Cape Wind: A Narrative Analysis
A vision of peaceful spinning windmills out on the horizon, the silent beauty among the crashing of the waves. Ugly mechanical bird killing machines ruining the view. There are many strong opinions about the issues of wind energy. When looking at the Cape Wind case it is important to consider the use of narrative in the case. Many different values and characters are presented and they all have a different narrative to give. The textbook begins by giving us the image of the two sides, the environmentalist planners and the influential community members blocking environmental legislation. The “energy entrepreneur” Jim Gordon comes in as the main character pushing for the legislation to put a huge wind farm off Cape Cod to provide mass amounts of green energy to furnish energy to the islands off of Massachusetts (Layzer 2016 421). The other side’s characters are portrayed as the local community who didn’t want the windmills ruining their land value, the characters being the privileged rich who wouldn’t benefit from these new energies directly (Layzer 2016 421-22). However, the importance of these characters is in the important observations of previously unrealized consequences they reported (Layzer 2016 422). The more effective narrative involves highly salient groups that frame their narrative effectively.
The values of these groups were important aspects of the narratives told. Cape Wind Associates came at the problem from the value of administrative rationalism and market liberals (Layzer 2016 428). They see the turbines as filling not only a green function to help the environment but providing a service, energy, in a way that could benefit the cape financially. On the other side of the the narrative, the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound is said to have “NIMBYism” values (Layzer 2016 422). This “not in my backyard” perspective is looked at as a result of these people thinking that dealing with environmental problems is easier said then done. They are shown supporting environmental issues until the changes affect them and then they see their own lifestyles at risk and then put up obstacles to those changes. An alternate approach to their value system is that they have a better understanding of the consequences the changes the wind turbines would create in the area and have the right to advertise those issues (Layzer 2016 430).
The way the characters express their values is through their stories. The Cape Wind Associates tell stories focused on the environmental cleanliness of the project, energy security, economic neutrality and the beauty found in wind turbines (Layzer 2016 433). The Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound tells stories of ruining an untouched landscape, the toll of wind turbines on wildlife, impacts on tourism and navigation, and the economic infeasibility (Layzer 2016 431). All these stories provided for a battle of the contrasting stories on a public level. The opponents of the plan were extremely effective at communicating their points to the public and raising awareness for their views, while supoorters were less effective. When a new player the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, comes into play as a prospective neutral body to help the groups cooperate and compromise. The narrative describes this effort as a futile attempt and the stories told by the two groups became more vindictive (Layzer 2016 437).
The Cape Wind supporters target the opposition as wealthy, influential players with vain concerns of the value of their property. The opposition made the image of the plan as a cost ineffective plan made by the environmental lovers (Layzer 2016 447). Also, local Wampanoag tribes displayed their story of their ritual and burial lands being destroyed by the Cape Wind plan (Layzer 2016 447). This story was a more effective legislation blocked because their lands were protected by law and the opposition to the wind turbines used these interests to push forward their own goals of blocking the legislation (Layzer 2016 444). In the end, new research pressured by the opponents of the project found many wildlife concerns and economic concerns that put the project on delay and were able to effectively promote their values and stories to put gridlock on the project effectively stopping any progress on the project (Layzer 2016 450). The salience of the community showed its importance in the outcome of the failure of the Cape Wind Project and proved more persuasive than the energy entrepreneurs promises for a good outcome.
Layzer, Judith. 2016. The Environmental Case, 4th Edition, Washington, DC: CQ Press