Last update: April 26, 2017

Peter R Mitchell March 2016 Australia

Human Rights and Wind Energy Projects

This document is a review of the possible breaches by wind energy projects of various of the human rights of people living in the vicinity of a wind project.

It identifies and considers a number of potential breaches of varying impact and of differing ease or difficulty of establishing. In this context the rights to health, safe working conditions and property may be the simplest to establish whether breaches have or have not occurred.

Readers of this document need to understand that it is not in any way a legal argument and that whilst all reasonable steps have been taken in its construction the author makes no representation that the information is complete nor that the analysis and conclusions are correct.

Those interested in the subject should obtain their own advice before proceeding with a formal complaint.

Prepared by:
Peter R Mitchell AM, BChe
March 2016

Index

  1. Summary
  2. Introduction
  3. The Relevant Facts
  4. Has the Wind Industry Proven Its Machines Are Safe?
  5. Level of Disturbance
  6. Human Rights Legislation
  7. Major Breaches of Human Rights

    1. Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment
    2. Discrimination
    3. Arbitrary Interference
    4. Working Conditions
    5. Family
    6. Children
    7. Physical and Mental Health
    8. Homes and Other Assets
  8. Obligations of Civil Servants

Appendices

Each Appendix repeats relevant articles from the Declaration and Convenants with comments in italics on their applicability to the problems discussed in the memorandum.

  1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
  2. International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
  3. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
  4. Covenant on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
  5. Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)

A. Summary

Industry spin and uncritical but determined admirers of wind energy have encouraged the political and public view of the wind industry as beyond criticism and critical analysis. In contrast people living in the vicinity of Wind Energy Projects (WEPs) have been suffering both mentally and physically since turbines have appeared in their previously quiet, peaceful and healthy environments.

Some high quality work by US scientistsi in the 1980s uncovered a wind turbine sound profile (signature) that included infrasound and low frequency sound (ILFN). This signature was unlike that of any other source of sound. ILFN at very low and specific frequencies was identified as the cause of health problems in humans. The industry and their favoured acousticians “forgot” this work; but recent field workii in Australia has confirmed the unique sound profile and the cause and effect. Advances in instrumentation are allowing more work to be undertaken in victims’ homes by privately funded acousticians independent of the wind industry.

Characteristically the victims have no funds to seek legal relief or advice but that may become easier as the findings are repeated. Meanwhile the victims continue to endure what they claim are intolerable bodily impacts with their personal sensitivity increasing with timeiii.

Whilst the industry currently feels secure against court action, it has occurred to some that the industry and government regulatory authorities are quite possibly causing major breaches of certain of the victims’ human rights; and that this is an avenue that should, and can, be diligently pursued with a minimum outlay of scarce funds.

Matching of the proven impacts with defined and accepted human rights is the purpose of this document.

Matching shows that rights involving:

  • Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment
  • Discrimination
  • Arbitrary Interference
  • Working Conditions
  • Family
  • Children
  • Physical and Mental Health
  • Homes and Other Assets

are seemingly being both ignored, and breached.

It is not necessary that every one of the above identified rights is breached. One alleged breach against one person at one wind project is enough to trigger the obligations of the Human Rights Commission.

B. Introduction

The Clean Energy Council website states that: “Australia had 1866 wind turbines spread across 71 wind farms at the end of 2014. Three wind farms with a combined power generation capacity of 566.7 megawatts (MW) were completed in 2014 and a further five wind farms remained in progress early in 2015 and are expected to be completed in 2015”.

Individual turbine size (rated capacity) ranges from less than 1MW to about 3.3MW.

Changes to the Renewable Energy Target will require additional renewable energy capacity to be built, most of which can be expected to be wind derived.

There are a variety of problems with wind energy that are unlikely to be rectified soon. This document is concerned solely with the physiological and psychological impact on families and farm workers living within 10km of a WEP.

