In early 2012, I stood underneath three silent, whirling blades. The wind turbine, half of Australia’s first community owned wind farm, purred quietly in the gentle breeze. My employer had organised a tour as part of a proposed development in Seymour, Victoria. At the time, I was working in a monitoring centre for six different wind farms. I volunteered to join the tour, hoping to address some of the more technical questions about how wind farms work in the national electricity market.
During the question and answer session, a man stepped forward and produced a crumpled piece of paper from his jeans. He demanded to know about infrasound, ultrasound, and electromagnetic radiation. He was concerned about the health impacts of wind energy, and he’d come to voice his apprehension. And, although his questions were disjointed, his anger was real.
Another attendee asked him to step back and give someone else a go. He reluctantly agreed, and walked to the back of the group. As he crouched down, he crammed a small white cigarette into his mouth, and lit it. In a single breath, he consumed 51 unique carcinogens, including carbon monoxide, tar, arsenic, cyanide, acetone, butane, freon and sulphuric acid. Smoking kills more people globally each year than all deaths from illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides and murders combined.
As he clasped the cigarette between his two fingers, sucking carbon monoxide into his internal organs, his other hand held the piece of paper.
The sight of that man drawing lethal chemicals directly into his lungs, whilst glaring at the tall, white turbine, turning slowly in the wind, seemed shocking and simultaneously fascinating, to me.