For Whom does the Wind Blow?

67m wind turbine located in Hatston, Kirkwall, seen from an unusual vantage point.
A 67m wind turbine located in Hatston, Kirkwall.

Orkney is a windy place and can generate more power than it needs from its many wind turbines. Unfortunately the energy distribution network is not set up to take advantage of this. There is currently no easy way to export surplus electricity, and the price tariffs energy suppliers impose on consumers penalise people living in rural areas. Renewable energy has changed the way power is generated and distributed, but this is not taken into consideration.

Despite an over-abundance of renewable energy, Orcadians pay some of the highest energy prices in the UK, and Orkney suffers from the highest rate of fuel poverty in Scotland. The Scottish Government does not have control of energy policy – that is reserved to Westminster.

Incumbent MP for Orkney & Shetland, Alistair Carmichael, did not manage to solve this problem, even whilst a cabinet minister in the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition government of David Cameron.

Cameron famously dismissed renewable energy as “green crap“, and this may be some indication of how much the average English Tory cares about the problems of rural Scotland. However, the fact is a small number of land-owners have made a lot of money from it.

Vestas V52 850kW wind turbine located in Burray, with a pink sky.
Vestas V52 850kW wind turbine located in Burray, Orkney.

In the summing up of his 2015 trial for lying to his constituents about his role in a smear campaign against the First Minister of Scotland, Alistair Carmichael was described by the judges as a “blatant liar” who was “at best disingenuous, at worst evasive and self-serving”. He narrowly avoided charges with the defense that a personal lie is different from a political lie, thereby proving in an electoral court that lying is an acceptable part of a politicians job (!)

What a fantastic precedent that turned out to be.

A turbine and gorse blowing in the perpetual Orkney wind.
Another windy day in Orkney.

These pictures accompany an article by Fiona Grahame for The Orkney News entitled Affordable Energy? Mind the Gap. This article was first published in iScot magazine and can now be read online.

For Whom does the Wind Blow, energy policy being reserved to Westminster? Cartoon depicting Alistair Carmichael MP blowing a paper wind turbine. Pen, ink & gouache, 2019.
For Whom does the Wind Blow? Pen, ink & gouache, 2019.

Last Call for Life on Earth

Last Call for Life on Earth

Last Call for Life on Earth is a cartoon created to accompany an Orkney News article published in iScot magazine in 2019.

It is my belief that we all need to think about our impact on the environment, and take urgent steps to reduce our individual carbon footprint. The way of life we in “The West” currently enjoy, which people all over the world understandably aspire to, is simply not sustainable. If we don’t change our ways the future looks bleak for the human race (to say nothing of the rest of life on Earth).

The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has caused a slowing of global energy demand and largely put a temporary halt to unnecessary luxury travel. According to a study published in Nature, this only means humanity is destroying the environment we all depend on to live at the same rate we were in 2006! This was recently compared on The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe to gently squeezing a hose – it does practically nothing to stem the flow of water (i.e. CO2).

Permanent systemic change is needed. Unfortunately people keep electing politicians who don’t even believe climate change is a problem, and who often have vested interests in doing nothing about it. On top of that everyone wants their SUV and a holiday in the sun.

Hell mend us all.

Last Call for Life on Earth -The Grim Reaper takes the tickets of holidaymakers boarding a plane at Kirkwall airport.
Last Call for Life On Earth. Pen, ink & watercolour, 2019.

Cataclysmic climate change?

Cataclysmic climate change? Just roll with it!

When Arnold Schwarzenegger became Governer of California in 2003, he was criticised for claiming to care about the environment whilst driving around in a Hummer (of which he owned six). This incredibly masculine status symbol gets around 10 miles to the gallon, and is the exact opposite of what anyone that actually cares about the environment should be driving.

In 2019, in Orkney, it seems that everyone now drives the equivalent of a Hummvee: 4×4 SUVs and pickup trucks such as the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Lwhatever, etc., are everywhere. These vehicles are so obnoxiously huge, they stuggle to stay on one side of the road. They are also an environmental disaster.

As engine technology has supposedly become more fuel efficient (notwithstanding vehicle manufacturers cooking the figures and illegally colluding to retard development of emissions reduction technology), the public has responded by buying larger, heavier, less efficient vehicles.

Cataclysmic climate change? Just roll with it! The all-new Toyanka Wastelander. Gas-guzzling SUV driver throws rubbish at a walker while potentially fatally close-passing a cyclist.
The all-new Toyanka Wastelander with old fashioned BS Orkney license plate. Pen & ink, 2019.

The above cartoon was drawn to accompany an article written by Fiona Grahame of The Orkney News for iScot magazine, which states that Orkney has far more cars per head than the Scottish average:

At the last count Orkney had 753 cars per 1,000 people compared to 385 in Edinburgh and a Scottish average of 533. It is not that Orcadians are richer or lazier than the folks of Edinburgh , in fact Orkney has a low wage economy but to get to work you most likely will need your own transport.

https://theorkneynews.scot/2019/03/31/pedal-power/

The unfortunate necessity of private vehicular transport does not justify the choice to drive the most environmentally destructive vehicle that money can buy.

There is also a chicken-and egg problem in that few people in Orkney can rely on public transport because public transport in Orkney is totally inadequate, but the reason it is so inadequate (and expensive) is in part because almost everyone chooses to drive everywhere!

The benefits of cycling to an individual’s health, the environment, and consequential knock-on financial benefits to the public purse (e.g. the NHS), are enormous. So enormous that Professor John Parkin of Bristol University, author of “Designing for Cycle Traffic“, stated in an interview with Carlton Reid on the Spokesman podcast that he thinks government officials often simply don’t believe the figures!

Air pollution, including that from petrol and diesel engines, is thought to be responsible for the deaths of 64,000 people per year in the UK. In addition, according to the UK Government, in the year ending June 2018, 1,700 were killed in road traffic accidents, 26,610 killed or seriously injured, and 165,100 sustained some injury.

Thanks to the volume of vehicular traffic and the aggressive, dangerous, and inconsiderate behaviour of people behind the wheel, cycling on the roads of Orkney, like most places, is a scary, life-threatening, experience.

A broken exhaust pipe seen at the side of the road in St. Ola, with a bicycle in the background.
The revolution will not be motorised.