Monday, October 17, 2011

Waking up with Will Self

Will Self's ten minute programme on Sunday morning, 'In Praise of Wind Turbines' was a fine thing to wake up to, even though I did have to listen again to properly absorb his argument rather than just floating to consciousness for the stinging metaphors and gobbets of wit. In his usual acerbic style, he questioned the attitudes of those who consider wind turbines ugly and unnatural, pointing out that landscape is a human-made construction in this country anyway. For him, objectors are merely living in a rural idyll - or rather, his point is that they're not living in it, just observing what they interpret as pristine landscape from urban homes. And as he pointed out, most people will be driving past wind farms on roads, which are at least equally as intrusive in the landscape, but with an existence on the whole unquestioned. People are generally unprepared to face up to the infrastructures that current lifestyles demand

With the super-sized pylons currently being erected on my doorstep and a massive wind farm growing on the hill above me, I've been watching, assessing, contemplating my own attitudes to these industrial objects gathering on the hilltops and in valleys. I certainly agree with him that there is no measure of objective 'beauty' or 'ugliness' that can be applied. People I know seem equally divided, and equally amazed when they hear a contradictory aesthetic judgement on the spin of white blades.

My recent walk over the Corrieyarack Pass (see two posts ago) raised my awareness of pylons. I sometimes think we've grown so accustomed to them, they can seem invisible. But all is to change apparently. The Guardian reported at the weekend on a pylon design competition which has been won by a Danish company with a pylon in a T-shape, somewhat resembling a small wind turbine. Apparently '...the T-Pylon – or something close to the competition entry – will soon enough be stepping politely across the hills, dales, sunlit uplands and rain-drenched lowlands of Britain'. I suddenly, perhaps ridiculously, feel a little protective of 'our' familiar girder-ish, humanoid, striding pylons (as, apparently do the 'Pylon Appreciation Society'!). By being less intrusive, and more polite, they will suddenly be very visible... So perhaps I am (are we?) just conservative, change-averse.


Elizabeth Rimmer said...

a really interesting post! I too feel ambivalent about wind turbines and pylons, because I quite like Stephen Spender's poem about the 'nude girls that have no secret'. Plus I get nervous about people who are possessive about countryside who don't work there. Work is the thing, I think (though I don't mean only agricultural work.)

The Solitary Walker said...

Let's face it - pylons are ugly, despite the Pylon poets and the pull of nostalgia. I could quote you scores of Northern English, Welsh and Scottish valleys ruined by the things.

Wind turbines too, in my judgement. Don't let the eco-arguments sway you into compromising the aesthetics. They are all over Spain - practically every mountain range is desecrated by them - and taking over Europe. Let's put them all out at sea where most of us can't see them.

Anonymous said...

couldnt agree more with the solitary walker. this intellectual eco claptrap has gone too far. Pylons are still ugly after a lifetime being with them and so too are turbines. who wants to be reminded every where you wander of mans imprint and domination.

James Lomax said...

I've seen Will Self say this stuff before. I find it very irritating.

It's an intellectual game, devoid of the sensory reality on which the issues rest.

That is, the difference between grass and trees and concrete and steel.

WS refers to 'countryside' like its no more than an idea - a Romantic idea, false because the countryside is ultimately man made. Or at least much of it is, like the National Trust control of the Lake District.

Then he splices that point onto an aesthetic judgement that pylons can also be beautiful.

That's not the issue, in regard to industrial contraptions built on landscape.

Basically, WS doesn't 'care' about the countryside and has no feeling for it. That's his position when he talks - but then he likes Scotland so should perhaps be asked, "OK Will how would you feel if the highlands were completely covered with pylons"?

I think its nonsense, basically, when he talks this stuff about landscape.

Linda Cracknell said...

Interesting range of comments, many thanks! As someone who loves relics like lime kilns, charcoal burning platforms,dry stone dykes, but is less happy about deforested hills and swathes of plantations, I find it hard to know where to draw the line on which of the human-made initiatives to consider ugly and intrusive. Once, for example, we get into barbed wire fences (not the particular fence I'm sitting on by the way!), hydro tunnels, pylons, roads, wind turbines.... Or is it about proportion to the land and quantity of coverage?

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