Croakey on Crikey

I’m now busily doing research for my part 2 on the Evidence Review portion of the Australian NHMRC’s recent health report, following my part 1.  An early step is to find all the references they listed – there’s 29 of them, of which 2 are duplicates, leaving 28.  Two of the 28 are from one Simon Chapman.  The first of these was an entry on a blog, at crikey.com.au, by one croakey.  Those ever-so-stodgy professionals at SWV mentioned croakey by name along with words like “ridiculous” and “astounding”.  Intrigued, I went off to see what croakey was about.  The reference itself was of little value one way or the other, but the search led me into some more interesting areas.

Before I get into the more interesting areas, let me dispose of the original reference.  The health review used it to buttress their contention that the health effects the neighbors are reporting are all in their head, put there in part by people like me: It has been suggested that if people are worried about their health they may become anxious, causing stress related illnesses. These are genuine health effects arising from their worry, which arises from the wind turbine, even though the turbine may not objectively be a risk to health (Chapman 2010). Chapman 2010 in turn points to the crikey blog entry.  By any standards, a blog entry isn’t much of a reference, especially since proponents are so fond of peer-reviewed, scientific evidence and so on.  So right away there are problems with this cite, and SWV certainly noted them as well.

The blog entry [backup link] was signed by croakey, who apparently is Simon Chapman, a professor at the Univ of Sydney, best known as an anti-smoking crusader.  He is also the lead singer in a rock band, which may explain the moniker.   The entry is quite dismissive of neighbors’ complaints, suggesting that their fears are more relevant than the noise.  Chapman presents the AWEA/CanWEA Expert Panel Review as though it were Gospel, apparently not worried about its weaknesses.  This is all standard industry tripe, produced by people who have never left their offices.  He goes on to mention the cell phone panic, along with several factors that make these panics more likely, i.e. involuntary exposure, artificial nature of the exposure and trustworthiness of the developer.  Certainly all of the above isn’t sufficient to get me to create a separate post about it.

The other Chapman reference was a “personal communication”.  Isn’t that convenient?  Anyway, the personal communication was apparently used thus: Voluntary exposure, for example choosing to house the turbine on community land, reduces concern (Adapted by Professor Chapman from Covello et al. methodology 1986). Fair enough.  But me being me, I root around trying to make some sense of Covello et al.  While rooting I come across an earlier Chapman article, Not in our Back Yard, published on the web site of Peter Sandman, who is apparently a noted figure in risk management and communication.  This article mentions cell phones and all the factors (plus a lot more) from above.  It is pretty good reading, and has a fair amount of application to wind turbines.

So I spend some time on Sandman’s site.  It is too bad that Chapman didn’t.  One of the articles there was Managing Justified Outrage:  Outrage Management When Your Opponents Are Substantively Right.  One of Sandman’s examples was, you guessed it, wind turbines!  Below is a quote from the section on wind turbines.

…wind farms are rotten neighbors. They’re ugly, they’re noisy, and they come with transmission lines attached (or what’s the point?).

So here’s Sandman admitting that wind farms are noisy (and noisy can easily translate to unhealthy), and that the opposition to them is rational.  He goes on to discuss strategies for lessening the opposition and it makes for interesting reading.  He uses the wind turbines as an example here as well.  However, he makes a major mistake in doing so – he accepts the notion that wind energy is good for the overall environment.  Too bad he hasn’t read my analysis.


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