The evolution of my energy thinking

By Ajax Eastman

I am not a scientist although I have had a life long passion for the natural world. That is what led me to become an intervenor in a 1997 permit application before the Maryland Public Service Commission to build an industrial wind project on the Appalachian ridges of western Maryland. Those Appalachian ridges contain Maryland’s greatest abundance of biological diversity because they represent the northern edge of the southern species and the southern edge of the northern species producing a rich mixture of species.  These mountain ridges also are mainly blanketed by unfragmented forests that are required by interior dwelling species and their habitats.

Dr. Chandler Robbins, the noted ornithologist who spent more than 50 years doing research on breeding birds in western Maryland, said that those ridges are a major migration corridor for neotropical birds. It was after I first became involved in opposing the proposed wind project that I learned a great deal more about the myth that the wind-turbine industry has perpetuated that has clouded the truth about its many drawbacks.  I subsequently became an intervenor in two more projects in western Maryland, but unfortunately all three were granted permits and today those unfragmented forests have been deeply penetrated by wide roads to accommodate enormous turbines and their blades, turbine pad footprints, etc., all to the detriment of birds, bats, and terrestrial flora and fauna.

Being against wind is like being an anadromous fish swimming upstream against a dam (another mistake we made without consideration of the precautionary principle) or a skunk at a garden party. Having been involved in conservation and environmental endeavors since 1970, I now find myself bucking all of the state and national environmental organizations that I used to belong to (with the exception of the Maryland Conservation Council) on the industrial wind issue. The “renewables band wagon” is like a train roaring down the tracks at breakneck speed and the media has chiefly ignored exposing its downsides.

I had been a strong opponent of nuclear energy for many years, especially after Three Mile Island, where, like most people, I believed all the accounts of radiation spreading everywhere and was especially fearful that it would reach Baltimore. Fortunately, within the Maryland Conservation Council, we have two retired Johns Hopkins University researchers who had worked with radiological materials. They have dispelled the myths of the adverse health impacts of TMI, explained why Chernobyl was such a catastrophe, and assured me that disposal of nuclear waste is not unsolvable. They have also convinced me of the merits of nuclear energy.

Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant

I’ve had a tour of the Calvert Cliffs-1 and -2 nuclear plants and found that they are valuable facilities that have been producing electricity reliably for 40 years and have been re-permitted for many more.

This is the background of how I have come to oppose industrial wind and strongly support nuclear energy.


Ajax Eastman has been involved in environmental and conservation issues since 1970, having served on the board of the Maryland Environmental Trust, as past president of the Maryland Conservation Council, Co-chairman of the Maryland Wildlands Committee, and on numerous other state boards and advisory commissions. Her love of the natural world began at an early age when she attended a camp in Maine, where today she helps young campers develop a deep appreciation for the rich natural diversity surrounding them.

Ajax Eastman’s recent column—Pulling back the curtain on Industrial Windwas distributed by the Bay Journal News Service, which focuses on environmental issues affecting communities in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and the Mid-Atlantic. She is a guest contributor to the ANS Nuclear Cafe.

One response to “The evolution of my energy thinking

  1. Chyaya Gilburt

    Surely the precautionary principle would apply to nuclear energy as well? Events in Japan have made that need all too clear. How is it just to call on the principle where it regards animals but not people?

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