Illustration: Robin Cowcher.

Illustration: Robin Cowcher.

Earlier this year I travelled to Europe with my family, a trip that included a visit to some old friends in Cornwall. I’ve spent a bit of time in Britain, but I’d never been to the west of the country. In the lead-up, friends rushed to assure me of how pretty it would be, even some who’d never been there, citing Doc Martin as their evidence. So I arrived with high expectations, expectations that were, at least initially, disappointed.

It’s impossible for me to avoid comparisons with home when I’m travelling. The ‘‘this is better/worse than our part of the world’’ creeps into my head, however much I resist. And so it was on our first evening in Cornwall, when we took the kids to the nearest beach, and I indulged in some shameful gloating, haughtily telling my family that the beaches in Australia are so much better. We gently mocked the stones that littered the shoreline, the darkness of what the locals called sand (dirt, according to my husband), not to mention the inappropriate British beachwear.

But in the days that followed, my cockiness evaporated as my Cornish friend took us on a tour of the local coastline. As we travelled around she explained what the names of the beaches meant, and their remarkable histories. She showed us beaches with enormous caves nestled into the shore, others with dizzyingly high cliffs, one with a pub perched on top where we could sit and drink warm English beer. At the end of it my sense of Australian superiority had been obliterated, and I gladly admitted that the Cornish coast was at least as beautiful as our own, just different.

This was a pleasant surprise, as England is not exactly renowned for its beaches. But ironically, I really was disappointed in an area where I’ve always assumed England to have an advantage – the countryside. I expected a landscape dotted with strange breeds of cows and sheep, ancient stone cottages and high hedges lining quaint country roads. And, of course, I found all of that in abundance. But everywhere I looked there were also wind turbines, interrupting the rural idyll.

When I climbed the top of the hill near the farm where I was staying, they seemed to be all that I could see, scattered randomly across the horizon. The website where I’d booked my boutique accommodation had mentioned nothing about wind turbines, I reflected bitterly.

Turns out that the locals didn’t like them either. They also thought the turbines were ugly, and as they sipped their lukewarm beer they muttered about how they weren’t really that efficient, either. What’s more, they scared the dogs, what with their incessant whooshing.

I’ve always supported the idea of alternative, renewable sources of energy, but then I’ve always lived in the city, so I don’t have to endure them in my backyard. Now, here I was, on the other side of the world, seeing it from someone else’s perspective. And I found myself nodding in agreement.

Then I returned to Australia, and to my senses. The very week I got back an alarming news story broke, about massive ice sheets melting in Antarctica. Another moment where I switch off the TV news because I know things are bad, but I don’t want to hear it again, especially not after I’ve tucked my kids into bed, and imagined a bright future for them. If it means a better world for our children, surely some nervous dogs and a bit of background whooshing is a tiny price to pay?

Often, our first impulse is to resist change, to cling to nostalgia, and so to defend that with which we are familiar. Yet what people consider to be beautiful, what they value aesthetically, is mediated through the lens of our individual lives, our histories, and our prejudices. This point might seem twee, but it’s one that is easily forgotten when the world is in flux. What counts as beautiful, or ugly, is not fixed. It changes as we change.

Just as I’d scrutinised that first beach in Cornwall, judging it to be inferior because it was different from what I knew, so it is with those turbines. Because my young children, who had no expectations of what the English countryside should look like, found them beautiful, even awe-inspiring. So for all you naysayers, those whose ranks I briefly joined, it might help if you try to imagine wind turbines not as you see them, but as your children one day might.

Twitter: @monicadux