Underlying factors of opposition to an offshore windfarm in Lake Ontario
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This research paper discusses the factors that have influenced opposition to an offshore wind farm off the Scarborough Bluffs in Lake Ontario. Toronto Hydro Energy Services, a municipally owned utility in Toronto, Canada has installed an anemometer in Lake Ontario to determine the economic feasibility of a large offshore wind farm. Guildwood residents residing in close proximity to the proposed project have expressed concerns, and a public meeting in November 2009 drew over one thousand attendees. Semistructured interviews of Guildwood residents and Grounded Theory coding analysis were undertaken to extract the values, beliefs and logic that underlie negative attitudes of the Guildwood residents who have mobilized to stop an offshore wind farm from being built. Using the data itself to determine the analytical categories, results from the interviews have been presented as six major themes: The Bluffs are a Special and Unique Place: Industrial Wind Power Does Not Belong in the Lake; Consultation was Inadequate and Offensive; Wind Power’s Viability and Benefits are Exaggerated and/or False; Money and Politics Underlie the Push for Wind Power; An Offshore Wind Farm Poses Risks to Human Health, Avian Life and the Local Community and NIMBYism is a Duty. The results indicate that wind energy debate is a new kind of environmental controversy, where both opponents and proponents argue their cases in environmental terms. They also show that there is a dearth of meaningful dialogue between offshore wind proponents and opponents, which limits both parties’ understanding of the issues. In addition, the results show that landscape values played an important role in determining respondents’ attitudes, even though respondents did not emphasize them for fear of being branded NIMBYs. Although NIMBYism generally connotes selfishness, many respondents in this research opined that it is a natural and logical response to perceived threats to one’s health and local environment.