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Being green and the madness of crowds

Mark Gibbs | April 12, 2013
Some time ago I had a call with a company that ran data centers they claimed were "green." Their argument for their greenness was they purchased power with green credits, which meant they paid a premium for electricity to fund alternative energy programs. Along with that they had a car park full of solar cells.

What's true for Kermit apparently translates to our business. Some time ago I had a call with a company that ran data centers they claimed were "green." Their argument for their greenness was they purchased power with green credits, which meant they paid a premium for electricity to fund alternative energy programs. Along with that they had a car park full of solar cells.

I replied that this was great but what about the big picture? What was the total cost of producing, maintaining and disposing of their solar cells and all of the other "green" data center hardware? Were they on the right side of the balance sheet for the long term rather than the short term? This line of questioning seemed to annoy them and our call was rather shorter than I had expected.

The resistance to being rationally green cuts both ways: People will find arguments why their attempts to be green are good when, in reality, they aren't, while other people will just as often find bizarre arguments why a given green technology is a bad idea.

As an example of the latter have you ever heard of wind farm sickness? No? Well neither had I until I stumbled across reports that discussed a paper published in the American Psychological Association's PsycNET titled "Can Expectations Produce Symptoms From Infrasound Associated With Wind Turbines?" by Fiona Crichton et al. The abstract says it all:

Sounds worrisome, right? Well, in Australia reports of wind farm sickness have been circulating since the mid-'90s and you probably won't be surprised to learn that like so many similar #firstworldproblems it turns out that wind farm sickness is a "nocebo" ... the opposite of a placebo. A placebo actually does nothing but causes people to feel better while a nocebo is the reverse, that is, it actually does nothing but makes people feel worse. The study concludes:

The conclusion of another study by a group at The University of Sydney into similar symptoms reported by people living near wind farms in rural Australia concluded:

Simon Chapman, professor of Public Health at the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, has a great paper online that catalogs the "Symptoms, Diseases and Aberrant Behaviours Attributed to Wind Turbine Exposure," and as of March 13 this year includes 216 examples. My favorite quote from this paper is from an Australian politician who laid it on the line arguing that a nation embracing wind power would see:

And here in America we thought that gay marriage, pot, and entitlement programs were the downfall of civilization. How wrong were we? It was wind farms all along!

 

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