Monday, June 9, 2008

An Elegant Beauty

The first time I saw wind towers was at night when the pattern of their blinking lights across the cornfields echoed the constellations of stars in the sky overhead. The lights were interrupted by the graceful sweep of the blades and I was frustrated that I could not see more in the dark. By daylight, I find their beauty mesmerizing.

Those who visit with me have to drag me away, for I cannot get enough of their strange simple beauty. They are graceful and elegant yet strong and sturdy. When their blades move in the wind, they hypnotize. They are of nearly perfect classic aesthetic beauty with proportions of thirds and fifths. Their white towers and blades catch the sun and echo the brightest whites on the clouds on an overcast day.
The turbines make a low rumbling sound, quiet enough that you can have conversation and hear nearby grasshoppers and birds. The blades make a rhythmic whooshing sound as they slowly sweep though the air. I love to sit on the low steps at the base with my back to the metal so that I can feel the sound as I watch others in the distance do their slow dance.
I hope it is the clean energy they tell us it is. I know there are issues with the energy it takes to make and transport them and with transmission of the energy to where it is needed. I know there are questions about how to solve the gaps in the windy weather. But if such beautiful structures can give us energy from the wind that is clean and bounded only by the days the wind blows in places like Wisconsin and Illinois and the Dakotas, it will be a wonderful future indeed.


goprairie said...

Words. Some words describe terrible things, violence done to people. When we use those words lightly, using them to exaggerate some other minor thing, we lighten the meaning of the word, making it more common, less terrible, more trivial, with each passing use. So there are certain words I will not allow to be used lightly here.

That said, an unpublished commentor said what amounted to a statement that 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder.' and that he found wind towers to be a blot on the landscape, an eyesore, a crime against the land, something along that line.
To which I say "Come ON!" Surely the original travesty against the land was when the tallgrass prairie in these states was torn up, plowed under, obliterated, for the sake of agriculture, straight uniform bland repetitive monotonous rows of corn or wheat or soybeans or potatoes. This was an aesthetic crime, surely, to replace the diverse and interesting patterns of prairie grasses and prairie wildflowers with such mundane monoculture. But this was an environmental travesty of far greater measure, an entire ecosystem for all practical purposes totally destroyed. The destruction of the rainforest is a mere fraction of the magnitude of the destruction of the tallgrass prairie. Yes, there are remnants and gardens, but the whole of the grand sweeping prairie that served as habitat, as recycler of rain water, as relenisher of the aquifers, is gone to the point that is no longer functions at all.
So surely, the addition of a few wind towers on top of that corn or wheat land can hardly be that visually or functionally damaging. Surely the wind tower can be no more visually offensive that power transmission towers, radio or television towers, silos, barns, feedlots, wasted junkyards of parked rusting farm equipment. Surely the tiny footprint of the towers and their access roads that still leaves 98% of an affected field in production cannot be that functionally offensive.
But if you are a conservative, you don't see it objectively in terms of real benifits to real costs, you don't see the relative aesthetics or how it stacks up to other things that have been done to the land. You only see wind energy as a liberal issue and automatically bad. If you are a Bush supporter and you admit that Bush is pro-oil, you see wind as anti-oil and anti-Bush. If you were looking objectively, you would have to compare it to the travesty on the land of a strip mine for coal and the pollution and eyesore of a coal plant. If you were looking objectively instead of through your conserative lens.

Do you think a nylon box kite is pretty? Do you think those nylon spinner yard ornaments are kind of interesting and aesthetically pleasing in a way? Or at least not offensive? Well, I hope you agreed with those assertions, for now I am going to tell you that one of the new forms of generating wind energy is going to be helical nylon soft forms that spin on the ground or on tops of buildings. Oops, now that I changed it from a box kite to a wind energy generator, it went from potentially pretty to ugly in your conservative mind, didn't it?
Ah, well, aesthetics will have nothing to do with it in the end anyway. It will be decided on economics and environmental impact by decisions makers younger than us.

Paddle said...

Wow. Something struck a chord. I can guess what word touched this off. I agree that the use of extreme words for non-extreme circumstances belittles the actual events they were intended to describe. Well written.