“A free and unbiased science is essential for resilient and sustainable cities. Otherwise, business plans will become entrenched in untested technologies, which it will become too difficult and unwieldy to back away from. We will have become a highly inflexible and un-resilient, and secretive, society.”
Written & Presented by JULIE MARDIN, Researcher-Author, Digital Artist and Representative of The Light Millennium to the UN Department of Global Communications (New York).
26 – 28 August 2019, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
WORKSHOP: GREAT GOALS, UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: How to handle the complexity of our technology, and make true progress for our social and environmental well being
Organized & Presented by The Light Millennium
as part of
The 68th United Nations Civil Society Conference
BUILDING INCLUSIVE AND SUSTAINABLE CITIES AND COMMUNITIES
How to Protect Independent Science and Ensure Our Innovations Are in Tune with Our Health and Human Rights?
A Necessity for Free and Healthy Communities
“We have noted from previous health hazard histories such as that of lead in petrol, and methyl mercury, that ‘early warning’ scientists frequently suffer from discrimination, from loss of research funds, and from unduly personal attacks on their scientific integrity. It would be surprising if this is not already a feature of the present EMF controversy…”
– Jacqueline McGlade, European Environment Agency’s Director
I am humbled to be the one to open the topic today GREAT GOALS, UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: How to handle the complexity of our technology, and make true progress for our social and environmental well being.
What I want to emphasize is how the need to protect independent science is so closely related to the health of our communities. And in relation to that I am going to focus on one of the most beloved, useful, and problematic tools, and that is our wireless method of data transmission, or in other words microwave radio frequency communications, that we all use, with our cell phones, and all our cordless devices, and is such a central component of the visions being implemented now for smart cities.
Even though the technology is so entrenched in our world, we are on the brink of an even greater investment and dependence on it, connecting it to every aspect of our lives, with 5G, the fifth generation of telecommunications, the Internet of Things, Virtual Reality, all coming our way. So I think it is important at this point in time, that we take a look back at the politics that ushered in the widespread use of the technology, and be aware of the industry-driven watering down of the regulations, and especially to pay attention to the de-funded science that got cast aside, before we take this deeper plunge.
“Today’s maximum exposure standards are set 1,000,000,000,000,000 [10(15)] to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 [10(18)] times higher than Nature’s background radiation on Earth’s surface to which life on earth has adapted. If we were to establish new exposure limits based on public health, Nature’s background levels are most likely what we should aim for. ”
— Olle Johansson, PhD, Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
The health issues with radio and microwaves is not just about the frequency or the power density, but the erratic, pulse modulated nature of the waves, which is needed in order to encode the data onto it. Unless you are noticeably electrosensitive, you might wonder what all the worry is about, and this is what makes it all the more complex to deal with. But science is showing that these waves can basically act like electromagnetic interference to our body’s own internal electrical functions, which we tend to forget that we possess. The constant exposure to electromagnetic fields that we experience, especially in urban environments, is called electrosmog, and has not been explored enough. Certainly not in the safety assessments from the 1990s, nor is it in the traditional environmental NGOs’ purview, as they are already overworked with all the other assaults on food, water and air. And so they also have incorporated this problematic technology into a lot of their solutions.
5G will increase this electromagnetic pollution exponentially. Because it will make use of millimeter waves which do not travel very far, it will require a much denser infrastructure, 100,000s of new base stations, 20,000 new satellites, aiming to cover every corner of the planet, leaving no way to ‘opt out’ of this communication—or some would call it—surveillance system. By the mid 2020s there will be an estimated trillion objects connected to the Internet of Things—street lights, self-driving cars, household appliances, even baby diapers—all sending information about our personal habits to central data centers, exposing us to unprecedented levels of pulsed electromagnetic radiation, and to frequencies that have never been tested before. Thoughts of an environmental impact statement kind of whither away at the thought of such a vast undertaking. What science are we neglecting on the brink of this 4th Industrial Revolution?
“Hopefully it will turn out to be completely safe, and there will be no risk, but that would also mean that thousands and thousands of scientific papers in well-controlled scientific journals, using peer review-based evaluation systems — all of these articles have to be wrong at the same time, and that has never, ever happened before in science history.”
