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Leap Manifesto's Energy Policy Leaves Rural Dwellers Out

09/27/2015 08:06 EDT | Updated 09/27/2016 05:12 EDT
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Wind Turbines (isolated with clipping path)

Naomi Klein, the bestselling Canadian author whose books trash free markets and advocate socialism, released a short statement called the "Leap Manifesto" on September 15, perhaps to stir up a rather dull federal election campaign. The Manifesto is nonsensical in many ways, but one blunder that -- sorry, I must use this word -- leaps off the page to rural dwellers is its contradictory demands regarding energy production.

On the one hand, the manifesto insists that the country begin an immediate shift towards producing electricity entirely from renewable resources. This apparently means solar and wind energy.

But the very next demand says this: "The new iron law of energy development must be: if you wouldn't want it in your backyard, then it doesn't belong in anyone's backyard."

It would appear that Ms. Klein and her co-authors are oblivious to what's actually going on out here in rural Ontario. We are the backyard where all the wind turbines and solar farms are supposed to be built, providing "clean" renewable energy to clueless city dwellers. But guess what? We don't want these installations in our back yard either!

In fact, rural groups all over Ontario are up in arms about the construction of industrial wind turbines in their communities. Several are litigating in tribunals and courts to prevent it. Prince Edward County, where I myself live, is a hotbed of anti-turbine activity.

Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne told Ontarians when she took office in February, 2013 that she wouldn't impose such turbines on places unwilling to take them. A spate of municipalities -- 91 at last count -- passed resolutions declaring themselves to be "unwilling hosts". But the Ontario government continues to approve the construction of wind turbine projects within those unwilling areas. Evidence that the turbines cause adverse health effects to nearby residents -- including sleep disturbance, nausea, migraine, vertigo, loss of cognitive function, high blood pressure and cardiac events -- has been deemed insufficient to stop the turbines during recent litigation.

Nor is wind the only renewable energy source that people don't want in their back yards. A planned solar farm near Marmora, Ontario -- SunEdison's Cordova project -- has plenty of opponents among neighbouring property owners. At a recent public meeting I attended, farmer Russ Coens compared the project to putting a giant roof over 1,000 acres of farmland. This would alter the run-off patterns of the rain, the wind flow over the land, and the temperature of the soil, he alleged. Neighbouring farms like his, he feared, would be flooded. Others are fearful for the well-being of endangered species and migratory birds near the solar farm.

Whether these concerns will prove to be warranted or not, the point is that under the Leap Manifesto, the very existence of opposition to having one of these renewable energy developments would mean there should be no industrial wind turbines or solar farms at all, anywhere. The Manifesto doesn't mention nuclear plants, but we know there are plenty of people who don't want them in their backyards either. And since the Leap crowd also opposes pipelines, "exploding trains", fossil fuels and carbon emissions, one has to wonder what, exactly, they are planning to use to power their utopian economy.

Sounds to me as though they are planning for all of us to make a great leap backwards, to the caveman days.

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