An Electronic Silent Spring – October, 2017 Newsletter from Katie Singer

The consequences of “smart”phones & meters
by Katie Singer  *


1. Depletion of natural resources

The Internet (including the Internet of Things and the smartgrid) is the largest thing that humanity has built. As it grows, the Internet demands exponentially increasing amounts of electricity, water and conflict minerals and generates tremendous electronic waste. With the introduction of the smartphone in 2007, mobile access to the Internet increased exponentially. The Internet’s energy hogs include embodied energy (energy required to mine and ship raw materials, assemble the product in a factory and ship it to the user), data storage centers (whose computers require cooling systems and water) and access networks (infrastructure). According to a 2016 report from the Semiconductor Industry, by 2040, there won’t be enough global energy produced to power computers.

2. Addiction

Addiction can happen when a drug or behavior acts on the brain’s neurotransmitters by creating pleasurable sensations and a “reward” system that keeps the user using more. Microwaves (frequencies required for mobile devices to operate) increase activity of brain endorphins or endogenous opioids, the biological base of addiction to opium, alcohol and morphine. (See studies by J. Tirapu et al, 2004 and M. Paz de la Puent and A. Balmori in Proyecto, March, 2007.) Watch this 1 1/2 minute video to see a baby illuminate what smartphones do to human society.

FYI, “Inviting Discussion About Safer Tech Use in Schools” provides lots of options and resources for parents and school communities.

Designers of the “like” feature on Facebook and the “pull-to-refresh” feature on smartphones have begun voicing their concerns that smartphones have “hijacked” our minds. We’ve created an Attention Economy, which “erodes our ability to remember, to reason, to make decisions for ourselves–faculties that are essential to self-governance.”

When Paul Lewis, a reporter from the Guardian asked former tech designer James Williams, “If Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are gradually chipping away at our ability to control our own minds, could there come a point at which democracy no longer functions?” Williams responded: “Will we be able to recognize it, if and when it happens? And if we can’t, then how do we know it hasn’t happened already?”

3. Loss of democracy and liability

Around the U.S. and the world, municipalities face legislation to allow telecom corporations to install 5G “small cell” antennas on public right-of-ways (PROWs) such as lamp posts and traffic lights without democratic processes like local authority over the antennas’ placement. Such installations will support our increasing data traffic. They may also create liability issues for municipalities.

After Santa Fe, New Mexico’s City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to design guidelines for PROW-mounted antennas (on August 31, 2017 at 12:30 am), a citizens’ group issued a letter through an attorney to demand that the City demonstrate:
* proof of liability indemnification in the event of damages and/or injury caused by said installations.
* that a licensed Professional Engineer (PE) certify that said installations safeguard the public’s life, health and property (i.e. that each PROW can bear the extra weight of the antenna and its accompanying gear; that sufficient neutrals will be installed to prevent stray voltage generated by the additional electricity on powerlines); and
* protection for workers (who could be exposed routinely to radiofrequency radiation emitted by PROW-mounted antennas).

The group’s attorney, Eric Sirotkin, warned that the City will be liable for any damages and/or injuries that occur that involve PROW-mounted antennas. The group has asked the City to delay action on all telecom buildouts until such time that these liability, professional engineering processes and worker safety compliance issues are resolved.

For more info on why a city council might pass legislation that allows PROW-based antennas, read last month’s newsletter.          Meanwhile, on October 15, California’s Governor Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 649 (to establish a uniform permitting process for small cell wireless equipment…on PROWs) because he values the “managing rights” of cities and counties.

Portland, Maine’s City Council has voted unanimously to purchase $8.5 million worth of street lights that will also provide Wi-Fi. One Portland legislator sees “nothing but upside” to this new technology.

Beware of lamp posts. Phillips Lighting Co. now makes posts that have cellular antennas hidden inside.

Check out Shelley Masters’ poster about 5G’s dangers.

4. Fire

Smart meters (digital, wireless, transmitting meters that allow two-way communication with the utility) cause fires. Many mechanisms may cause smart meter fires: forensic investigations have shown that smart meters’ remote disconnect switch has caused fires. Meter manufacturers may suggest that each utility determine the proper size of fuse before installing meters by conducting a coordination study. But I know of no utility that has conducted such a study–or that has hired a professional engineer to determine (and certify) that a smart meter installation safeguards the public’s life, health and property. Further, smart meters are typically installed in sockets designed only to hold analog-mechanical meters. They’re made of (meltable) plastic and contain (potentially explosive) batteries.

For more info on smart meter fires, check out  Sharon Noble, this site’s webmaster, recently posted a report that tracks smart meter-caused fires in British Columbia.

Since batteries in laptops in checked bags can self-ignite, the Federal Aviation Administration and the UN’s Int’l Civil Aviation Organization recommend banning electronics with rechargeable batteries from checked luggage.

5. Death by distraction

Traffic fatalities have surged 14.4% over the last two years, after decades of decline. Could this spike be caused by drivers’ increased use of smartphones while they drive? The young man who killed Jennifer Smith’s mother readily admitted that he was texting before he crashed–but government data on traffic fatalities does not consider the danger of making and taking calls or texting while driving. In response, Jennifer Smith started

6. Brain tumors

Brain tumor rates are rising in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Sweden.

For an overview of technology’s hazards–and solutions, check out “Intimate, Invisible Matters” by Katie Singer in the 2018 Stella Natura Biodynamic Planting Calendar. The calendar is available through and through Rudolf Steiner Books (publisher of An Electronic Silent Spring),

Please contribute! to keep this newsletter and other projects going. Katie Singer is currently writing about the Internet’s footprint and raising funds to support the Santa Fe citizens’ group effort to require the City to include proof of liability and worker protections when telecom corporations install antennas on public right-of-ways.

Donations are welcome through PayPal.

For tax deductible donations, the EMR Policy Inst. serves as our fiscal sponsor. Please address checks to EMRPI, and write “Katie Singer newsletter” or “Santa Fe Legal Project” in the memo portion of your check. Please mail your check to:

EMR Policy Inst.
PO Box 117
Marshfield, VT  05658
EMRPI’s tax ID # is 30.019.8811

Thanks to everyone who uses technology as safely as possible, reduces their energy use and EMR emissions.

To healthier ecosystems and safer communities,
Katie Singer


Comments are closed.