines also ruin the natural vistas which people love to see and enjoy. This is why for the most part they are put seemingly where no one will see them such as West Texas. Their unsightliness is also why in Cape Cod voters roundly rejected having turbines put; they knew that turbines would detract from the scenic views which are a highlight of living in that region of Massachusetts. Being unsightly they violate the principle of being respectful of others. The outdoors is meant to be enjoyed by all and blocking a magnificent view certainly helps no one.
Now it would be unfair to say that Coal, natural gas, oil, and other energies which we use today do not also violate these principles. However, they do so on concentrated impact and to a much smaller scale both in terms of total numbers and based on the amount of energy they put out in exchange for the violations. The Wind is not, at this time, a viable option not only as its impact is great and cannot sustain today’s energy needs without assistance from energy sources listed above. Leave no Trace is going to be violated in all instances what we should seek as a society is the least impact on the environment. A forest of unreliable turbines is not how this will be achieved.