Responding to colliding environmental crises of climate and biodiversity can seem overwhelmingly large and complex. Failure is not an option, but what if alongside greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals, we are missing another potent factor?
Scientists are alarmed that radio frequency radiation has ranged up to more than a quintillion times (1,000,000,000,000,000,000-fold) over historical natural ambient levels. Moreover, this “wireless” radiation for cellphones and the internet are pulsed to carry data and found to be biologically active in all species that have been adequately tested.
Sixty years after its publication, Silent Spring is apparently coming to pass. A November 2022 scientific report on low-level EMF effects on wildlife and plants can help to guide a rigorous response to today’s complex crises.
The Canadian government could now turn its attention to the environmental effects of wireless radiation.
The ENVI Parliamentary Committee is holding a fast-tracked hearing on Bill S-5, amending the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. We propose that data collection and research on wireless radiation be mandated because no Canadian act, regulation or guideline addresses environmental effects.
Starting this week, ending the “radio silence” on wireless radiation should be a late-breaking research topic for Canadian leadership as Canada hosts COP15 on the Convention on Biodiversity.
As opportunities arise to address a missing link in environmental declines, grief with our losses must strengthen resolve, not engender despair. Could marvels such as the monarchs return for today’s children?
At the age of seven, I spent time among wildflowers and milkweed in a nearby enchanted, unkempt churchyard. Hundreds of monarch butterflies were as close as I’d come to fairies. Such a delight, cupping one in partly closed hands, just for a moment, and feeling a gentle brush of wings before releasing it back to its airborne kingdom.
Summer ended and the monarchs vanished. These frail creatures travelled thousands of miles to overwinter in a Mexican forest then, like clockwork, next summer they were back. We’d moved to a fancier neighbourhood with mowed grass, but in that era of free-range childhood, I revisited the magic.
Several factors contributed to the monarchs’ decline. Caterpillars’ sole food, milkweed, was declared a noxious weed that must be eradicated. Flowering plants along roads and unkempt lands — prime habitats — were sprayed.
Ending the “radio silence” on wireless radiation should be a late-breaking research topic for Canadian leadership at #COP15, writes Meg Sears @PreventCancerNw #BillS5 #cdnpoli #biodiversity
While herbicides killed their food, insecticides used on crops or against mosquitoes weakened and killed butterflies, bees and other pollinators.
Monarchs brave many challenges as they migrate to overwinter in Mexico. To the rescue, human advocates protected corridors (e.g., in the central U.S.) and planted beneficial plants. This isn’t enough. Monarchs are now endangered, and insect-eating and migratory birds are declining in company with struggling insects. Pollinator declines risk fruit and vegetable crops.
Migration, like any great expedition, has small margins for error. En route to and from Mexico, monarchs might not only be starved, baked with climate change and poisoned with pesticides — they could even be getting lost.
Sensing the Earth’s magnetic field is essential for migration, and scientists examining mechanisms that may be disrupted by radio frequency radiation have landed on a light- and magnetic-field sensing biochemical called cryptochrome, found commonly in all species.
Plants are also injured by radiation from cell towers. A long-term study of tree health in two German cities describes the decline and death of dozens of trees near wireless infrastructure.
In Canada, however, non-human species are off the regulatory radar. In 2017, the Canadian government promised to examine environmental effects in response to a 2015 Parliamentary Health Committee report. Such a study was never published, and Environment and Climate Change Canada subsequently confirmed to the commissioner of environment and sustainable development (in the Auditor General’s Office) that there is no plan to do so.
Rather than the study and deployment of safer wired alternatives, the Canadian government plans to increase radio frequency radiation roughly another 100-fold, as Industry Canada is proposing to auction more millimetre wavelength spectrum for fifth generation or 5G technologies. mmWaves would be intermediary, sending more information to millions more devices that use present-day frequencies. Scientists warn that some bands will compromise weather forecasting and climate monitoring.
Recently, experts and citizens’ groups calling for a moratorium on expansion of wireless broadband welcomed the telecommunications industry’s surprising ambivalence to more spectrum auctions. Fibre/wire-line, to and throughout premises, is safer, faster, more secure and resilient, with a lower carbon footprint.
In the dimming days of 2022, Canada has two openings to rise to the challenge to end “radio silence” on a key missing link in environmental decline and to make safer technologies the norm.
With Prevent Cancer Now, Meg Sears champions healthy, sustainable choices by individuals and, on behalf of the public, by governments — choices based on rigorous science — via laws, policy and regulation. At the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute, she focuses on information and methods to link environmental exposures to health.