Monday, June 11, 2007

Head in the Clouds

The temperature has been plunging in the last few days, but on Saturday it was sunny and it was forecast to be fine for most of Canterbury. So on Sunday morning I set off north for an orienteering event with another club member. This is one of our further away maps, about an hour and a half drive from Christchurch. Within an hour we had run into heavy drizzle turning to rain. By then, however, we had committed ourselves so we continued.

Orienteering events are not cancelled except for extreme weather conditions such as hurricanes, or snow chest deep on the course. (This is not for the protection of the runners, of course. It's just that the controls would blow away in a hurricane, and in chest deep snow the first runners would leave tracks that would give an unfair advantage to those who followed!) So I donned thermal long johns, a polar fleece sweater and a waterproof jacket and set out. The more fit and athletic club members were much more lightly clad, stripped for action. It was a score event. A normal event sets a course to be completed in as fast a time as possible. For a score event, you go out for a set time, and visit as many control points as possible within that time, choosing your own route.

It was held on a farm in rolling to steep hill country with outcrops of limestone rock. I climbed up from the start/finish tent to the top of one of these outcrops, from which I later took this photo:

ran (or rather, walked) along the limestone tops:

then across a gully, up another limestone outcrop, then across a valley, collected some controls around the hills on the other side, and finished down through the pine trees in the first photo, visiting the final (for me) control at the end of the pond before returning to the finish.

I had chosen the 60 minute option (choices were 45, 60 or 90 minutes) and returned with a minute and a half to spare. So I was well satisfied that I had neither wasted any of my time allocation nor incurred penalty points for finishing late. And the rain had more or less stopped, though it was still very cold.

Runners finishing along the farm track in the valley:

In the evening I watched a documentary on the possible events when the world's petrol supplies start to run out - possibly as early as 2016. Scary stuff. And the next morning I picked up the newspaper to read about the opposition to a very large new wind farm being planned in the south of the country, in Central Otago.

I do understand that there is a great love for the landscapes of "Central", which are bleak in their beauty. And I am not well-acquainted with the particular area where this project will be located. Still, some of the arguments don't seem to be valid. For instance, there is a suggestion that wind power is too expensive and that global warming is better mitigated by more effective emissions filters on fossil fuel power stations. However, whether or not they burn cleanly, you can't generate power from fossil fuel power stations if the fossil fuel has run out. And as for the cost, as it gets scarce, the cost of petrol and diesel will skyrocket. I love walking in the hills, but personally, I don't feel that wind farms detract from their beauty.

The documentary claimed that there would be a very difficult time while we adjusted to much higher fuel prices, and great scarcity. And that then when we adjusted life could be "rather nice". Personally, I don't see it. Yes, we will have to slow down, and not rush here there and everywhere. And that could be "rather nice". But I can't see that it would be "rather nice" to be unable to get to a hospital when needed because there is no fuel in the tank. Or to find that greater numbers of people are freezing to death in winter. Or many of the other possible problems.

In New Zealand at the moment we have around 50 - 60 % of our electricity generated from renewable resources (mostly hydroelectricity and geothermal steam). At least in that respect we are fortunate. In other respects, being isolated and dependent on imports in many areas, we are not so fortunate. It would seem to me that the more electricty we can generate from renewable resources, the better. And at least you can build a wind farm without drowning a whole valley, as a new hydroelectric power station does.


paris parfait said...

That is very scary stuff. I watched An Inconvenient Truth for the second time recently; equally anxiety-provoking. Lovely photos; sounds like a nice, if challenging walk!

Tia said...

Yes, and it seems the governments just aren't designed to act fast enough to such an energy/environmental crisis. Just yesterday, I overheard on the news about a decision NOT to limit car emissions - yet. I wonder what we're waiting for?! Also, our state (Florida) wants to give home owners a tax break so therefore our bus lines are significantly effected... It seems we're going backward in the US?!?

Carmi said...

They've just finished building a huge new wind farm about 80 km from my house. I'm thinking of taking a bike trip there one of these weekends so that I can see it for myself.

Why every new house doesn't have solar panels embedded in its roof and a wind turbine up high is beyond me. We should have gotten the message after the first oil crunch in the early 70s. Instead, we got complacent.

I'm glad we're finally starting to see the light. I only hope it isn't too late.

Crafty Green Poet said...

There can be problems with large scale windfarms turning the coutryside into industrial areas. There are also genuince concerns that wind power is not very efficient, especially when you factor in the construction costs and the costs of transporting the power from the now industrialised remote countryside areas to the centres of population. I think small scale and appropriately placed windfarms are great. My favourite is the one on the coast of Netherlands as you approach Ijmuden port on the ferry to Amsterdam.