Monday, February 26, 2007

Value conflict on the road to energy

The future of the environmental movement is in energy. With world population on the rise, a climbing domestic GDP, and India and China emerging as major players in the global market economy, the environmental movement must navigate an increasingly nuanced energy crisis. Ostensibly, the environmental battle of the future is waged against mining, drilling antienvironmentalists. However, upon closer examination, the true battle is one among environmentalists struggling to protect not only the planet but also the concept of place. Thus, while crusading against the extraction and burning of fossil fuels, the movement must simultaneously withstand a potentially divisive ideological conflict between environmentalists who seek to save Earth from global warming with the development of renewable energy, and those who want to protect specific places.

One of these places is Nantucket Sound. In 2001, New England energy developer Jim Gordon began plans to construct a power plant in the heart of Nantucket Sound. Fast forward to 2007, the so-called Cape Wind proposal has spawned trench warfare between environmentalists who favor renewable energy development in Nantucket Sound and environmentalists who contend that the costs of altering the cultural, historical, and aesthetic integrity of the Sound outweigh the benefits of Cape Wind. Disharmony amid environmental values has forced members of the movement to make difficult choices about the use and preservation of Earth’s resources. And yet, there is no silver bullet to trump global warming, keep the earth pristine, and increase energy production.

I believe that is it the task of the environmental movement is to address demands for cleaner energy without abandoning the places that communities have been built around. Nantucket Sound defines the culture, history, and character of our communities on Cape Cod. The Sound is a place in inherent worth and intrinsic value. We cannot allow this sacred place to become the home of an industrial powerplant.

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