Friday, September 7, 2007


Look, I know it may have been a mistake to put my kid in charge of the camera on vacation – 490 photos is a lot. We have seven pictures of a pigeon, for goodness sake!

But there's one thing I took a lot of photos of – windmills. Not the quaint Hans Brinker and His Silver Skates windmills of yore, though we saw one, but the big ones. What we saw were those giant monsters with slow-turning blades each as long as a football field. They were so impressive and they were so pervasive that I took probably 20 pictures of them.

There's another reason I took so much notice of them. They are so important. I figured while I was in Germany and knew people I could ask, this would be a good time to learn a bit about wind power as it is practiced, not as the heated debates theorize here. So I asked my German hosts. They are quite proud of their windmills both because they are reducing the carbon footprint (as we say these days), and because it is helping Germany reduce its dependence on oil.

Germany has long been a leader in recycling and conservation (I remember in the late 70's having to sort through cans and paper and even the different colors of glass to throw into the community recycling bins that were located everywhere), so it comes as no surprise that they would be on the vanguard of wind power.

But we Americans don't like all this European tree-hugger, The Sky Is Falling and the World is Getting Hotter! bunk, right? We're not even sure if we believe Global Warming exists, let alone want to jump into some experimental, unproven and most assuredly ugly windmill farms – especially if they will obstruct my view of the great outdoors. Maybe some other state can do it – how about Vermont? – but not us, right?

To be honest, I found the windmills rather attractive, and as we sat in the train, my kids could not help but watch them with fascination. As far as I'm concerned, I welcome them as a much more interesting addition to the landscape than a lot of the McMansions or cell towers that we throw up so willingly. In fact, I don't see why windmills can't combine with cell towers. Or why they can't become tourist attractions. Those blades move so slowly, I bet you could sell tickets to rock climbers who want to scale them!

There is a theological side of this, too. God made the world and made us humans stewards of it. We are answerable to God for how we treat it and all that belongs in it. Even if there are questions about global warming – whether or not it is all it's cracked up to be, and all that – a Christian at least has a certain obligation to care for the creation, not merely exploit it. We also have an obligation to future generations, and even if you don't believe in global warming, there is no question that pollution hurts people, other animals, plants and the world as a whole. I certainly want my children to breathe clean air, have the energy they desire, and still know what it is to hike in the woods and drink fresh water.

Simplistic? Perhaps, but so are arguments that go something like this: "We're not sure global warming exists because some scientists say it doesn't, so why should we go to all the trouble of reducing carbon emissions and all that other stuff?" That sounds a lot like the tobacco industry of my youth that swore there was no valid scientific evidence that smoking could harm you. I've buried too many people who died from lung cancer to not think that, even if there is a potential threat that this might harm us, why not take it seriously?

And besides, I think they look cool.