The impacts of climate change are being felt by all, whether it is the smoky haze of forest fires, the late-May heat wave, the long dry spell that has farmers relying heavily on their irrigation systems, or the ever-present threat of ticks and Lyme disease. The recent proposal to install wind turbines in our region presents an opportunity for us to do our part in slowing climate change while providing direct benefits to our communities.
Tackling climate change demands a broad and urgent response. We need to stop using fossil fuels, which means electrifying our vehicles, buildings, and industrial processes. Even with efforts to reduce demand for electricity (for example, well-insulated buildings and efficient vehicles), we will still need to increase the supply of renewable electricity to replace our current demand for fossil fuels.
Wind turbines are a means of producing renewable electricity locally with only a modest impact on the landscape. They can coexist with agriculture since they have a small footprint, and farming can continue on the surrounding land.
Some of the concerns raised at a recent public consultation were about the aesthetics of the turbines. Our region is a working landscape, not untouched wilderness. Wind turbines may seem new and strange now, but they are a continuation of the other ways in which humans have shaped this landscape over the centuries as we transformed forest into pastures, fields, orchards, barns and silos.
An unstable climate puts farmers’ livelihoods at risk. Leasing land for wind turbines can provide farmers with reliable supplementary income in the face of uncertainty from extreme weather impacting crops. Rural municipalities can also benefit from financial returns that can be shared with the community.
Historically, Quebec has benefited from cheap renewable electricity produced by large hydroelectric reservoirs on Indigenous land up north. In the context of the violence perpetrated on Indigenous communities for centuries, it is morally untenable to assume that we can keep flooding Indigenous land to meet our energy needs. Furthermore, generating electricity locally is more economical than relying on large dams in the North and thousands of kilometers of transmission lines.
We have dedicated our careers to mitigating the effects of climate change, and adapting to the changes that are already underway, by tackling the energy consumption of buildings (Evelyne) and reducing the transportation sector’s reliance on fossil fuels (Jeff). What we have learned through our work is that rapidly scaling up renewable electricity production is crucial for a stable climate. To quote author, educator, and environmentalist, Bill McKibben, “Emergencies demand urgency.” Climate change presents a far greater threat to this landscape and way of life than a few turbines on the horizon.
Evelyne Bouchard and Jeff Turner