Newsletter August 2020
15 October 2020
EMERGENCY IN THE HEAVENS
“Someday science may have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race commit suicide by blowing up the world.” — Henry Brooks Adams, April 1862
Early on October 6, 2020 at 5:29 a.m. Mountain Time, SpaceX launched another 60 satellites, to join their fellows racing through the ionized layer of air that protects us and gives us life. At about that time, a good friend of mine here in Santa Fe was awakened by a severe nosebleed. That evening, I told the grocery clerk at the checkout counter that I was feeling unusually tired. “So am I,” he said.
There are now 738 satellites operating in the Starlink constellation. Except for what they can do for us — connect us faster and faster with billions of people and machines — everyone pretends that they are not there, that we can continue to punch holes in the air with impunity, burn prodigious amounts of fossil fuels, fill up the stratosphere with black soot, litter the night sky with moving lights, and alter the invisible electric field that connects us with the sun and stars and circulates through our bodies from birth until death.
In recent weeks, on the coast of Australia, record numbers of whales committed suicide by beaching themselves. In Botswana, hundreds of elephants suddenly collapsed and died. Here in the southwest, from Nebraska, to Colorado, to Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, to northern Mexico, millions of migrating birds have fallen dead out of the sky, emaciated, starved to death because there are no insects to eat.
Our house is burning down and no firefighters come. The source of the flames is unacknowledged, unseen. It is there, in the air, speeding from phone to phone, antenna to antenna, satellite to satellite, filling atmosphere, earth, and seas, penetrating bones and disrupting nerves of every animal, bird, insect, and tree.
And it is not because we are horrible people. It is not because of a conspiracy to destroy the world. It is because the phones in our hands demand it. On April 11, 1862, Henry Brooks Adams, grandson of the sixth American president, wrote, “I firmly believe that before many centuries more, science will be the master of man. The engines he will have invented will be beyond his strength to control. Someday science may have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race commit suicide by blowing up the world.”
That day is here. It is up to us to put out the fire, not just to protest and march and blame other people. We cannot stop the earth from burning down until we stop shooting flames from our fingers wherever we go. It is the people without cell phones who are going to lead the new environmental movement, to lead the way to a sustainable future.
Other technologies pollute inadvertently. Pesticides are intended to kill pests; the fact that they escape into the general environment is unintentional. Nuclear waste is not intended to go everywhere. Plastics are not intended to end up in the ocean. But with cell phones, the pollutant — radiation — is the product. Cell phones cannot work unless every square inch of the environment is irradiated. Once this becomes acceptable, nature is no longer of value.
If Neil Armstrong had brought a cell phone to the moon in 1969, it would have appeared from earth, at night, to be the brightest object in the universe in the microwave spectrum. In the daytime, the sun would have been brighter, but at night, the cell phone would have outshone every star.
There is a reason cell phones are outlawed in Green Bank, West Virginia, home of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory: even a single cell phone, even from miles away, would blind the radio astronomers there and make it impossible for them to see the stars. Astronomers measure radio waves in units called janskys. A typical star shines at 10 to 100 janskys. The Sun shines at about 500,000 janskys. When you hold a cell phone against your head, you are pumping energy at the rate of about 100,000,000,000,000,000 janskys into your brain.
If we are going to save this planet, we have to be able to think and reason. And we have known since 1975 that microwave radiation damages the brain. In that year, Allan Frey published his ground-breaking article, “Neural function and behavior: defining the relationship.” In a study on rats, he found that low-level microwaves — one hundred times lower than what people’s brains are exposed to from their cell phones today — damage the blood-brain barrier. This is the anatomical barrier that keeps toxic chemicals, bacteria and viruses in your blood from entering your brain. It is also the barrier that maintains the inside of your head at a constant pressure and prevents you from having a stroke.
At least twenty laboratories in many countries confirmed Frey’s work over the years. Finally, in 2003, neurosurgeon Leif Salford, at Lund University in Sweden, proved the obvious: that disrupting the blood-brain barrier causes brain damage. He exposed rats to a cell phone, once for two hours, at very low power, and sacrificed them fifty days later. Two percent of the exposed rats’ brain cells were damaged or destroyed. He later exposed rats to a cell phone, again at very low power, for two hours once a week for a year, and found that they were cognitively impaired.
And in 2020, a study has been published showing that the same thing happens in humans. A team of scientists at Heidelberg University in Germany used MRIs to examine the brains of 48 young adults between the ages of 18 and 30. They found that the more hours per day their subjects habitually spent on their smartphones, the less gray matter they had in their brains and the less brain activity was detected.
PLASTIC, PLASTIC EVERYWHERE
“Plastic is choking our oceans and destroying our planet,” said an article in the June 2019 issue of Adidas magazine. It went on: “Plastic is everywhere you look. It’s in food packaging, electronics, cars, toys, credit cards and clothes. Plastic is also everywhere you can’t look. It’s littering uninhabited beaches 3,000 miles from the nearest human being, killing off the plankton that produce our oxygen kilometers beneath the surface of the ocean, and clogging the gullets of albatross chicks in the Pacific. Plastic is also moving through your body, your bloodstream, your organs and those of the people you love.”
There is now more than a ton of plastic littering our planet for every person on Earth, says that article.
And when plastic bottles and bags break down, they don’t disappear: they turn into what is being called “microplastics,” which can persist for hundreds of years and are filling up our air, water, and soil. According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, a large portion of the microplastics in our environment come not from what we ordinarily think of as “plastic,” but are fibers from synthetic clothing that wear away in our washing machines and end up in our rivers and oceans, and particles from automobile tires that wear away on our roads, wash away in the rain, and also end up in our rivers and oceans.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, at the present rate of accumulation, there will be more plastics by weight than fish in our oceans by the year 2048.
It was estimated that between 5 and 13 million metric tons of plastic entered the oceans in 2010, and it was projected that this would increase to between 100 and 250 metric tons per year by 2025. All that plastic does not just float on top of the water, it is mixed throughout the ocean and even has been getting deposited in sediments on the ocean floor. A study from Australia that was just published on October 5, 2020 analyzed deep-sea sediments hundreds of kilometers from the Australian shore and found up to 13 fragments of plastic in every gram of sediment they analyzed.
And the world’s plastics are not just ending up in the oceans. We are also breathing them. Scientists at King’s College sampled the air on a nine-story-high riverside rooftop and estimated that an average of 771 particles of plastic were falling from the air everyday onto every square meter of London.
Janice Brahney, from Utah State University, collected both air and rain samples in national parks and wilderness areas of the United States, and found that an average of 132 particles of plastic were being deposited out of the atmosphere everyday on every square meter of protected U.S. western lands. Many of the particles were small enough to have been transported hundreds or thousands of miles from their place of origin.
A team of German scientists found incredible amounts of plastic even in snow in the Swiss and Bavarian Alps, and in the Arctic. Arctic snow contained an average of 1,760 particles of plastic per liter of snow, with one site containing over 14,000 plastic particles per liter. At one site in the Bavarian Alps there were 154,000 particles of plastic in a liter of snow.
Cell phones are made of plastic. We throw them away by the billions.