The Limits to (Green) Growth


Birds Swarming a Wind Turbine

In The Not-So-Green Mountains (, an interesting thing is occurring: for the sake of clean energy generated by windfarms, Green Mountain Power is razing wild forest in the mountains of Vermont.  This exposes one of the central problems of the modern lifestyle.

Even the most environmentally friendly forms of energy come with some ecological – and often socioeconomic – costs.  In addition to leading to biodiversity loss and deforestation, windfarms can also be catastrophic for migratory species.  Unfortunately, as in the Red Sea/Rift Valley Flyway, the wind conditions that are propitious for energy are also used by migratory soaring birds.  See here (pdf, 1.5MB) for a detailed report.  Similarly, hydropower, while ostensibly cutting down on fossil fuels and GHG emissions, require the transformation of river ecologies, and contribute to eutrophication, and variation in microclimates.  This is not even to mention the dislocation, and occasional human rights violations, that can occur when local communities are displaced for dam construction (pdf, 53KB), as in China.

There are limits to green innovation.  While necessary, it will not alleviate our human impact on the environment.  Perhaps as much attention should be paid to reducing our demand on energy as there is to finding new sources.  In any case, assuming that we can innovate our way to no net environmental impact is deeply problematic.

One thought on “The Limits to (Green) Growth

  1. Trotter Oberrender

    I never thought of the damage that wind turbines inflict on the environment around them. Like many people I have the naive view that only focuses on the “green” aspects of the energy producing turbines. This view is shared by many other Americans and I believe it is a major reason that major investments into new environmental friendly technologies have not been executed. Our demand for energy is not only effecting the atmosphere. It seriously effects the nearby species and ultimately its local environment. We as a population need to realize that the problem is not solely in our technology, but more importantly in our increasing demand.