What do the dying birds tell us?

in ecological innovations/utopianism, dystopianism & techno-optimism

Technological innovations bring solutions to certain problems while simultaneously create another forms of challenges. For instance, wind turbines and solar thermal plants are known to have lethal effects on wild life, specially on birds:

Hundreds of thousands of birds and bats are killed by wind turbines in the U.S. each year, including some protected species such as the golden eagle and the Indiana bat. That’s only a small fraction of the hundreds of millions killed by buildings, pesticides, fossil-fuel power plants, and other human causes, but it’s still worrying — especially as wind power is experiencing record growth.[1]

What was less obvious to me was birds being barbecued on air while flying over solar plants:

Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one “streamer” every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator’s application to build a still-bigger version.[2]

This does not mean that we are facing a technological dead ends, or we should take an anti-developmental approach. Should the will and mandate be present, tech-fixes for such issues can be developed. However, such examples bust the myth of “larger knowledge means smaller problems”.  Knowing more brings with it questions and problems of its own, which may be even larger than expected. Before the invention of automobile, there were no car accidents, or before the discovery of the CFCs there was no ozone layer rupturing, and so on. Accordingly,

Expansion or evolution of “problem-sphere”, rather than its reduction and dissolution, is integral to the development of science and technology.

Those dying birds are the sad but not sole reminders of this “principle” to us.

  1. Roger Drouin, “For the birds (and the bats): 8 ways wind power companies are trying to prevent deadly collisions,” Grist, Jan-2014. 

  2. E. Knickmeyer and J. Locher, “Emerging solar plants scorch birds in mid-air,” Associated Press, Aug-2014. 

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