Conflict of Greens

Not all renewable-energy projects are equally good. Sometimes they impose destructive side effects on the environment or society, unintentionally reducing an existing “green” benefit even while trying to bring about a new one. SAVE International has been looking into this “conflict of greens” — and suggesting ways to reconcile such conflicts — along the flyway of the Black-faced Spoonbill for several years, including in South Korea and Taiwan.

In this era of climate change, many cities and nations have promoted goals of reducing their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by changing from fossil fuels to renewable energy. As a way to meet these high-level policy goals and satisfy the energy needs of urban residents and industries, states, counties, and cities are proposing large-scale renewable energy projects in remote rural areas. Although renewable energy farms appear to be greener than fossil-fuel power plants, some sites that seem abandoned or useless to the layperson are actually valuable ecosystems that provide critical habitat for abundant wildlife, including endangered species. Besides their intrinsic ecological impacts, large-scale projects also face opposition from the people in these rural communities, for social, economic, or quality-of-life reasons: damage to fishing grounds on tidal flats and bays, increased noise, turbulence and aesthetic landscape disturbance from wind farms, and so on.

SAVE is witnessing cases of these “green” conflicts across the Pacific Rim and the world, from tidal-power proposals in South Korea and Wales, to solar and wind farms on deserts in California, and many more.

Dr. Yekang Ko, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Oregon and a member of SAVE’s Executive Committee, has been focusing her research on the conflict of greens in the Pacific Rim. She was the lead author on three articles in 2011 (link to Environment article, link to Nautilus Institute article, link to World Rivers Review article) that highlighted the conflict of greens in her home country of South Korea. In September 2017, she chaired a working group at the Sustainable Cities and Landscapes Conference by APRU (Association of Pacific Rim Universities): “Resolving Conflicts of ‘Greens’: Energy Planning for Sustainable Landscape Conservation”.

Click here (link) for a profile of Dr. Yekang Ko, including an overview of her research and the conflict of greens.

Click here (link) for more information about the conflict over Taiwan’s proposals for solar farms on abandoned saltpans that have become coastal wetlands.

Click here (link) for more information about the conflict over South Korea’s proposals for large-scale tidal power.