Trump's 5G Network Raises Concerns for Public Health and the Environment
By Sabine El Gemayel
The Trump administration is considering proposals for a national 5G wireless infrastructure in order to counter China's position in global technology markets, despite the many uncertainties and potential dangers of this technology for human health and the environment.
According to a PowerPoint deck produced by a senior National Security Council official, the U.S. has to build superfast 5G wireless technology quickly because "China has achieved a dominant position in the manufacture and operation of network infrastructure" and "China is the dominant malicious actor in the Information Domain." Trump has argued that, unlike a privately created 5G network, a government-run 5G network would be more secure against a threat of Chinese operatives and hackers that want to carry out cyber-espionage.
"We want to build a network so the Chinese can't listen to your calls," the senior official told Reuters.
On July 25, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee held a hearing titled The Race to 5G: Exploring Spectrum Needs to Maintain U.S. Global Leadership. In the hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said the U.S. wireless industry is "poised to invest roughly $300 billion in deploying 5G networks, which could create three million new jobs and boost GDP by $500 billion."
The 5G network would provide faster internet speeds and low latency wireless broadband services, which means faster and higher capacity transmissions to carry data, run driverless cars and support other yet unknown technological innovations. But does national security and these purported benefits justify potential dangers to wildlife and human health?
In 2018, the U.S. National Toxicology Program and the Ramazzini Institute in Italy have both concluded via large studies that wireless radiation is a potential cancer risk. The World Health Organization classified these radiations as class 2B carcinogens, meaning they are possibly carcinogenic to humans.
The science also raises concerns that the implementation of 5G networks will harm not only humans, but also the environment and wildlife, particularly the bees, butterflies and other pollinators needed to grow our food sources. Wireless radiations can disrupt the magnetic "compass" that many birds and insects use for migration.
"We apply limits to all types of pollution to protect the habitability of our environment, but as yet, even in Europe, the safe limits of electromagnetic radiation have not been determined, let alone applied," said Matt Shardlow, CEO of the charity Buglife, an organization in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates.
For 5G to be implemented, a dense network of smaller cellular infrastructure is required because 5G airwaves don't travel as far as older generation networks do. This infrastructure would inevitably put millions of people in close proximity to a potential carcinogen.
After word of Trump's plan got around, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), wireless industry groups and awmakers from both parties in Washington rejected Trump's 5G nationalization plan because they are ideologically opposed to building public telecommunications services. For example, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Oregon), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, commented, "We're not Venezuela, we don't need to have the government run everything as the only choice." FCC Chairman Ajit Pai Tweeted a statement opposing any proposal for the federal government to build and operate a nationwide 5G network.
In June, it was reported that Mike O'Rielly, a Republican FCC commissioner and Trump supporter, wrote an email to a telecom attorney in January stating that the administration's own proposal to nationalize a 5G network around the country "would be a tremendous error and an executable nightmare, especially for this administration which has faced inordinate obstacles and opposition."
Many progressive Americans in favor of net neutrality would argue that internet should be a municipal public utility, just like garbage collection or electricity. In today's world, if you don't have internet at home, you not only miss out on connecting with your social network, news and culture, but most importantly on your ability to access and manage your banking or any services that you are subscribed to.
However, the internet can also be delivered through wires. We have choices when it comes to telecom infrastructure. In addition to the massive amount of data monitoring, 5G's infrastructure will require millions of new radiation-emitting cell towers that the FCC is intending to place on street lights, utility poles and/or mailbox-size transformers in front of our homes.
I sent a letter to the heads of the FCC, Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services that was signed by actors, filmmakers and advocates like Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Laura Dawn and Naomi Wolf. We asked for a federal warning about exposure to wireless radiation from wifi just like the city of Berkeley's "Right to Know" Ordinance for cell phones, as well as federal public health fact sheets about ways to reduce exposure to wireless radiation, particularly for children in schools.
California took a leadership role in 2017 by issuing a public health fact sheet, "How to Reduce Exposure to Radiofrequency Energy from Cell Phones." It would be helpful if all health agencies—federal, state and local—issued wireless technology safety guidelines. Now that the National Toxicology Program study has raised serious concerns regarding the potential carcinogenicity of 5G radiation, in accordance with statutes that require businesses to inform citizens about exposures to chemicals known to cause cancer and reproductive harm, and all residents of the U.S. should be taught safer handling of wireless technology.
It's up to Congress members to stand firm in their resistance to Trump's plans for a national 5G system, especially with his efforts to further unravel the national health care system. These two matters are closely related, because scientific research has shown the need for further investigation before subjecting humans and environment to 5G network exposure.
This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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