Write a Heretical Essay, Win £8,500

March 5, 2012 at 5:54 pm

Acclaimed science writer Matt Ridley has just announced a new literary prize. £8,500 (approximately $13,500 USD) will be awarded annually to the author of an essay that demonstrates rational environmental analysis. Magical thinking and uncritical reporting won’t win you this prize. Hard-nosed realism – the kind that’s so rare these days it seems heretical – is what he’s looking for.

This year’s deadline is June 30th. Entries should be 1,000 – 2,000 words in length and sent to ridleyprize AT spectator.co.uk

The backstory makes me smile. As Ridley explains:

A family trust has signed a deal to receive £8,500 a year from a wind company, which is building a turbine on land that once belonged to my grandfather. He was canny enough not to sell the mineral rights, and the foundations of the turbine disturbs those mineral rights, so the trustees are owed compensation. I will not get the money, because I am not a beneficiary of the trust. Nonetheless, the idea of any part of my family receiving ‘wind-gelt’ is so abhorrent that I have decided to act. The real enemy is not wind farms per se, but groupthink and hysteria which allowed such a flawed idea to progress — with a minimum of intellectual opposition. So I shall be writing a cheque for £8,500, which The Spectator will give as a prize to the best article devoted to rational, fact-based environmental journalism.

In Ridley’s view, the “entire political establishment came to believe in wind fairies” for a variety of reasons. A desire to appear hip and popular, lobbying on the part of vested interests, and a human tendency not to look too closely at the means when the ends are appealing are all part of the explanation. He thinks the tide of public opinion has turned in the UK – and that even politicians there are starting to get the message. See more details about the essay contest here. Read Ridley’s entire piece on wind energy in the UK’s Spectator magazine here or on his blog here.

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Speaking of wind power, last month the MasterResource blog collected together three mainstream media reviews of a documentary film titled Windfall. I haven’t seen the film yet, but its message appears to be a compelling one. Here’s a quote from Roger Ebert’s review:

I learned that wind turbines are unimaginably larger than I thought. It’s not a matter of having a cute little windmill in your backyard. A turbine is 400 feet tall, weighs 600,000 pounds, and is rooted in tons and tons of poured concrete.

When a similar review at Salon refers to the “pseudo-green wind industry” perhaps things really are changing. Below is a sneak peek. The film website is here.

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