Destroying the Landscape to Save the Planet

I understand the need for alternative fuel and energy sources, I really do.

But I was stunned the other day at the sight of thousands of wind turbines lining the slopes of the San Gorgonio Pass as I descended the San Jacinto Mountains into Palm Springs, California.

Am I wrong in thinking this “wind farm” is a hideous visual blight of monstrous proportions?

wind turbines

“Oops!” I told myself, “Not so fast. Take a deep breath. Pluck out your critical eye and plug in your creative eye and see if it could be otherwise.”

Wind turbines need wind, obviously. (Although those propellers look to me suspiciously like they are rotating at a constant speed, and in fact Wikipedia confirms that there is a gearbox and a generator to “more efficiently” regulate their rotation.) And the gateway into the Coachella Valley, the San Gorgonio Pass, is, appropriately enough, one of the windiest places in Southern California.

wind turbinesBut what about the placement of those windmills up on that ridge – is that an eyesore, or do you detect perhaps a hint of significant form?

A la the measured symmetry and balance and jazz-like rhythms of Piet Mondrian, perhaps?

Dare I suggest any kind of comparison to Christo’s Running Fence?

Such a stark man-made addition could hardly be said to enhance the natural landscape but might the abstract arrangement of those twirling “Mercedes Benz logos” at least render a defiled scene a bit more tolerable?


Well, I wasn’t convinced either.

But an open mind has to at least consider the possibility.

wind turbines and train

In the distance I could see a train chugging toward me. Instinctively, as I so often do while traveling, I swerved off the road and frantically began to search for the perfect vantage point before my photo op slipped over the horizon. GPS helps immensely because you can visualize at a glance which turns lead to dead ends or not, and you can never really get lost. That I often cause massive traffic mahem behind me when I exit erratically is just acceptable collateral damage, as I see it. 🙂

I hoped to frame the train against the wind turbines, thinking there might be some kind of latent symbolism to the image. I did get a picture, but it wasn’t anything to brag about.

train and wind turbinesThen, still firing off shots on full automatic as the train roared by and tooted at me, a title popped into my mind’s eye: THREE CENTURIES OF ‘PROGRESS’. Note (below) the 19th C. locomotive, 20th C. electricity, and 21st C. turbines converting kinetic energy into wind power.

wind turbines and train

But still no joy in Mudville. So far I had wasted an hour driving in circles staring mostly into the sun with no luck slicing out of the visual pie an aesthetically pleasing image.

And then, suddenly, there it was!

wind turbines

Mission accomplished! I had proved to my satisfaction the old adage, “Look, and ye shall see,” and now I could breathe a sigh of relief.

🙂 [Well, I made that quote up; don’t tell anyone.] 🙂

Pleased with my perseverance, I U-turned and inched back along the gravel road toward the main highway. The sun was no longer in my eyes and I could see clearly now.

And that was the problem, because once again there was no escaping the ugly truth of what lay before me.

wind turbines and power grids

Hmnn… Can the subversive ne’er-do-well artist in me tempt anyone into seeing the abstract lyricism of a Wassily Kandinsky painting in this visual turbulence?

🙂 All you have to do is add color & a grain of salt 🙂

🙂 🙂 🙂

4 Replies to “Destroying the Landscape to Save the Planet”

  1. What a totally brilliant voyage supremo. I am saved the trouble of quizzing my own heart and eye for a salvaged bit of art in the unartful.
    The line up in bright sun againts Prussian mountains is something the manufacturer (and locals) would be so proud of. Look what we wrought!! Aside from which it’s really beautiful landscape from that view. And the train in a bend toward you, the faded yellow locomotive. And the tinker toy look to the windmills atop the colorful containers, all my favorites. You gave this every possible chance, came up with drama. Well done. Thank you for all the complex find after arduous seek.
    But yes I concur it’s hopelessly stupid, and likely no one calculates gasoline-run generators that make the stupid things go when the wind dies. At some point they’ll be stockpiled, and 50 years after that turned into housing. Unless metal-seeking criminals discover their per pound molten worth, or the perfect launchable abodes for Mars. No, planet Earth is not running out of wide open spaces.
    Imagine the tax dollars that went into the land purchase, architects, committees, legislating hours, office equipment, construction crews, engineering, and placement of these things. A devotion which at its bottom is to make a handful of idiots feel good. It’s like having dismembered something useful and putting back ears where legs had been and a tail where a mouth had served to stand back pleased saying, Now! That’s perfect! and the thing dies.
    Well, there you have it, your fault for the long response, John. You inspire much. Love the Kandinsky.


  2. I will be the dissenting voice. I actually don’t mind the wind turbines. I think there are things far uglier that we’ve done to the land. Have you ever flown over the Appalachians and seen strip mining that’s flattened a mountain? Or driven in the desert towards the outskirts of a town, full of garish neon signs, run down car lots, and depressed homes? Or what about a huge coal burning plant in the middle of Wyoming, spewing out toxic fumes and polluting the air for hundreds of miles in all directions? Miles and miles of power lines can also be unsightly. Maybe the turbines will one day be obsolete, but I’d still rather my tax dollars go towards an energy alternative that doesn’t come from tearing down mountains or polluting the air.


    1. Thanks, Angela, you make your case quite persuasively, and in fact I actually agree with you. I was really only trying to single out the aesthetics of the turbines and at the right angle and in the right light those sleek white shapes have a stark presence all their own. Far more so than, say, a power grid. But there’s too much of the ‘teacher’ still in me and I prefer not to get up on a soapbox, just like to try and suggest both sides of an issue. Thanks…


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