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Being green and the madness of crowds

Mark Gibbs | April 12, 2013
Some time ago I had a call with a company that ran data centers they claimed were "green." Their argument for their greenness was they purchased power with green credits, which meant they paid a premium for electricity to fund alternative energy programs. Along with that they had a car park full of solar cells.

Let me bottom line this for you: The people experiencing wind farm sickness were caught up in a mass hysteria driven by misinformation and, most likely, campaigns seeking to weaken and block the wind farm market.

Sadly, the willingness to join in mass hysteria, to believe something is particularly good or particularly bad, and for that belief to affect a large section of the population, is nothing new. In fact, there's a great book on the topic that was first published in 1841 titled "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds is a history of popular folly," by Charles Mackay, a Scottish journalist.

Mackay's book discusses large scale manias such as "the South Sea Company bubble of 1711-1720, the Mississippi Company bubble of 1719-1720, and the Dutch tulip mania of the early seventeenth century," proving that "group think" and mass hysteria is nothing new. Need I cite the recent Internet and housing bubbles?

So, what might have triggered this mass hysteria over wind farms? Well, it turns out that a book railing against wind farms as a health hazard combined with anti-wind farm activism may have been the starting point. Published in 2009 "Wind Turbine Syndrome: A report on a natural experiment" claims:

Add to that an anti-wind farm lobby with a few bucks to spend and you have the perfect mixture to thwart or at least slow down wind farm development.

While most of us would probably not choose to live near a wind farm if only for aesthetic reasons, the idea that "low frequency noise and infrasound appear to be the chief disease-causing culprit" would appear to be discredited and a poor rationale.

Even so, people will oppose something like a wind farm for any reason whatsoever, even to the extent of convincing themselves that a wind farm miles away is making them sick.

Being green is, indeed, not easy and the madness of crowds makes it that much harder.


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