The purpose of WEPs is to produce power from a sustainable source without producing carbon dioxide. It may or may not be that the planet is facing disastrous global warming; it may or not be that carbon dioxide produced from fossil fuels is a, or perhaps the, major cause. Many believe (but may not actually know) the answers to the above options are in the affirmative. Political parties and members of State and Federal parliaments have, with some exceptions, accepted the affirmative view. The Commonwealth, through the Renewable Energy Act, has directed that power consumers pay large subsidies for renewable energy in order for wind energy and some other renewable energies to become viable. Thus the wind industry operates with a guaranteed profit at a level which is very attractive to some investors who increasingly are foreign.

The wind industry’s interest is to protect and enhance its cash flows. Capitalism has a poor record if its product or service is damaging to the public and the environment. In these circumstances it commonly does not seek to change its product but to defend its continuation. Unfortunately this reaction includes tactics of denial and dissembling, refusing to undertake sufficient research on its own products, delaying research by others and attacking those who see problems with the product and are prepared to say so. An expensive campaign of denial and spin is progressively developed and practised.

Those convinced of the need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions see wind energy as a win-win solution (both sustainable and reducing carbon dioxide). However, in the matter of its more carefully defined purpose, that being the net reduction of carbon dioxide per unit of power produced, it is a failure.iv This is mentioned here so that readers may realise that wind energy is not the saviour first thought, and that there is no question of “wind power or we perish”.

However this document does not make the argument about wind being not fit for purpose. Others have done and continue doing that. The purpose here is to consider whether proven impacts on residents constitute transgression of their human rights.

The following facts relating to the generation of power from wind are drawn from published research and unpublished field work, much of which is available on websites such as the Waubra Foundation, National Wind Watch, etc. website. These are discovered and researched facts, not unfounded assertions nor the output of “post modern” science.

Matching of these facts with defined and accepted human rights is the purpose of this document.

C. The Relevant Facts

An understanding of the nature of the sound pressure wavesv emitted by turbines and the impacts of that energy upon neighbours is essential to any assessment of the possible breaching of human rights. Facts vital to this evaluation follow.

  • Wind turbines produce sound (airborne pressure waves) across the infrasound, low frequency and audible ranges.
  • Sound in the very low frequency spectrum (0.1 hertz to 20 hertz) characterised as infrasound, as well as excessive low frequency noise (20 to 200 Hz) causes serious physiological and psychological impacts on some or all of the residents in a significant number of houses up to at least 10 km from the nearest turbine.
  • Residents do not become accustomed to these pressure waves, but become sensitised, so that the impact becomes increasingly damaging with ongoing exposure.(See Endnote ii)
  • A major impact of these sound waves is chronic sleep deprivationvi often associated with waking suddenly and regularly in a panicked state; but other primary or secondary health problems such as tinnitus, vertigo and balance problems, tachycardia, nausea, migraine, exacerbation of chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, and concentration problems, as well as physiological and psychological stress are also common.(See Endnote ii) Chronic sleep deprivation is classified by the World Health Organisation as a contributor to diseasevii.
  • Many residents find their formerly peaceful homes are rendered sonically toxic and ultimately uninhabitable and, on full disclosure to possibly interested buyers, unsaleable.
  • Young children are unable to understand or express their discomfort, which is often extreme, old people are unable to move for various reasons including financial; and all ages suffer declining health and cognitive power and are increasingly at risk in operating farm machinery, fixed machines and even cars and trucks.

D. Has the Wind Industry Proven Its Machines Are Safe?

The information to support the above facts is readily available and mounting. Whilst the wind industry and its variously motivated supporters deny any evidence exists, and discredit the motives and background of the whistleblowers, the industry has never been inclined or required to prove that their ever larger turbines are safe, or to prove another source that has any scientific credibility for the health impacts that arise around wind turbine installations.

E. Level of Disturbance

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Prepared by Peter R Mitchell | March 2016