Monthly Archives: June 2012

Wind turbines are notorious bird-killers, so why are the RSPB building one?

Clashes between bird conservationists and wind farm supporters first arose in the early eighties, when deaths by collision blackmarked the sustainable energy ‘solution’ as a major threat to larger bird species. Species most at risk are be birds of prey and waterbirds, both of which are more likely to die from collisions, and have lower population growth rates and poorer manoeuvrability in flight. Bird charities such as the RSPB have since campaigned against many wind farm proposals, so why are they now building a turbine in their own headquarters?

Barnacle goose, Branta leucopsis, are particularly vulnerable to collisions

 Since the first wind farms were designed, much effort has been ploughed into reducing their impacts on nature. Whilst deaths of larger bird species are concerning, the RSPB has only objected to around six percent of wind farm applications across the country – the main cause of concern being migration routes.

It is still true that turbines cause fatalities, however studies have shown that, for every bird killed by wind farms, 5820 are killed by striking buildings. The RSPB stress that it is still important to monitor the risk of turbines, and appropriate precautions should be employed – locations away from populations of endangered species should be preferred, and those away from migration routes. Set to arise in Autumn 2013, the RSPB turbine will provide over two thirds of the RSPB’s electricity usage across the UK from its location in Bedfordshire. It will stand as a statement that wind energy, when harnessed appropriately, can be a useful tool in fighting climate change and providing a sustainable future.

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Australia’s controversial Coral Sea reserve divides critics

Plans to create a marine reserve that will become the largest protected area in the world have been announced by Australian officials last week, with controversy already rising about its motives and success.

The reserve will cover 3.1 sq km, enclosing the Coral Sea and Great Barrier Reef, areas of significant biodiversity. In the current context of marine protection, which is notoriously lacking, decisions to create the reserve should be highly commended, but closer examination has divided opinions of environmentalists and politicians.

Coral Outcrop at Flynn Reef, Great Barrier Reef – Toby Hudson

Restrictions on fishing, a major cause of conservation concern globally, have been estimated to cost the industry 36,000 jobs; compensation of 100m AUD has been suggested by Australia’s Environmental Minister. Whilst the fishing industry may resent the reserve plans, environmentalists have been quick to point out that 80% of the reserve will be open to fishing, two thirds of which may be commercial.

Oil and gas exploration is another issue. Burke declares the reserve to be “leading that next step [in protecting our oceans]”, but others claim the design to be heavily influenced by appeasing Australia’s oil and gas industries. A significant North-west region, where energy exploration has already been developed, has been left vulnerable, as are many lucrative patches around the framework.

With many conflicting interests to consider, such plans were certain to cause contention, but risk angering those concerned when sincerity and loyalty becomes questioned.

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