Just Another Billionaire Hypocrite: Australia’s Twiggy Forrest Committed Andean Condor Killer

Blowhard billionaires eager to squander taxpayer’s money are a dime a dozen, hypocrites like Australia’s Twiggy Forrest, who made his $billions from digging up large parts of Western Australia and selling it to the Chinese, among others.

Buoyed by record iron ore prices and rising demand, his ambitions have turned to the renewable energy scam, with over-the-top plans for the mass production of what rent seekers call ‘green’ hydrogen.

Now, at the risk of sounding curmudgeonly, there’s nothing wrong with blue-sky entrepreneurial thinking, where the entrepreneur in question is staking their own shirt. But, in Twiggy’s case, he already has his hand out demanding untold $billions in subsidies for something that he, quite evidently, appreciates will never make a buck on its own.

However, we digress.

Like all pontificating elites, Forrest is big on self-aggrandising claims about what good he’s doing for the planet, although obviously not referring to the millions of tonnes of it being shipped off the West Australian coast every day by his Fortescue Metals Group.

No, this is just another guilt-laden oligarch looking to atone for his wealth by taking other people’s hard-earned money and turning it into a grand ‘green’ boondoggle.

To that end, Forrest established Fortescue Future Industries (FFI) a well-drilled rent-seeking operation which will take whatever it can get from gullible governments on the premise that it will use wind or power and turn it into hydrogen gas, something that has never been done at scale and is completely uneconomic, thanks to the laws of physics, especially the immutable rules of thermodynamics.

No doubt adding Future to the name was meant to suggest hope and promise, however not so much if you’re a rare and endangered Condor sweeping around the high Andes, where Forrest is determined to erect hundreds of bird mincers, much to the horror of those hoping to prevent the (soon-to-be inevitable) extinction of the majestic raptor.

Wind farms may pose risks for condor repopulation program
Los Angeles Times
Natacha Pisarenko and Daniel Politi
18 October 2022

SIERRA PAILEMAN, Argentina — It was a sunny morning when about 200 people trudged up a hill in southern Argentina’s Patagonia region with a singular mission: free two Andean condors that had been born in captivity.

While members of the Mapuche, the largest Indigenous group in the area, played traditional instruments, and a group of children threw condor feathers into the air to symbolize their good wishes for the newly liberated birds, an eerie silence engulfed the mountain in Sierra Paileman in Rio Negro province as researchers opened the cages where the two specimens of the world’s largest flying bird were kept.

Huasi (meaning home in Quechua) seemed born for this moment. As soon as the cage opened, he spread his wings and took off without a moment’s hesitation, surprising researchers who are accustomed to a more trepidatious takeoff. Yastay (meaning god that is protector of birds) appeared cautious, uncertain of the wide open Patagonia skies after spending his first two years in captivity, and it took him around an hour before taking off.

The emotion in the air was palpable. People hugged while researchers sprang into action and started tracking the birds. It was a moment that so many had been working toward for months.

It was also bittersweet.

Preliminary plans for a massive wind farm that could be located in the Somuncura Plateau to feed a green hydrogen project is putting at risk a three-decade-long effort to repopulate Patagonia’s Atlantic coast with a bird that is classified as vulnerable to extinction by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Conservationists fear the birds inevitably would collide with the rotating blades of the turbines and be killed. In neighboring Chile, an environmental impact study for a planned wind farm with 65 windmills concluded that as many as four of the rare condors could collide with the massive structures yearly. Environmental authorities rejected the project las year.

“Why are we freeing two? We generally free more than two,” said Vanesa Astore, executive director of the Andean Condor Conservation Program. “We’re at like a maintenance level now.”

Researchers had to release Huasi and Yastay now or risk that their having to remain in captivity for the rest of their lives, which can range from 70 to 80 years, Astore explained, noting condors can adapt to the outside world only if they are released before their third birthday.

The current uncertainty regarding the future of the wind farm that would be built by Australian firm Fortescue Future Industries has not only put conservationists on alert but has also prompted conservationists to slow the pace of reproduction and release of the Andean condors.

Condors are notoriously slow breeders that reach sexual maturity only at 9 years old and have an offspring every three years, but researchers have found ways to speed that up by removing eggs from pairs in captivity to incubate artificially. When the egg is removed, the pair will then produce another egg within a month, which they will raise while the first one is raised by humans with the help of latex puppets meant to simulate their parents and help them recognize members of their own species.

That strategy allow researchers to “increase reproductive capacity by six times,” said Luis Jacome, the head of the Andean Condor Conservation Program.

That effort is now on pause.

“We aren’t maximizing because I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Astore explained.

Since the conservation program started 30 years ago, 81 chicks have been born in captivity, 370 condors have been rehabilitated and 230 freed across South America, including Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and Bolivia.

Sixty-six of those have been released along Patagonia’s Atlantic coast, where the bird was nowhere to be seen at the turn of the century even though Charles Darwin had written in the early 1800s about the presence of the large birds in the region.

The Andean condor has now made a comeback, and for many locals that has a spiritual resonance.

“The condor flies very high, so our elders used to say that the condor could take a message to those who are no longer here,” said Doris Canumil, 59, a Mapuche who took part in the ceremonies for the liberation of the condors.

Even as they celebrate the success of the program, conservationists worry it could all be erased.

“These birds that we’ve liberated, that once again joined the mountain range with the sea through their flight, that have matured and had their own offspring that live and fly here in this place, they will simply die in the blades of the windmills,” Jacome said. “So the condor would once again become extinct in the Atlantic coast.”

Conservationists found out about the proposed wind farm through the media and alarm bells immediately went off.

Last year, Fortescue unveiled a plan to invest $8.4 billion over a decade in a project to produce green hydrogen for export in what the government touted as the largest international investment in Argentina over the last two decades. In order to qualify as green, the hydrogen must be produced using renewable power, and that is where the windmill farm would come in, taking advantage of the strong, reliable winds of Patagonia.

Yet neither the company nor the provincial government of Rio Negro had carried out an environmental impact study before unveiling the project.

For now at least, Jacome said, the “only thing green are the dollars” attached to the project.

“We’re putting the cart before the horse,” Jacome said. “We need to have environmental impact studies that demonstrate what is going to be done, how many windmills, where they will be placed.”

For those who have made repopulating the Patagonia coast with the condor their life’s work, the discussions over the future of the project are deeply personal.

“We feel a little bit like parents,” said Catalina Rostagno, who moved to the base camp in Rio Negro 2½ months ago for the process of liberating Huasi and Yastay. “The condor is a reflection of me.”

For the Indigenous inhabitants of the region, the way in which the planned project would produce something that will be exported recalls a different era.

“Patagonia once again becomes the land of sacrifice,” Canumil said. “The clean energy won’t be used in Argentina, it will go to Europe, but we will be the deposit for what is left behind.”
Los Angeles Times

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November 26, 2022 at 12:34AM

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