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Environmental Philosophy

Volume 2, Issue 1, Spring 2005

Adam Briggle
Pages 54-67

Visions of Nantucket
The Aesthetics and Policy of Wind Power

Natural science and economics are regularly used as means for adjudicating environmental controversies. But can these become stalking-horses for other concerns? Might some environmental controversies be aesthetic in nature and likely to resist resolution unless and until we acknowledge this? This paper uses the case study of a proposed wind farm to examine the relationships between the humanities, sciences, and stakeholders in environmental decision making. After providing background on wind power and the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm, it addresses four questions: What does “aesthetics” mean? How were aesthetic concerns expressed in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and what were the shortcomings of the EIS process? How could it be improved? This last question raises issues about how to rationally adjudicate matters of aesthetics in environmental policy making. The paper concludes with some thoughts on why this is such an important (and thorny) issue and what role humanists should play in environmental disputes.

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