— Dr. Olle Johansson
The World Health Organization’s IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) actually did classify radio frequency electromagnetic fields as a Class 2B possible carcinogen, back in 2011. One would think this already makes it a very shaky foundation to build upon. The majority of scientists working in the field have put out a variety of urgent calls for a moratorium on 5G, and a review of the radio frequency 2B status, in light of the new evidence that has come out since then.(1) In fact there are 1000s of peer-reviewed studies that have documented biological effects, well under the safety limits, to such unexpected things as heart function, triglyceride levels, blood pressure, alarming impacts on fertility, in some animal studies leading to complete sterility within five generations, and deterioration in the blood brain barrier. This is the thin membrane that protects our brain from the toxins and heavy metals circulating in our system. This effect has implications for early onset dementia, and other cognitive disorders which have seen an increase in recent years. I have brought along a whole binder full of this research if anyone wants to have a look.(2) There are many shocking studies on wild life as well, noting the spread of communications infrastructure in the urban, as well as what would be considered pristine areas, and how this could very well be an unheeded factor in the crises of species extinction.(3)
I realize all of this sounds drastically counter to all of our prevailing assumptions. It certainly goes against the prevailing assumptions that our safety regulations were based upon 23 years ago, which was that sub-thermal, non-ionizing radiation could not have biological effects. But already in the 1970s Alan Frey, working for the Office of Naval Research and the American Army, was demonstrating the infiltration of blue dye into the brains of rats after being exposed to radio waves. By syncing microwave pulses with the cardio rhythm of frogs he found that he could speed up their hearts, or stop them altogether.
Already in 1994 Henry Lai and N.P. Singh had observed single and double strand DNA breaks in rats after just two hours of cell phone level exposure. Motorola got word of the study before publication and planned to “war game” the scientists, which involved creating a line up of contractors who were to point out the weaknesses in their work.
According to these early researchers and others in the field, once problematic results were beginning to be replicated, effectively everything in the U.S. on these topics was pretty much shut down. Or very much slowed down.
The one large US Government study was done by the National Toxicology Program (NTP) of the National Institutes of Health, initiated in 1999. The actual study lasted two years, but the results didn’t come out until 2016, after the IARC classification. It did in fact corroborate the DNA damage effect. It also found incidence of brain and adrenal tumors, other degenerative problems, and clear evidence of heart schwannoma tumors in male rats.
A subsequent study at the Ramazzini Institute in Italy focused on the far field exposure to radiation, as from a mobile phone base station, which also uncovered a significant increase in malignant schwannomas of the heart. This study is perhaps even more alarming, as this has to do with the exposures that we can’t control as individuals.
“Results from the NTP study show that the previously held assumption that radiofrequency radiation cannot cause cancer or other adverse health effects is clearly wrong.”
—Ronald Melnick, Ph.D., designer of the NTP’s $30 million animal study showing a clear link between radio frequency radiation (RFR) and cancer
It should be noted that the schwann cells are similar to the glial cells in humans, out of which arise highly malignant glioblastoma multiforme brain tumors. These most aggressive and deadly types have been on the rise, and epidemiological studies have linked them to long term heavy cell and cordless phone users, showing a doubling of risk for those who use them heavily for over ten years, and an increased four to five times risk for those who start heavy use as teenagers.(4) Malignant brain tumors have become the leading cause of cancer death among the young, and the most common cancer among 15-19 year olds.(5) While other types of tumor rates might have gone down, thus lowering the overall brain cancer rate, and obscuring these trends, there has been an uptick in these most aggressive types of tumors, and amongst these risk groups, despite what recent articles in the New York Times or the Guardian would have you believe.
Myelin and electricity
To try to understand our physiology better, the schwann and the glial cells both produce myelin, which is a protective coating for the nerve cells. Perhaps interrelated, the loss of myelin is also a causative factor in multiple sclerosis, the symptoms of which are very similar to those of the electrically sensitive. In the 1970s Dr. Robert Becker actually discovered that these myelin sheaths were more than just insulation for the nerves, they also conducted electricity, challenging what most doctors still consider the purely bio-chemical basis for our physiology.
This finding points us back again to something that we all, as a society, seem to have forgotten, which is the electrical nature of the human body and of all life on the planet. Even though we use EKGs and EECs to measure the heart or the brain, somehow we still don’t acknowledge that every organ, every cell has a voltage, and a frequency that can be measured, and that our cells communicate through electrical signals. When this is taken into account, it is more understandable that the artificial electromagnetic fields that are all around us, which are so much more powerful than our own, can interfere with our metabolic processes, much in the way that we worry about interference for our sensitive electronics, such as in hospitals or airplanes.
“Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the minds of the general public.”
