Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

Wind farm syndrome

with 4 comments

It used to be that visions were religious, as were communicable diseases. Visions of the Virgin Mary, Jesus and God were common in the ancient Christian world. Likewise, diseases were delivered via curses from the devil and his minions.

These days, most visions are products of technology and the modern world. Aliens abound, kidnapping and probing  the innocent. Visionary virgins are now rare, mostly hanging on in less technological agrarian societies.

Technology is also delivering new curses and diseases. Nothing is more cursory in the Australian landscape than wind farms, giving rise to wind farm syndrome – an illness with a range of symptoms they ascribe to the presence of wind generators. The scourge of the wind farm syndrome has prompted the Victorian government to mandate a 2 km distance between any new wind generator and a residence, pretty much killing new wind farms in the state.

Simon Chapman, Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney has written a terrific article on wind farm syndrome, describing it as a nocebo, where a cause and effect relationship that has an illusory physical relationship is charged with causing a negative effect. I made light of it above, but for the people suffering from it, the disease is as real as one caused by a genuine pathogen. This suggests there are two issues that need to be addressed.

One is the public health aspect of a new technology, which needs to be properly addressed. Because technology throws up unintended consequences, it very difficult to prove to a sceptical consumer that a given technology is working as it should. The other is the spurious nature of the claims at a governance level. There is no justification for governments to be making policy on hearsay. Perhaps given the 2 km house limit, Victoria’s witches should invest in fire-proof gear.

Another syndrome that has recently emerged is the smart meter syndrome. People are now claiming serious health problems are arising due to the recent establishment of smart meters. There is no doubt they electronically intrusive, upsetting mobile phones, bluetooth and the like (mine does – I don’t like it because it’s bad design and bad technology but it won’t make me ill).

This has led to the emergence of entrepreneurs selling anti-radiation paint and all sorts of other goodies. A lobby group has also started up. This should make a lot of people sick. Keep a lookout for smartmeter syndrome, coming to a suburb near you.


Written by Roger Jones

July 21, 2012 at 11:04 pm

4 Responses

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  1. First Dog has an amusing (ish) take on this.


    July 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm

  2. Agree Roger. Wind turbine syndrome is a classic ‘communicated’ disease, eerily similar to the phobias over low-level radiation (linked to another clean-energy source…)

    Barry Brook

    July 27, 2012 at 5:19 pm

  3. In further news, Goyder Council has knocked back a wind farm at Stony Gap on health grounds. I own a paddock about 30 km south of the site – I’ll have to take a much more active interest in local government.


    August 2, 2012 at 5:48 pm

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