Whilst driving around in my van this week, I was enjoying BBC Scotland’s reporting of Donald Trump making a fuss about off-shore windfarms being built within view of his swanky new golf course near Aberdeen. It is always amusing to hear the whining of people who think that their money gives them the right to do whatever they like. However, it did get me wondering about the balance between an area’s natural beauty and it’s industrial needs.
To kick things off, it’s important to draw a distinction between myself (a genuine appreciator of natural beauty) and someone like Mr. Trump who when he sees a beautiful landscape only sees the dollars (note-that’s dollars, not pounds) that he can rake in from it. It was after all the great man himself who has greatly compromised the natural beauty of the Aberdeenshire coast in order to build his precious golf course in the first place! Natural beauty is worth preserving for its own sake and not because of potential tourism revenues.
This debate has been going on though since the Industrial Revolution when William Blake’s ‘Satanic mills’ changed the landscape of this country for ever. The Industrial Revolution was the harbinger of modern capitalism and the rise of the modern city. These factors have changed the world forever and made many people’s lives a lot better and many people’s lives a lot worse. The Industrial Revolution swallowed up a lot of countryside through the growth of cities and the Renewable Energy Revolution requires large parts of the countryside to change.
So, where does the answer lie. Do we cover the countryside with windfarms and not worry too much about what it looks like at the end. The thing is that this question of beauty is one of perception. Personally, I think a country that makes use of its natural resources is a beautiful thing. This doesn’t mean that we just pour concrete over the countryside to our hearts’ content. Believe it or not, it’s actually pretty hard to get anything like a windfarm built anyway with all the checks and balances. Just this week, a friend of mine who works for the RSPB literally sat and watched a proposed windfarm site to see if it was in the flightpath of any bird species. Now that is commitment to the environment!
So let’s not worry too much about foreign investors who think they own the place. Scotland has an unprecedented opportunity to be at the front of something that will change the world forever. Let’s not waste that opportunity because tourists might not like it.