Imagine a beautiful landscape painting by someone like Gainsborough or Constable. Now imagine you come into the gallery one day and see that someone has scratched several vertical lines across the painting and has drawn half a dozen vertical lines between the vertical ones. What effect would you say that made on the painting? Right – ruined it. Completely.
Now look out your window – what do you see? Chances are you see electrical lines running from poles everywhere. Drive out into the country and you’ll see huge electrical pylons cutting across the landscape with their connecting lines. We’ve grown so used to them, we hardly notice them any more. But next time, imagine the landscape without these monstrosities. Improvement or what?
Now in the south of our country Eirgrid is proposing a major plan to run hundreds of high voltage lines hundreds of kilometres from Leinster to Munster. Some of the pylons will be over forty-three metres high. What’s more, they’re planning a similar defacement of the countryside with their North-South interconnector, from Meath to Tyrone.
“But we need electricity!” you say. Indeed we do – loss of power for even a few hours shows us just how much we depend on it. And electricity needs lines to run along. But here’s the thing: the lines don’t have to run between massive pylons. They could be run underground. It’d involve major disruption and digging, and it’d very likely hike the price of installation. But it can be done.
And before you dismiss the idea as flying-pigs poppycock, ask yourself this: do you think electricity is supplied because the suppliers like us? Or is it because they make a profit? I think even your dullest dotard could tell you the answer to that one. The reason they’re not prepared to run the lines underground is that it would cost them, at least initially. But they’d soon find ways to recoup any such loss, I promise you. Just think what a transformation that would make to our beautiful countryside. Even in terms of tourism, it would be a massive selling factor: nature without electrical vandalism. But even forget tourists: don’t we deserve to have our own countryside and its beauty available to us, without defacement by money-hungry companies?
There’s a debate in the south about whether these major plans should be allowed to proceed, or whether the electrical people should think again and go for the buried-lines option. Here’s where I make a prediction (yes, Virginia, I’m not much use at predicting but I feel I’m on safe ground here): both the northern and southern government with give a thumb’s-up to the defacement of a massive parts of our countryside. What’s more, they’ll try to sell it to us as necessary if we want electricity, which is a lie. We want and need electricity, but it doesn’t have to come to us at the price of putting massive metal monsters and wires across the beautiful countryside that we all have a right to feast our eyes on. Once more, profit will trump aesthetics. Or even, in some cases, public health. And what shouldn’t happen will happen.