Friday, June 18, 2021

Hard Choices. India's Bustard Has a Handicap and the Green Movement a Dilemma

The Bustard: a big bird with poor eyesight
This past week I came across an interesting story about a dilemma involving two competing agendas. According the story, the Bustard is an endangered species of bird. It is protected because it is purportedly in danger of becoming extinct. But there's a problem. 

It is one of the largest flying birds and doesn't maneuver very well. In addition, it has poor eyesight, therefore it doesn't fly up high where eagles soar. As a result, it has a lower flight path and tends to not look where it's going. Instead it flies forward while gazing downward as it crosses India's flatlands. These characteristics lead to Bustards having so many collisions with power lines that the Supreme Court has said the power lines in this region must go underground. The cost: four billion dollars.

Those costs would no doubt be passed along and are a pain, but the story gets worse. because India wants to use these empty wastelands for wind farms and solar panels. It appears that the forces for a Green future for India are running afoul of the animal rights faction.

“The whole renewable industry, especially solar, could come to a standstill,” said Parag Sharma, chief executive officer at O2 Power Pvt., a Temasek Holdings-backed developer that’s building a 780-megawatt solar project in the western Indian town of Jaisalmer. “You won’t find land that easily anywhere else in the country.”

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The story caught my eye not because I've been losing sleep over the fate of the Bustard. Rather, because it was representative of the kinds of issues leaders face involving conflicting agendas. 

These kinds of dilemmas exist in countless variations. Here are a few examples.

1. Lithium is a lightweight metal that is needed for batteries in our EV future. One of the largest lithium deposits is located in Utah. Unfortunately, there is a rare flower that is growing only there. Do we proceed with our EV future or protect the flowers?

2. There are purportedly copper deposits here in Northern Minnesota. Copper is an essential metal for recharging stations for EVs. Mining would also provide jobs to a region that has suffered decades of setbacks. At odds with this are the fears that mining will destroy the freshwater in our region, that drainage could also pollute the largest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Superior.

3. Job creation and development is needed in many communities. After Duluth's manufacturing jobs disappeared several decades ago, the tourism industry was nurtured to become a major employer. Service jobs, however, pay significantly less than manufacturing. Efforts to grow our job base run against the desire to restrict growth, to not build new homes or businesses.

4. No one wants the power grid to go down, yet the means for delivering power currently requires oil or coal. Wind and solar can only deliver 10% of what we need, yet every effort to make sure we have energy until that future day when it can be fully renewable is fraught with conflict. The current infrastructure is aging. Railroad trains occasionally jump the track. New high tech pipelines are the safest way to deliver the fuel we depend on. The opposition is fierce, however, and this is another area with contradictions.

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These are just a few of a multitude of problematic issues that communities, states and nations are wrestling with. Too often things get so political that it becomes near impossible to be objective. Is it possible to please everybody? Not really. 

I am still a believer in dialogue. I am opposed to bullying. Finding wise solutions isn't something just for the birds. What's needed, I believe, is courageous, transparent leadership. 

What do you think?

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Read India's Bustard dilemma here

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