Ecologist George Woodwell on Cape Cod Wind and Copenhagen: “We have poisoned our global habitat and must move rapidly to correct the trend.”

Today’s guest blogger is Dr. George M. Woodwell, founder, Director Emeritus and Senior Scientist at the The Woods Hole Research Center. He has published more than 300 papers in ecology. His “research has been on the structure and function of natural communities and their role as segments of the biosphere…. For many years he has studied the biotic interactions associated with the warming of the earth.”

The most recent caper by the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound has been to enlist two tribes of the Wampanoag Indians to claim that Nantucket Sound is “traditional cultural property” and must be protected as a whole from the 130 wind turbines of the Cape Wind Project. The claim, coming only now after more than eight years of discussion, two extensive environmental impact reviews, a comprehensive book by local authors, and scores of news reports and editorials, is outrageous, simply silly, and should be dismissed out of hand.

After more than a century of accelerating reliance on fossil fuels as the principal source of energy to drive a rapidly expanding technological society, the world is beset by a global environmental emergency. We have poisoned our global habitat and must move rapidly to correct the trend. The Cape Wind project is a powerful and appropriate step, a model for the world.

It would with 130 wind turbines, well off the Cape shore, produce power equivalent to ¾ of the base-load of Cape Cod, Marthas Vineyard and Nantucket. Other wind turbines have already been installed on the Cape and still others are planned or are being installed currently. One, the Woods Hole Research Center’s 100 kw turbine, has in the first few days of operation produced about 7% of the total annual use of energy by the entire institution. It is expected to produce annually an excess of energy above the institution’s demand. While the total energy production of all of these machines is not yet known, it will take but little in addition to the Cape Wind Project to make the Cape and the Islands a net source of electrical energy for the New England region, a powerful example for the nation and the world.


In December there will be an important meeting in Copenhagen of the approximately 190 parties that have ratified the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change. The hope for that meeting is that it will produce an agreement among the nations to common action in systematically implementing the Convention. Success there would set a path for abandoning fossil fuels and preserving the remaining primary forests whose destruction is also a significant source of carbon dioxide for the atmosphere.

How good it would be at this point for the US to enter those discussions with the announcement that the nation is underway not only with the Cape Wind Project, now so extensively reviewed, and endorsed by state and federal officials, but also with an array of other projects whose sum will exceed the needs of the region to make the Cape a net source of renewable electrical power for New England. The US would swing, suddenly and ominously, from laggard to leader on energy management for the world.

That is the leadership we and the rest of the world expect of our nation.