Thursday, May 3, 2012

Winds of change

Giants tower over us.

From my cubicle at work, I look out over the harbor and see two shiny new wind turbines near the historic Unitarian Church – an anachronism to be sure.

I drive down the highway near my home and a 40-story wind turbine dominates the horizon for miles. Stamped with its brand “Philips”, it is a veritable billboard in the sky.

Sitting in our Dodge Ram at Fogland State Beach in Tiverton, I watch a wind turbine spin slowly across the Sakonnet River in Portsmouth, while the stiff sea breeze whips the water and buffets the windshield with sand.

Like them or not, wind towers are cropping up everywhere. They are the new skyscrapers dotting our landscape and seascape.

Flying into Ontario Airport in California in 1998, I rented a car and headed to a journalism convention in Palm Springs. Seared in my memory is the view of the rocky mountaintops covered by wind farms.

It took them awhile to make their way cross country, but they are now settling in New England.  

Whenever I see a wind farm, I think of Miguel de Cervantes’ literary masterpiece “Don Quixote” and his character’s attack on the windmills that he believes to be ferocious giants:

“Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, ‘Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.’”

"What giants?' asked Sancho Panza."

"Those you see over there,' replied his master, 'with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.'"

"Take care, sir,' cried Sancho. 'Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.'"

Wind turbines are here to stay. Wind power is a clean and renewable source, and turbines convert this energy into electricity emitting no pollutants.

We can embrace this technology, or we can be like Don Quixote battling these giant eyesores setting foot in our quaint New England towns and waterways.

"And so, to sum it all up, I perceive everything I say as absolutely true, and deficient in nothing whatever, and paint it all in my mind exactly as I want it to be," said Don Quixote, the crazed and kindly country gentleman who believes himself called upon to redress the wrongs of the world.
This wind turbine is visible from Fogland State Beach in Tiverton, R.I.

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