What Will We Sacrifice for Wind Power?

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Cape Wind, a wind turbine project in Nantucket Sound, abuts the picturesque beaches of Cape Cod and has long divided Massachusetts residents. Many see the battle there as a proxy for nationwide debates over alternative energy. Now, just as the project looked likely to launch, two Wampanoag tribes have stalled the approval process by arguing that turbines would interfere with their morning rituals by obstructing the rising sun. They also object to the project's placement on other grounds: The tribes claim the Nantucket Sound seabed holds their ancestors' remains.

This adds a new aspect to a debate already rife with questions of ecology (some argue the turbines would disrupt wildlife), class tensions, and alternative energy skepticism. Upper-crust homeowners like the Kennedys loathe the plan, as do birders concerned about the effect on wildlife, while progressive fans of alternative energy are staunch supporters. Now the Native American objections are being added to the mix. But at the heart of the matter is a nation-wide question: What are Americans willing to sacrifice for a greener economy?

Here are some of the responses to this latest development:

  • Addressing Climate Change Requires Change  The New York Times editorial board thinks the "tribes' claim [is] ... unsupportable. 'Traditional cultural properties,'" the editors write, "tend to be defined areas--a ceremonial burial ground, for instance--not a huge, unenclosed portion of the ocean." So the objection is legally fairly weak. But the editors' main argument has to do with the need for alternative energy: "In Europe, wind farms are a familiar sight. If this country is going to do its part to address climate change, they must become more common, and welcome, here..."
  • Hooray for Special Interests  Matthew Gannon of Bostonist makes what is unlikely to win the prize for the most politically correct contributor to the debate. He snidely suggests attaching a "floating casino" to Cape Wind to "solve the newest dispute." He also throws in a jab at other Cape inhabitants, observing that "[p]eople seem to like the idea of Cape Wind unless they like to sail there."
  • In All Seriousness, This Is Hypocritical  Adam Bond of Coffee Shop Talk brings up casinos in earnest. He argues that the tribe's demand to ditch Cape Wind on minority religious grounds is gutsy: 
Many individuals--granted, the minority--oppose gaming in Massachusetts and in Middleborough for both religious and moral reasons. The Mashpee could care less about that minority where their casino interests are involved. They could care less that the visual landscape of Middleborough would change such that this same minority could reminded each day that the town in which they live is funded by an activity which they regard as sinful and which is direly contrary to their belief system.
  • But There Are Legitimate Objections to Cape Wind  Donna Egan, writing a letter to the Boston Globe, is tired of all opposition to Cape Wind being described as cynical or selfish. "I refuse to accept," she writes, "that, in order to be 'green,' I must stand aside and allow a corporate entity to steal our natural resources to make money for their investors, and must supply the tax dollars to underwrite the whole thing."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.