Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bird-huggers vs. Tree-huggers ........ Is there a clearly defined difference?

In a recent issue of MacLean’s Magazine readers of Andrew Potter’s article titled, “Bird Huggers vs. Tree Huggers” (20 September 2010), were left confused and unsatisfied. Potter provides his arguments regarding both the usefulness and uselessness of wind turbines in today’s world, making several strong and unproven claims to present to the readers his views on the matter. Furthermore instead of using valid information to provide a solid background he uses irrelevant fact and cites poor scientific knowledge to form a weak and unclear argument to which he later contradicts himself.

He begins the formation of his argument with the views of avid bird watcher Margaret Atwood, stating, “at the very least, global warming doesn’t appear to her to be anything worth sacrificing a few birds or a nice view over.” (Potter 2010) From this opening information Potter does two things, he provides irrelevant information about the opinion of someone that has nothing to do with the subject at hand, and in such a way that he gives the first impression of his own opinion: that Atwood’s view of the matter is ridiculous.

By degrading the views of one, Potter presents his opinion on the matter in which he later contradicts himself providing ‘all the good reasons to oppose the development of large scale wind power’ (Potter 2010). He supplies claims to support the negative impacts of wind farms, from there expensive nature to the fact that they reduce negligible amounts of greenhouse gases without actually providing any scientific fact for these claims. Any numbers provided were inaccurate and irrelevant, as one reader was to quickly point out with a little research into the matter. Potter claims that wind turbines do almost nothing to reduce green house gas emissions as wind is not blowing all the time. While it is true that wind turbines are unable to provide steady and expected power, it is essential to realize that wind power has not been created as a complete replacement for fossil fuels but as a partner that assists in reducing even a fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions. At this point the author has attempted to convince his readers that wind power does not significantly reduce carbon dioxide levels and that they are a waste of money, a waste of space only proving to be successful at one thing, harming bird populations.

When the reader finally has some inkling of where the author is taking them, Potter changes course and takes them in the opposite direction. He strongly claims, “The central thesis of the call for renewable energy, and thus the entire rationale for building wind farms, is that the future of that human race is at stake” (Potter 2010). With this he leaves the reader puzzled; is this his true view on the matter, or is he somehow trying to degrade such views? Making this claim, he then poorly backs it up with a clearly defined anthropocentric viewpoint. This anthropocentric viewpoint destroys his earlier comments about the wind farms harming bird populations. Not only that but he gives the impression that these wind turbines is what will save the human population, and we are forced to remember, did he not just finish saying that wind turbines were not beneficial in any way? At this point he has destroyed any faith that the readers had in coming to an informed conclusion on the matter.

However it his next comment that destroys any hope in being provided even reliable factual information when he states, “birds, are pretty resourceful creatures [and can evolve the ability to avoid gigantic whirly white things]…. It might take a number of generations, and we might lose an attractive species or two along the way…” (Potter 2010). This completely defeats the argument made earlier about wind farms harm to birds and in an uneducated arrogant way. Is he forgetting that species diversity is an accurate interpretation of the health of our plant? The only thing made clear by this statement is his deprived ideas of evolutionary principles and time involved.

While finishing the article, the reader realizes that the only thing made clear in this article is Potters dislike of the views of famous author Margaret Atwood on this matter. Instead of focusing on degrading the views of one, his argument would have been much more productive if he were to provide factual information supporting his point of view and falsifying the opposing view. While he provided the readers with the opposing viewpoints, Potter was unsuccessful in providing valid, scientific information supporting or disputing both viewpoints. He was also unsuccessful in making his own opinion on the matter clear; with his argument proving to be weak for both sides of the matter. His inability to come to a clear, informed opinion leaves his reader with the same problem; the only conclusion they were able to come to was to never subscribe to a MacLean’s magazine again.

Potter, Andrew. “Bird-huggers vs. tree-huggers.” Macleans, 20 September 2010.

With some background information from:

Snyder, B., & Kaiser, M. “Ecological and economic cost-benefit analysis of offshore wind energy.” Renewable Energy: An International Journal, (2009) 34(6), 1567-1578.

Liz Staples


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