This is the next in a series of guest blogs on BRHP. The opinions expressed in it are of Stan Hartman himself. Publication of these opinions in BRHP does not mean that BRHP automatically agrees or endorses these opinions. Publication of this, and other guest blogs, is an attempt to start an open debate and free exchange of opinions on RF and health.
Stan Hartman is an environmental health consultant in Boulder, Colorado, specializing in measurements of DC and AC magnetic fields, radon and other ionizing radiation, and non-ionizing radiation in the kilohertz to high microwave range. He is also a technical editor, and has worked on books by Devra Davis, Joe Mercola, Magda Havas, Camilla Rees, and others.
How insisting on scientific proof becomes virtual approval of environmental crime
I’m indebted to the great German sociologist Ulrich Beck for some of the thoughts that follow. Hopefully sciences like sociology, as well as biology, epidemiology, and the “hard” sciences, are welcome in forums on environmental pollutants, since the root cause of any industrial damage to public health is not this or that chemical, drug, form of radiation or field but negligent or immoral human behavior – to be blunt, greed, selfishness, or at best ignorance. And any solutions to these insults to society and the rest of the biosphere have to come from changes in human motivation and behavior, from an awakening of awareness of the consequences of such behaviors and the attitudes behind them.
And a strictly scientific attitude is not enough to make social decisions from, though as a society we have certainly done that in the past, as when Oppenheimer and others were willing to risk, as far as they knew, a worldwide conflagration of the atmosphere and the destruction of life on our planet to see if their atomic bomb “worked.” Wide-ranging decisions based on “hard science” alone are irresponsible, and eventually just bog down into “paralysis by analysis.” When scientists insist that no connection is verified between possible causes and damaging effects, that’s “good” science but can result in illogical and potentially horrible public health decisions. If the risks are real, as they were in a multitude of cases in the past, the insistence on the highest scientific standard of accuracy as a basis for decision-making, when data is lacking, contradictory, or unclear, results in the delay or neglect of countermeasures and the increase and dispersal of the danger and damage. It equivalents to scientific approval, intentional or not, of the risks.
Proof of causality in the present state of industrial civilization, with its tolerance of countless forms of unprecedented pollution, is virtually impossible, considering not only how many of these potential causes need to be considered but the unimaginable number of possible interactions between them. How, except in the most obvious cases, can anyone ever prove that this is the one cause of specific damage to public health, and how, as a society, can we tolerate anyone, whether manufacturer or addicted consumer, to essentially sanction that damage solely on the basis of its cause being unproven?
That way lies madness and destruction, and the only responsible alternative is the insistence upon the precautionary principle, howls of protest from industries and their friends notwithstanding.
It was housewives, not scientists, that stopped the condoning of Love Canal, but they didn’t do so proactively but only after it was too late to save their own children from being horribly damaged by the pollution. A good case could be made that since then the entire nation and much of the world has been turned into a Love Canal – not only its soil but its water, atmosphere, and ether – made more and more difficult to expose because the risks and consequences of its crimes are coming to be considered normal hazards with impossible-to-define causations, and the people most harmed by them are often those who have come to depend on them to such an extent that they close their minds to the dangers. Even the environmental and ecology movements turn their faces away from the risks of the wireless industry. Is it not clear where all this is leading?
Take the phony claims of “acceptable levels” – are they not really just reassuring-sounding admissions of ignorance? The industry behind Love Canal and its friends in politics and elsewhere dismissed their victims’ claims as just an anomalous cancer cluster that simply happens now and then, until grass roots pressure forced them to clean it up and the damage stopped – coincidentally, as I suppose some rationalized it – and resulted in a new definition of “acceptable.” How can anyone claim to establish “acceptable” levels of a pollutant of any kind anyway, knowing that it’s a pollutant? This is especially relevant to pollutants which have never been examined for their long-term effects, which includes RF and millions of chemicals the public is exposed to every day – billions and trillions if you count the possible interactions between them, and between them and the RF pollution.
How about a public health policy based on no pollutants? Has this idea been consigned to the realm of unrealizable, utopian ideals – in other words, to the realm of things which no one should even think about anymore? Because we could never be perfectly successful with such an endeavor should we not attempt it at all? Do we not care about future generations if it means we have to threaten our present lifestyle? Have we lost faith in our creative ability to come up with replacement technologies that do no harm? Do we really need all this stuff, or have we just grown so dependent on it that we don’t want to think about alternatives, regardless of how our dependence may affect the future of humanity and the rest of life on the planet? Isn’t this the moral equivalent of meth-head parents enjoying their high even if it kills them and letting their sick and hungry kids fend for themselves?
I can hear some people thinking, “But doesn’t that mean that we’ll have to outlaw everything?” No – no more than does coming to the conclusion that you can’t eat whatever you want whenever you want if it tastes good if you want to stay healthy, that you can’t drive as fast as you want whenever you want wherever you want if you don’t want to kill yourself or someone else – etc.
What the solution to this crisis amounts to is really the necessity for our culture and its leaders in every field to grow up, meaning among other things giving up the habit of dismissing the importance of things there’s evidence for just because we don’t want them to be real. It means living by the precautionary principle just like good parents do, without thinking you’re being a Chicken Little, or caring about others thinking that. It would be great if we were living in a society where CEOs and everyone else were so trustworthy, caring, and sane that we could just leave our doors unlocked, the keys in our cars, and our children to play and go wherever they want, as was pretty much the case when I was growing up in an inner city neighborhood many years ago which really was an urban village that looked after its own. Since then we’ve gone uphill in many ways – including a lot of really beneficial technology – and downhill in many others, and if we’re going to be grownups we have to take a hard, unselfishly appraising look at what we’re in the habit of overlooking.
Of course there will be intense resistance, even within ourselves, to such a change of attitude, from those who think they’re benefitted by the insanity of the present status quo. But there is just no other option. It’s not a question of preference but survival, and we can’t wait for future generations to take the action this crisis demands now.