Differing Views

We all have our point of view, literally and figuratively.   I have lived in a home powered by solar energy for more than seven years.  I am convinced that more Americans must do the same, and soon, if we are going to have any chance of keeping climate change from becoming catastrophic.

Here is the view of our solar panel array from our neighbor’s house.  The same neighbor who has expressed his displeasure at the “ugly view of our solar panels  from his property!”  The view of the array is mostly blocked by evergreen trees between our properties.  You have to look hard to see the neighbor’s house behind the trees.

He told us that he is going to hire a landscape architect to fix the “ugly view” from his home (a three story with basement, 6200 sq foot home occupied by him and his wife.) Trying to be good neighbors, we offered to help by cutting down the trees he wanted to remove and replace them with more evergreens.  I told him I was sorry he was upset by the view but said that we were more concerned with carbon pollution than what he called “visual pollution”!  I was hoping he might get the hint.

Ok, I get it.  He is rich.  He can afford to live in whatever size home he chooses.  He feels entitled to his views.  I sent him a photo of our previous home with solar panel arrays installed 25′ from our house in full view of the windows.  He replied (via email) that he and his wife moved to the country to enjoy the views of nature and that the “minimal amount of carbon that solar energy reduced” wasn’t worth having to look at an ugly solar array.

I admit, his comments have been bothering me and I’m struggling with his figurative view (because I think our solar panels are hardly intruding on his actual view).   But I decided not to reply to his email and to let him have the last word because nothing I say is likely to change his view.  Only large evergreens are going to do that!

Now I like my neighbors.  They welcomed us to the neighborhood when we moved in three years ago.  They are avid gardeners as I am.  They are nice people.  But we seem to have come to a difference in our point of view that is hard to get past.  I’m not sure why he believes that solar energy only minimally reduces carbon emissions.  I did some calculations and his 6,200 sq. ft. home is generating approximately 65 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.  This makes their total carbon footprint more than four times the American average of 18 to 20 tons of carbon dioxide.  My home’s carbon emissions are nearly zero.

What I’d like to tell him is that American’s need to become part of the climate change solution because we are much of the problem.  We use more energy per capita than other countries.  We waste a great deal of the energy that we use.  We drive too much.  We eat too much meat.  We over-consume cheap plastic disposable products manufactured in China, and these exports are a large part of the reason China now uses so much fossil energy.

A couple living in a 6,200 sq.ft. house is a problem!  Wealthy people who can afford to invest in renewable energy but chose instead to consume large amounts of fossil fuels are a problem!  People who want nice views of nature even though their lifestyle is impacting the health of that nature are also a problem.  People like these will only be changed by government policy or market forces.

Yes, we all have our views.  It’s too bad that some people see the world so poorly!

6 Replies to “Differing Views”

  1. Not meaning to get into your business, but might I ask which came first – your solar array, or his McMansion?

    It is challenging when neighbors disagree on something so significant to their mutual proximity. It takes all kinds, and at some point you have to go to some length to ‘mend the fences’ (and I’ve heard it suggested that good fences make good neighbors).

    The house I grew up in was built right after the Civil War. It was already recognized as a historic building all the way back when I was still learning to read and write. The St Clair County Historical Society gave us a plaque to display by the front door. It was a nice plaque. With it, however, came a whole list of requirements. Dos and don’ts as it were. The one that I recall after all these intervening years is the prohibition of putting solar panels on the roof where they can be seen from the road. Nothing about roof soundness, internal infrastructure, livability… just appearance from the road.

    Views – like posteriors and excuses – everyone has one.

    1. Clem,
      The solar array came after the McMansion. I hear you, but really is the view from the neighbors that difficult to bear? I am trying to be accommodating. My husband has a true capitalist viewpoint. We own the land. There is nothing our neighbor can do. We could have built our pole barn on that side and he couldn’t have done a thing. He wanted to put blinking Christmas lights on the back of solar array!
      I call this the “in your face” response!

      1. I will go out on a limb and presume there are no zoning issues at play and that your hubby is well within his rights to take his hard core stance. And depending on the history between you and the neighbor I can see myself siding with either of you. Accommodating is a great way to go – but if this ‘view’ situation is only the most recent in long line of dickishness by Daddy Warbucks next doo, then I’d be leaning toward the hard core. Being too accommodating only trains the miscreant that bullying works.

        My wife and I have been blessed with pretty decent neighbors over the years. The worst we’ve had to deal with does still live next to us, but he’s getting pretty long in the tooth now and has calmed significantly. I mention this only as a hopeful notion that perhaps in time… as they say, time heals all wounds, or as my uncle used to say – time wounds all heals.

  2. You can please some of the people some of the time but none of the people all of the time. I’d rather keep neighbor relations friendly if possible. That includes “letting sleeping dogs lay.” He will likely try to change the landscaping on his side to make the view more tolerable. I will move some tall grasses behind the array on our side next year. There are no zoning issues in our neighborhood. But people tell me that they aren’t allowed to install solar panels on their roof due to covenants for the same reason your historical society has banned solar panels on the roof. I’ve also heard that clothes lines and compost bins are forbidden by some covenants. The “not it my backyard” syndrome comes to mind.
    When such covenants are no longer enforceable or when needs make necessity people tend to revise their views!

  3. Jody, really sorry to hear about this! It’s so great when we have a trusting, supportive relationship with our neighbours and such a drag to be embroiled in some kind of difference with them.

    Your post made me think of something interesting I read just a few days ago, probably via Twitter – which means I have no recollection of where or from whom and little chance of ever finding it again. The author lamented how climate change transitioned in public perception from being a relatively non-partisan issue, of scientific interest, into a furiously left-right issue. It happened around the time of the Tea Party surge (and on this side of the pond as part of the ongoing agenda for rewriting reality as a subset of neoliberal capitalism) and the point of the article was that it didn’t happen by accident. Large sums of money were and continue to be invested by bad faith players to polarize us all. A by-product is that for someone who trends ‘right’, things that hint at climate-change awareness, such as renewable energy, are now experienced as an assault on their core values, ie it threatens who they are and must be countered. Otherwise – cognitive dissonance!!!

    This helps explain the Fool who digs his heels in and grimly rejects his own officials’ National Climate Assessment. I wonder if it also helps explain what’s going on in your neighbour’s head?

    Best wishes for a good outcome! Chris

    1. Chris,
      Thank you for that response Chris. I think you found a mark close to home. When looked at from that perspective I can better understand my neighbor’s resistance. You may be right that my neighbor’s irritation has more to do with his resistance to renewable energy than to the “ugliness” of seeing solar panels. I did find the strength of his reaction strange since the panels can’t be easily seen from the windows of his house, or from the deck in the back yard where they spend most of their leisure time. He can’t even see them easily when he drives his car into his garage at night. So if he can’t really see them why are they so ugly to him?
      I can easily imagine the cognitive dissonance many people must be feeling. The news is full of stories about weather disasters and wildfires. And for people who care about nature it must be very hard to pretend climate change isn’t real. Even knowing we have solar panels would be a constant reminder of the energy his home consumes. My neighbors are intelligent, sensitive and caring people who love their family, love their home, and love tending their garden and feeding the birds. I think it must be very difficult indeed to ignore the science of climate change.
      I greatly appreciate your insight Chris because it relieved my irritation towards the situation. We may in fact be wrong and even if correct there is little I can do alleviate his feelings, but the absence of frustration I feel makes acceptance easier, and the likelihood greater that I can still genuinely feel friendly towards him. As you say, having a trusting supportive relationship with our neighbors is very important.

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