ABC Paying the Price for Disingenuous Articles: Giving Air to Anti-Wind Farm Ideologs

The ABC is one of the few local news sources I still pay close attention to. Over the past decade or so, I have systematically cut any interest in other news sources when I’ve found obvious bias and misinformation – largely in relation to ecology or climate change. As a blogger whom challenges misinformation, this is obviously detrimental to my cause and self-defeating in that I restrict my access to fuel. Be that as it may, it is a decision I made to preserve some sanity.

It’s disappointing that I stumbled upon an opinion piece by a Sue Taylor, titled Thousands of birds paying a high price for green energy, presented by the ABC.

It is a read littered with strawmen, side steps, leading questions and even what ought to be considered a hint of racism.

Sue proliferates her article with “who knows” statements and yet proposes many of these statements as evidence themselves. The numbers she offers for her claims leaves anyone paying any attention a massive room for error and while these meagre sources of evidence state one thing, she still thinks another “truth” is the reality. Here, I’m pointing out her claim about the impact wind turbines have on raptor birds.

This group of birds is renowned for being able to spot small rodents within similarly coloured grass from more than one hundred meters away. Sorry if I am a little sceptical of the claim that such birds are more vulnerable than other groups of increased mortality due to impact with massive white structures with slow moving blades tens of metres in length.

That said, I don’t doubt there are bird deaths due to wind turbines and certainly we must apply methods to ensure this is kept to a minimum.

However, Sue openly states that she thinks no death due to wind turbines is acceptable. Sue also gives us the stats on other causes of bird death due to human activity, all of which cause bird death rates many folds larger than wind turbines, but irrationally discards such comparisons as little more than apples and oranges. First the war might be on the wind turbine, but sooner or later, Sue would have to wage a war on windows and cars and cats and power lines and aircraft and KFC…

Put simply, it’s unreasonable to think that cause can occur without effect. By the sheer act of, well, activity itself, humanity induces effect. One could pick any area of human impact and point at detrimental effect, but we are not about to stop being. The argument is about minimising detrimental impact and ensuring persistence of species and ecosystems into the indefinite future. Until the majority of environmentalists reach this realisation they will continue to sit alone at the table, watching their message fail to change the rate of biodiversity loss and habitat destruction globally.

Environmentalism needs to evolve; the limp it suffers from is not beneficial in anyway.

Lastly,I cannot help but feel that Sue has spiced her article with a dash of racism. It is the only conclusion to be drawn from an otherwise pointless paragraph attacking the Chinese.

With the power of retrospect, the Chinese Four Pests Campaign, which initially included the Eurasian Tree Sparrow, seems a stupid and costly move on their part. But so does the indiscriminate use of DDT elsewhere. To the government of the time, it was a black and white situation; sparrows eat grains, therefore get rid of sparrows.

While the sparrow is not native to Australia and does have a detrimental effect on ecosystems, the same cannot be said for China. The sparrow is a local. Today we might argue that it’s a dumb move to eradicate a numerous species that obviously has important ecological and social function, but the Four Pest Campaign occurred around the same time Tasmanians were patting themselves on the back for killing off the Thylacine.

However, Sue props up this history about China, hinting that it illustrates a general disinterest in birds, alongside their massive contribution to wind energy. It’s amazing that she can separate wind turbines from other causes of bird mortality, stating the latter to be irrelevant, but make such a bold assertion that China’s historical attempt to control pests somehow translates to a general anti-bird attitude, tainting wind turbines in general (it’s not unlike the anti-fluoridation crusaders emptily raising the point that some fluoride compounds come from China, as though that is enough to damn the process entirely).

In short, I’m disappointed in the ABC for presenting such disingenuous writing, full of bold claims, unsubstantiated and inconsistent evidence and strawmen arguments, all sprinkled with the sour taint of racism. The original work was presented within the show called “Ockham’s Razor”, which is completely at odds with the inflated, opinion fuelled article they offered. Sharpen those blades!

