Life on the land has only gotten tougher. The cruel effects of drought, fires and floods, along with the strong Aussie dollar and challenging global markets, have pushed farming families to the limit. In many cases, diversification has been the key to survival.
Responding to changing market dynamics, consumer demands and weather conditions by moving into different crops, livestock and land uses can save the family farm.
It would be a brave outsider who ever demanded the removal of farmers’ rights to make those choices for themselves. Yet that is what anti-wind farm activists are doing.
They are saying individual farmers should not have the right to choose wind farming to help them drought-proof their properties, make better use of marginal farming land, or insure against market downturns. But for those farmers fortunate enough to live in some of the windiest places in the world, farming the wind can be the best option.
And those farmers are not the only ones who benefit. Wind farms also provide jobs for local communities and contractors, as well as an economic boost for struggling regional areas. At the Capital Wind Farm near Canberra, about $10 million went straight into the pockets of locals during construction. It went into the corner store, the local restaurant, motels and more.
Of course, appropriate regulations and community consultation should apply to any wind farm, as with any other piece of infrastructure farmers may choose — be it an extra shed, a tourist development, a road, a dam or a mine. Wind farms in Australia currently face the toughest guidelines anywhere in the world in relation to their siting, operation and permissible noise levels.
The wind energy industry is working hard to improve its consultation with and information to local communities. A lack of or the wrong information can understandably create anxiety for people who are not familiar with our new ways of producing electricity.
However, opponents of renewable energy seem determined to use wind farms as political footballs, fuelling the community divisions they claim to want to avoid.
They make inflammatory claims about noise — when a wealth of scientific research shows that noise from wind farms does not produce harmful effects in people. These disingenuous claims increase community anxiety and, like any form of anxiety, this can have an impact on a person’s health.
Those opponents also ignore the impact wind farms have on reducing our carbon emissions, and say wind energy is expensive.
But consider this: over the first six months of last year, Australia’s 1,188 wind turbines generated enough electricity to power more than 725,000 homes. If we are to move away from coal – which itself can create health issues – then wind energy is one of the cheapest sources we can roll out on a large scale.
Farmers should have the right to farm the wind to secure the future of their livelihoods and their families.
(Read IA environment editor Sandi Keane's exposé of anti-windfarm astroturf activists The Landscape Guardians by clicking here.)
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