Cape Wind Faces New Spiritual Opposition From Native Americans


Tribes say unimpeded views for sunrise practices are needed. Photo: Peta de-Aztlan via flickr.

It's been a battle that's lasted nearly a decade now: Cape Wind. The 24 square mile offshore wind farm project in the Nantucket Sound, smack in the middle of the high-rent district of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, has faced opposition from day one. Recently is has cleared a number of important regulatory hurdles, but as the New York Times reports, a new objection has been raised on spiritual grounds:The Mashapee Wampanoag and the Aquinnah Wampanoag, on Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard respectively, believe that the 130 planned wind turbines will block views across the sound, disturb ancestral burial grounds, and perhaps disturb cultural relics.


map: Cape Wind

The Times quotes Bettina Washington for the Aquinnah Wampanoag:

Here is where we still arrive to greet the new day, watch for celestial observations from the night sky and follow the migration of the sun and stars in change with the season.

All of this comes as the National Park Service announced yesterday that the Nantucket Sound was now eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

If the tribes and wind farm developers cannot reach an agreement by March 1, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar has indicated can step in and decide the projects fate personally.

Read some more detailed analysis of the politics of the situation: For Controversial Wind Farm Off Cape Cod, Latest Hurdle is Spiritual
Isn't There Another Suitable Location in Massachusetts?
Personally, considering the opposition to the location of the project, I've long thought everyone should just call it a day on this one. Despite the urgent need for the US to get into the offshore wind power game--remember there isn't a single functioning offshore wind farm in the nation--surely another suitable location can be found, sunk costs and personal drive of the developers not withstanding.

Issue to Only Grow as Renewable Energy Expands
But there is the greater issue that is only going to grow as more big wind power projects move forward. Calling in NIMBYism doesn't help the situation, though surely in some cases it is accurate.

One wind turbine can be called majestic, hopeful, inspirational, but the number required to satisfy the prodigious/gluttonous energy requirements of 2010 and beyond is another scale entirely. It's not someone's backyard we're talking about, more like someone's back horizon.


photo: Chuck Coker via flickr.

The fact of the matter is that socio-cultural consideration, as well as environmental protection and the imperative of greenhouse gas emission reduction has to be balanced with optimum location for energy production. Which still doesn't preclude large-scale wind farms.

More Consensus Decision-making Needed
To just say that we have to put up more wind farms, solar power plants, or the renewable resource of your choice, and to justify the location saying we just need more renewable energy (however hugely true that is) over local concern is committing the same errors that got us into this mess in the first place. It is to prioritize one set of concerns on the grounds of progress--get out of the way, the future's coming through!--ignoring and trivializing other viewpoints in the process.

This isn't a case of polluters wanting to continue damaging practices. Surely all sides want more clean power. What is needed is a location of this wind farm which satisfies all parties.

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Tags: Massachusetts | Renewable Energy | United States | Wind Power