–Brown & Williamson Internal Document, 1969
Despite a plethora of independent science that would normally foster serious investigation, the situation remains murky in the public opinion, because of the emphasis placed on the existence of studies that show no effect, most of which have been funded by industry. Dr. Henry Lai’s analysis of all the studies that have been done found that there was a roughly 70%/30% reversal in outcome, depending on whether the study was industry funded or not. And so it seems likely that we are re-living the tactics used by the tobacco industry, which for decades was in the business of peddling doubt, as one internal memo had put it.
“The danger with EMF is that, like asbestos, the exposure insurers face is underestimated and could grow exponentially and be with us for many years.”
— Lloyds of London Report on Electromagnetic Fields, 2010
While the waters are being muddied, we should be aware of the disclaimer in our phones’ Legal menu, which has tips for how to reduce exposure to RF energy. Blackberry warns us to use it only with a strong signal, to reduce the amount of time on calls, avoid metal cases, and to keep the phone at least 0.98” away from our body (making a special note of pregnant women and the lower abdomen of teenagers.) The testing for SAR standards, the specific absorption rate, is done at about this distance, as measured against a water filled plastic dummy. Of course the phone’s advisories should be the first thing one reads upon purchase, not buried in the fine print of the device.
We should also be aware that those who are most qualified to gage unintended consequences, the insurance industry, has refused to cover any claims to do with radio frequency radiation. Lloyd’s of London, SwissRE, have put 5G in their highest risk category.
Safer, Wired, Alternatives
This is simply not a sturdy foundation upon which to be basing all our future dreams. For the smart grid, the artificial intelligence-driven world, and all that so many are so diligently working to put in place in the fight against global warming.
There are safer alternatives, most of which involve making wired the norm, building on the already crucial copper, ethernet or fiberoptic system, and extending it up to and into the premises, and using wireless only in the most needed circumstances. Chattanooga, TN and Longmont, CO have some of the fastest internet speeds in the country, that is because the municipally owned utilities decided to make everything wired fiberoptic. Timothy Schoechle, PhD, outlines a plan for what many have called a ‘wise grid’ or ‘intergrid,’ which involves getting away from the centralized investor owned power utility, and all the conflicts of interest, as much as it does the switch from fossil fuels to renewables. Metering and interconnectivity can be achieved better through a wired system, with a gateway device at the premises, avoiding the serious surveillance implications of the wireless smart meter set up, its security and its health issues.(6) One should not have to give up technology and all that it offers. But one does not have to accept unnecessary or unsafe technology either. I am sure if our brilliant engineers and life-based scientists could work together, they could come up with so much. My focus today is on how we might keep science independent, so that technology can evolve in a more sane way.
Money in politics, of course, is the main problem. While public private partnerships is one of the Sustainable Development (SDG) goals, there should be attention paid to the kind of unhealthy collaboration that goes on, that pre-empts the local authorities and will of the people, as was done through the notorious Section 704 in the 1996 Telecommunications Act, said to be the most lobbied bill in history. This section pre-empted local zoning authority, and did not allow any challenge to the placement of cell towers on environmental grounds that went beyond the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) standards, which was convenient as the FCC’s environmental standards had been developed with guidelines from industry groups.
While many on the right tend to think that too much government is the problem, here is a blatant example of too little. Regulatory agencies that have been painstakingly built up with taxpayer money have a role to play. They should never be bypassed in order to introduce a new product or service, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was in this case. And a standard should be developed that allows no revolving door between regulators and the industry they are regulating.
Meanwhile in the science world, there should be universal standards to reveal a study’s funding sources, conflicts of interest, as well as its contractual basis. Studies for hire are more like public relations. The funder can shape the study, intervene when it’s not going well, and withhold the study from publication if it does not like the results. This obviously can be very misleading to the general public and policy makers during the early stages of a technology.
Federal funds for research and educational institutions also have to be maintained at high levels, so as to counterweight industry influence. One very practical idea from epidemiologist Devra Davis has been to put a small tax on cell phones, so as to help fund a rigorous independent research program.
Harmonization of international standards on microwave and emf fields is another important approach. This could also act as a control on military weaponization of this technology, which would take the pressure off so that civilian applications could exist within genuine public safety standards. It should be said that a lot of the early research was funded by the military, and if it had not been for the Cold War, perhaps there would have been more openness with the science and less ability for industry to run with it.
Great Goals, Unintended Consequences…
As you can see, this is such a vast topic, there is no way to say all that needs to be said. I urge you all to look into this matter, into how the cellular and wireless infrastructure was steamrolled out, the de-funding of the EPA’s decades long program, the shift of oversight to the FCC which has been run by industry insiders, but most importantly what the independent scientists are so alarmed about. And what light this throws on our planetary crises, and the paths we have chosen to try to solve them.
