Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Airing our dirty laundry

This is a letter submitted by Jacinta Faber for publication in the Readers Forum of the Hays Daily News:

I am writing in response to Karen Mikol’s column “Time to Inject Respect Into Wind Debate” (July 4). Her main thesis—that we ought to behave civilly in civil society—is a laudable one, but I disagree with one point she makes. Ms Mikols points out that “some residents have stretched the freedom of expression past appropriate limits.” Of course, there are limitations to our free speech here in the United States, limits which have been established by legal precedent, such as speech posing a threat to our national security and speech that is obscene. And defacing signs--a violation of private property rights--goes beyond the limits.

But a public debate concerning the placement of a half-billion dollar industry in Ellis County is not something that should be limited. Such a debate is not only preferable but necessary. Justice Beverly McLachlin of the Canadian Supreme Court in a 1993 ruling described the utility of freedom of speech: “Freedom of speech promotes a market place of ideas, which includes, but is not limited to, the search for truth.” The opposition’s goal is to challenge people’s pre-established beliefs, if they have any, about proper siting of an industrial wind operation and to educate the public on the poor design and execution of the zoning regulations in Ellis County.

Ms. Mikols warns us of airing our dirty laundry by placing signs on I-70. She thinks that being up front may deter businesses from coming into Ellis County. But, of course, people deserve to know what situation they may be stepping into. In public policy decisions, there will be winner and losers, but our right to free speech is necessary to guarantee that the process leading up to the decisions is above board, open and visible to all. The history of this project would indicate that the decision-making has been anything but above board. Since 2002, while people were building homes in the Woodland Plains Addition, CPV and the lease-holders were quietly making big plans to set turbines near the area. According to family members of lease holders, whenever the topic of the potential wind project was broached, silence would ensue. If the company, the lease holders, and even the county commissioners had been more open about the project and courting more input from the community, how different things might be today.

Without freedom of speech, important issues are hidden from the public’s view. When I worked in occupational therapy out of town some years ago, I had a patient who exhibited all the symptoms of Creutzfeld-Jacob Disease, the human form of Mad-Cow Disease. This gentleman had worked in a rendering plant, where he handled the entrails, brains and other parts of the cow. Unbelievably, he and his workmates would sometimes eat the raw brains of a cow. I passed this information on to his physician. There is a definitive test for Creutzfeld-Jacob. The doctor acknowledged the possibility but refused to perform the test, basically stating that we don’t want to go there. Why? We do not want to hurt the beef industry, an industry which is very important to the Kansas economy. Thus we will keep it hidden. Similarly, there is now a documented case of a child’s health being affected by living in near proximity to modern wind turbines. There have been complaints the world over, but the wind industry and those with close ties to it refuse to acknowledge these problems. Why? They want to claim ignorance when problems do arise; they don’t want to air the dirty laundry for fear of the economic consequences.

I say let’s air our dirty laundry. There seems to be plenty of it.

--Jacinta Faber

No comments: