Sep 12, 2011

Island Institute: Blurring the Facts.

In his essay "The Blur of Summer", Island Institute chief  Phil Conkling muses on the passing of that season, and bashes a bit at critics of ocean wind farms, who'd managed to disrupt the harmony of the  Institute's recent gathering of ocean wind enthusiasts with a small protest outside on Main Street featuring a drum and coffin labeled RIP Maine Lobster.

In "The Blur" Phil steams restlessly up and down the Maine coast, marking locations where his institute - standing on the not inconsiderable shoulders of credit card magnate Charles Cawley - distributed bits of Cawley's fortune to the handful of year round occupied islands, most in the form of large libraries and schools, in the mode of "build it, they will come".

He also marked other philanthropic ventures, then sounded a note of injured pride as he comes to Vinalhaven, where a trio of hastily raised windfarms - quite unlawful from US F&WS' point of view - has raised the ire of many of the island citizenry for again erecting  monumental architecture in a low key natural environment.

From this annoying blemish of seeming ingratitude, Phil finally turns to what has really been eating him all month: Our little display in front of Island Institute headquarters on Main Street during their ocean windpower gathering where two enviros and three fishermen used fliers, posters, a coffin, and a muffled drum to get out the word that improperly sited ocean wind farms could wreak havoc of lobster larvae transport.

We enviros and fishermen ended our event then joined the windmill enthusiasts in the the Strand Theater where after a pair of short films, the institute had organized a panel discussion. We each asked a polite question during the Q & A, as did the few other fishermen at the event. None of them were supportive of ocean windpower without severest of safeguards

In his essay "The Blur of Summer", however, Philip uses artistic license to somehow transpose us to being outside the panel discussion beating a drum, while we were  inside recording it and asking questions.

"But it turned out," Conkling wrote, "there were more lobstermen inside the Strand Theater participating in the panel discussion that followed the films than outside beating the dream."

True because  nobody was beating the drum at that point - we'd all joined the panel discussion so we could quiz the panelists.

What was truly telling though was Conkling's fascinating Freudian slip, where he accuses us, not of beating the drum, but rather of "beating the dream".  For Philip's Dream - a Downeast variant of  Polynesia's Cargo Cult, would mechanize and industrialize Maine's coast into what Phil imagines as the good old days of President  Arthur, when Rosco Conkling's New York political machine helped spawn a new steel navy.

Philip's Navy is more patrician, however, and discharges money instead of  artillery shells.

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