(and to National Trust members, come to that)
Britain’s birds are under threat from every side: habitat loss, urban sprawl, agricultural policies, domestic cats, and so on. So I commend you, as an RSPB member, for your commitment to conserving and supporting bird populations. Your concern does you credit. And equally, I commend members of the National Trust for their efforts to preserve our heritage and our wonderful country houses.
I’m sure you’ll be aware of the threat posed to birds by wind turbines, as I am. But recently, reading Matt Ridley’s wonderful essay on shale gas, I was shocked to read about the scale of the damage that turbines do to birds. Of course it’s difficult to get accurate figures, but an academic from Oxford, Clive Hambler, has done a study showing that in Spain alone, millions of birds and bats are killed every year by turbines. Not dozens, or hundreds, or thousands. Millions.
The industry accepts that turbines kill birds, but argues that more are killed by road traffic than by wind farms. This may be true, but wind turbines preferentially kill rare birds, raptors and migrating birds. Only a couple of months ago a rare white-throated needle-tail was killed by a turbine in the Hebrides, in full view dozens of twitchers who had hurried to the islands on hearing of the sighting.
Given the scale of the threat to birds, you’d think that the RSPB would be campaigning tooth-and-nail against wind energy. But not a bit of it.
They make some mealy-mouthed caveats about siting turbines sensitively, but they’re absolutely clear that in principle they’re in favour. They put the increasingly disputed and highly speculative threat of climate change, some time in the future, ahead of the lives of literally millions of birds today. This despite the fact that there has been no significant warming for best part of two decades, that predictions of an “ice-free Artic” are confounded by the facts, and that leading politicians like Tony Abbott in Australia and Günther Oettinger in Brussels are back-pedalling frantically from “the fight against climate change”. And despite the fact that through the course of evolution, birds have survived perfectly well in temperatures higher than today’s.
The RSPB is even applying to put a turbine on its head office premises in Bedfordshire. Pure gesture politics — it’ll do nothing for the environment. And for the birds, it’s the wrong gesture.
The National Trust, on the other hand, has a much better record. It repeats all the Warmist clichés about controlling emissions, but is generally against wind turbines, concerned for their visual impact in sensitive and historic landscapes (I’m much more concerned about their economic impact on industrial competitiveness and fuel poverty). And I’m impressed by headlines like “National Trust declares war on 25 wind farms”, and “National Trust comes out against the menace of wind farms”.
So what to do? If you share my concerns, please join your local anti-wind-farm group (or send them a cheque). Please write to your MP telling her what you think. And above all, please write to the RSPB, and tell them that unless they change their policy on wind energy, you’ll cancel your subscription. (You could send the money instead to your local anti-wind-farm-group). And thank you.