Politics & Policy

A Mighty Wind

Where's the rich liberal sacrifice?

“The law, in its majestic equality” wrote Anatole France, “forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

But apparently not environmentalism. On that score there’s one rule for the rich and one rule for the rest.

Witness the current fight in Cape Cod over an effort to build wind farms just offshore. It features sanctimonious environmentalists, super-rich property owners, and super-rich, property-owning, sanctimonious environmentalists feeding on each other like big hungry sharks in a small tank.

The basic situation is that some environmentalists and a company called Cape Wind want to build 130 windmills way out in the ocean to help offset energy costs in the region–and to satisfy all those demands that we find substitutes for evil fossil fuels.

Meanwhile, other environmentalists and conservationists are eager to stop the wind farm from being built, largely because it will mar the view from their extravagant coastal homes. Leading this charge is Sen. Ted Kennedy, whose famous compound would have a nice view of the turbines. (To be fair, though most people say the turbines would be hard to see except on very clear days, and even then they’d be tiny blips on the horizon.)

But Ted wants no such thing spoiling cocktail hour on the veranda. So he drafted his famously green nephew Robert to join the fight–even though Robert is a senior lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which strongly backs the project.

Obviously, the reason this is so much fun is that the stakes are so small for everybody except a handful of people who deserve to lose. Personally, I couldn’t really care one way or the other. I think the aesthetic arguments have some merit, but I also think wind power has more potential than most of its critics claim. The windmills would ultimately provide about 75 percent of the energy used by Cape Cod and the surrounding islands, including Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard–in a clean, renewable form that, unlike older technologies, wouldn’t kill birds in an avian frappe. Seventy-five percent of the area’s power needs may be a rounding error when discussing America’s total energy consumption, but that’s a lot for any specific community.

But why get distracted by the merits of the issue when the real fun is to take a Nestea Plunge into the swirling waters of limousine liberalism.

A very quick search of the LexisNexis news database reveals that Senator Kennedy has called for more “sacrifice” from the wealthy roughly eight kabillion-jamillion-gazillion times during George W. Bush’s presidency (and forget about during Ronald Reagan’s!). He’s excoriated Bush’s tax cuts, the war, healthcare policies, and just about everything else for not demanding the rich share more in the “national sacrifice.”

Well, here’s their chance. This is not some symbolic hybrid car you park next to your Hummer. Recall Arianna Huffington’s passionate campaign against SUVs? She made great sacrifices to rid the world of those guzzlers as she flew around the country in a private jet.

Well, here is something concrete the rich and famous can sacrifice for the little guy and for the environment: their views.

And, let’s be honest, it’s not a huge sacrifice. If Teddy really thinks his fat–or, if you prefer, “phat”–crib on the beach will be ruined by the prospect of having to look at some windmills 5-13 miles offshore, he can swap pads with me.

The opponents of the project have made every ludicrous claim in the book, proving that environmentalists will even lie to other environmentalists. The windmills will kill whales, cause oil spills, ruin fishing, etc. None of these things are true, and the honest opponents know it. This is simply NIMBY politics pure and simple.

When a reporter for The New York Times Magazine called Walter Cronkite, a windmill opponent, and asked him about the proposal, the retired newsman bristled at the suggestion that this was all about selfishness. But, he had to confess, that’s exactly what it is.

“The problem really is Nimbyism,” he conceded by telephone, “and it bothers me a great deal that I find myself in this position. I’m all for these (windmills), but there must be areas that are far less valuable than this place is.” The reporter prodded, and he said maybe the California desert would work. Isn’t that a bit far away to supply Cape Cod? Well, he added, “Inland New England would substitute just as well.” In fact, any place but here would do just fine.

It seemed to dawn on Cronkite that such honesty wasn’t serving his cause or himself: He interrupted his train of thought and implored the reporter, “Be kind to an old man.”

I’m all for kindness to old men, but let’s not hear fossilizing liberals like him, Kennedy, and Huffington talk about the need for the wealthy to make sacrifices anymore. And they better not get caught with one of those “Think globally, act locally” bumper stickers on their SUVs, either.

(c) 2005 Tribune Media Services


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