The Windmills of Kim Jong il

In case I should be misunderstood, I think the environment is a proper cause for concern. Anyone who has seen the mauvish-grey pall that overhangs large tracts of the country even on a fine day, or has breathed the air of an Indian or Chinese industrial city, will not lightly assert that the state of the atmosphere is of no interest to us.

But recently, being in South West Wales, I decided to visit Dylan Thomas’s house in Laugharne. The countryside around is lovely, but not very far from Laugharne some of it was disfigured by those huge white windmills that are as ugly as they are no doubt profitable to some well-connected businessman or men.

I do not know whether these windmills are efficient from the energy-saving point of view, or how many years of electricity generation it will take before they pay for themselves. But what I do know is that the presence of only a few of them can ruin the landscape for miles around. In other words, we have to destroy the environment to save the environment.

It is my suspicion that the very size and dominating nature of these constructions is a large part of their purpose, at least when placed in a beautiful landscape that they ruin. They are what huge statues of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are in North Korea, that is to say not merely the visible symbols of an ideology, but a reminder to the populace of just who is boss round here (as everywhere else). For this reason, the more beautiful the landscape that is ruined the better: for it is not by dominating the ugly wastelands with which our country is as richly endowed as with beauty spots that the point of the environmental ideology will be got across. No: not until there is a windmill on every horizon will the point be made. The question is, as that great political philosopher, Humpty Dumpty, put it, who is to be master, that’s all.

That the ideology should be convenient to certain pecuniary interests is no surprise: almost every ideology is. We live in corporatist times: not a regulation but some small group reaps the profit. But that is not by any means the whole explanation. For environmentalists, the environment as an abstraction is more real than the environment as a mere landscape. Let the heaven fall, so long as emissions are cut.

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