Thursday, January 7, 2010

What is Green?

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A strip of California's Mojave Desert is the latest site of what is shaping up to be a new area of debate in the struggle towards a new "greener" future.

It's the location a company called BrightSource Energy has chosen to set up over 400,000 solar panels, in an effort to harness the sun's energy and help move the nation towards energy independence. It's also the home of two dozen endangered tortoises, the Western burrowing owl, and more than a few stately Bighorn Sheep.

Which raises the question: What is "green?" Which of these options is really helping us protect the environment?

This isn't the first time we've been faced with a conflict of interests in an effort to save the planet from the ravages of human habitation, or ask ourselves WWCPD? (What Would Captain Planet Do?) But the question is getting ever more murky.

Recycling, for example, has been the hippie go-to for decades, and one of the first thing we teach kids about environmental responsibility. But as it turns out, recycling of plastics can actually do more harm than good (though this argument doesn't stand for paper and glass). And wind turbines, another source of renewable energy, are also estimated to cause between 30,000 and 60,000 bird deaths per year, and may also interfere with bird migration patterns.

In the end, there is no simple answer. If it was up to me, I'd leave the fricking tortoises alone and pick a different spot, but they probably have their reasons. And I have no doubt whatsoever that these types of issues are only going to get more common as our past decisions come back to haunt us, and we're left more and more frequently caught between a rock and a sad place.

- Brit Trogen

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