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* I have dealt with anti-wind turbine advocates previously and have found them to be little different to the anti-fluoride crusaders. In both cases, the evidence base for their claims is fringe-science, at best or anecdotal at worst. To such people whom may stumble on this post within a Google search, please note: THIS ARTICLE IS NOT FOCUSED ON THE PROS AND CONS OF WIND FARMS. This article is entirely focused on critiquing the quality of an article proposing to offer a weighted argument. IF there is any truth to the claims that wind farms are bad, Sue Taylor didn’t provide it and I’m not looking for others to offer it in her place.

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9 thoughts on “ABC Paying the Price for Disingenuous Articles: Giving Air to Anti-Wind Farm Ideologs

  1. Hello Moth,

    Great piece. I work in the wind industry, and I deal with anti-wind chaps quite regularly. They are indeed quite similar to anti-flouride activists, in that they embrace pseudoscientific concepts regularly, in an attempt to push a non-scientific agenda.

    ABC environment were kind enough to publish my opinion piece on this:
    http://www.abc.net.au/environment/articles/2013/05/07/3750264.htm

    You might enjoy my blog too – http://etwasluft.blogspot.com.au/ – my latest piece is on anecdotal evidence again, and features my pet guinea pig.

    I agree with your points about Sue’s assertions. It’s a shame that the issue of bird strike is repeatedly considered in a non-scientific way, in public discourse. I noted her accusations that wind farm operators falsify reports of bird strike. That seems like a serious accusation based on literally no evidence. It was a shame to hear such a glaring logical fallacy on a radio show named ‘Occam’s razor’.

    Great stuff – keep it up.

    Like

    1. Sorry to say it, but I think your efforts with be for naught to the average anti-wind farmer. Being in the industry has you pegged for bias. I’ve been labelled as bias from an anti-fluoridation advocate simply because I adhere to empirical evidence derived from rigorous methodology. Seriously

      Thanks for the feedback. It took a day for me to digest. If I had written after I read her article, it wouldn’t have been of the same quality. I was mindblown that it was on the ABC website and advertised on their front page. I’m glad she didn’t start on the “wind turbines cause cancer” but she got close. I had to add that disclaimer down the bottom as I refuse to get drawn into the “debate” as I allowed myself with fluoridation and I’m almost holding my breath for the same types of comments I received when I started to comment on Qld’s changing attitude. We’ll see..

      Cheers for the links as well!

      Like

      1. Thanks! Yeah, it’s difficult – I’ve been meaning to write a bit more on bias on my blog, because it’s something I have to deal with regularly (both in terms of accusations but also noticing it in myself, when I’m not being careful).

        Also, thanks for the flouride article – great stuff and relevant to some research I’m doing at the moment 🙂

        Like

    2. Just read your ABC article. Great one! You might like this study; Lamberg et al, (1997). What they did was to look at the reported symptoms from people over a period where fluoridation of water supply was going to end. People still had symptoms when they thought they were exposed to fluoride even though it had stopped.

      Points you raised reminded me of it.

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      1. Fluoride is the reverse of the CO2 is good arguement . A little CO2 is good it keeps us warm plant food etc.
        A high dose of fluoride is poisonous so a small dose is also poisonous .

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  2. Hi Tim
    I heard this on Sundays Radio National hosted by Jonathan Green .
    It was full of people say , I am told , I have heard and so maybe statements .
    There was no science or studies quoted .
    If only she knew what trains do to birds she would be in a flap .
    being a train driver I hit at least five birds a year , you can’t help it they fly in front of you and I guess misjudged it and at 80 or 100 Ks well poor things dint have much hope.
    So there about 1000 drivers for Nsw railcorp so that is approx 5000 birds a year .
    That’s not including freight driver in NSW which could be the same .
    So just for nsw say 8000 birds a year .
    The bird are mainly created pigeons , cockatoos , owls at night they sit on the overhead wire waiting for prey , crows , magpies .
    I feel quite sad when I hit one

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    1. as there bones are very light . there is not much you can do as sometimes a big flock willjust fly in front of of you .

      So yeah listening to that made me mad .

      Like

  3. I would say windows particularly windows on high rise buildings dispose of many more boids than windmills.

    Like

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