Otherwise, in the name of some SDGs, it seems will be encroaching on countless others, and on the intent of our original goals. The nonlinear effects are too countless to list. What good is SDG 9, Innovation and Infrastructure, and SDG 8, Good Jobs and Economic Growth, if we will be affecting SDG 3, Good Health and Well Being, and SDG 15, Life on Land, in a potentially catastrophic way? Our solution to SDG 12, Consumption, seems to be to consume even more, by instituting even more planned obsolescence, on a scale never before imagined, with the need for everyone to upgrade every possible device to the Internet of Things. Of course a growth in jobs in one area of the world economy does not take into account the problems on the lower end of the supply chain for these products, from the conflict mineral mining of coltan, where there is forced child labor, to the factory conditions inside China.
Meanwhile in the name of SDG 13 (Climate Action) we will be launching 20,000 satellites which are supposed to leave no part of the planet without wireless communications and efficient smart grid service. The effects all of these high millimeter microwaves will have on the very magnetic resonance of the earth that we have evolved with and depend on are still not fully understood, nor the effect of manmade microwaves on the climate itself. Furthermore the rocket fuel required for these launches has been noted to damage the ozone layer, thus causing further unintended and unexamined consequences on the problem we say we are trying to solve.(8) The pollution producing all the new electronics, as well as the extra energy requirements of the 5G system itself, are also not taken into account.(9)(10) It turns out that wireless use itself is far more energy intensive than going wired.
Aside from the SDGs we are also leaving behind foundational human rights such as Freedom of Information, Freedom of Speech, and the Right to Privacy, and the Right to Informed Consent, as this is amounting to one giant experiment on the world population.
As was mentioned earlier, SDG 17 was intended to encourage business to act against its immediate profit drive and for the public good, but what happens when industry partners with civic organizations and institutions to bend policy for its own purposes, and thus infringes on SDG 16, for peace, justice, and strong institutions? We must be just as careful on the international level not to let the UN and its SDGs to be used as a banner for global business plans, put forward by military-industrial—influenced ngos and/or member states. This is essential if one truly wants to win the hearts and minds of the world at large for the sustainable development program.
Lastly we cannot claim true advances towards SDG 9, Innovation and Infrastructure, and SDG 11, if we are stifling the negative results of scientific studies, and not making our innovations bio-compatible and accountable to the public. Returning to the main topic of this paper, a free and unbiased science is essential for resilient and sustainable cities. Otherwise, business plans will become entrenched in untested technologies, which it will become too difficult and unwieldy to back away from. We will have become a highly inflexible and un-resilient, and secretive, society. In order to ensure this scientific independence, the very structure and the rights of corporations, as legal ‘people,’ and the way money, government and business, and national security interests, interact, must finally be addressed. Or we can be assured of worsening unintended consequences.
The Electric Doctor
I would like to end with the words of Dr. Robert Becker, a celebrated orthopedic surgeon who pioneered the first electro-current machines to help bone fractures and other unresponsive injuries heal. His work was proof of the biological effects of electricity, and that there can be positive uses that are supportive of human health.
When he spoke out against the expansion of high voltage power lines in the 1970s, some of which were to be set up near schools and above play grounds, and which were later implicated in childhood leukemia, his funding dried up, his labs of 30 years had to be shut down. The completion of his work is lost to us, and perhaps it set back discoveries that could have made our methods of electricity transmission and our cities and communities much safer. In the closing words of his memoirs, the iconic book, The Body Electric, he writes,
“I want the general public to know that science isn’t run the way they read about it in the newspapers and magazines. I want lay people to understand that they cannot automatically accept scientists’ pronouncements at face value, for too often they’re self-serving and misleading. I want our citizens, nonscientists as well as investigators, to work to change the way research is administered. The way it’s currently funded and evaluated, we’re learning more and more about less and less, and science is becoming our enemy instead of our friend.”
I hope we can reverse these alarming words from the Electric Doctor and live up to his wishes. How can we ensure that our technologies are supportive of all the SDG goals, sustainable cities, and life on earth, and not be antithetical to them? This is what the so-called race to 5G should be all about.
Thank you so much.
– Presented at Salt Lake City Palace on August 28, 2019.
– Please click here for the Pdf version of this presentation.
– For the full text of this paper (Pdf), please click on here >
• NOTES – References
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