Raise awareness of environmental health issues in order to better protect our children and future generations.

EMF Studies

17 July 2011

Life in Geneva

The quality of life where one resides impacts on one’s health.

For the past several years, the quality of life in Geneva has been steadily deteriorating.  There is no longer respect for persons or property.  Geneva has an extremely high rate of crime, many environmental concerns, and one of the highest breast cancer rates in Europe.

This past week, on every occasion that I have stepped outside the door into the streets of Geneva, I have been “assaulted” by persistent beggars, false deaf-mutes soliciting money, Jehovah Witnesses, and for the first time in my life, I experienced personal robbery.

Begging is against the law, but beggars abound.  Parks comprise 20 per cent of Geneva’s surface area, however, one cannot enjoy sitting on a bench or walking in the parks alone without fear of robbery or being pestered by people “selling” religion.

Cleanliness is not respected.  There is litter everywhere.  Trash abounds in front of the sober Reformation Monument after rowdy nights in the Park des Bastions. Graffiti disfigures buildings. 

There is little respect for private property.  Several weeks ago, the owner of my apartment building cut down five towering healthy maple trees to make way for a 9-car parking lot, without informing the residents.  The building's owner was first asking 250 Swiss francs (about US$270) per month per space but has since reduced the cost to 190 Swiss francs. The lot comes to within six feet of the bedrooms of the flats.  Following my commentary published in Geneva’s main newspaper about this incident, I received a piece of “hate mail”.  A positive ending to this story:  there is a law in Geneva which states that for every tree cut down, one has to be planted in its place.  Thus, five maple trees have been planted on the property.  

Everywhere, streets are being torn up either to construct tram lines or replace aging pipes which have all deteriorated at the same time.  People will always insist on driving cars in the city.  This is not safe.  On the Internet, one can now purchase “gadgets” that allow automatic access to locked cars.  Nor is public transport safe.  Thieves abound.

The Geneva authorities have authorized the construction of a rail line (CEVA) to connect Cornavin, its main train station, with Annemasse in France which will destroy yet more trees and degrade property in one of Geneva's more chic neighborhoods, Champel.  The work will last until 2016, causing yet more disruption in Geneva.  Persons living near the proposed route of the rail line fear constant noise from the passage of the trains. 

Crime is becoming more and more violent.  On average, there are 7 stabbings a week.  More and more crazed persons are roaming the streets.  The other day, a crazed individual started striking passers-by without reason.  Thirty break-ins a week were reported in March alone – that’s almost 1,000 per month.  Now, “spidermen” are scaling apartment building walls at night to rob flats located on lower floors while their tenants sleep with windows slightly ajar in the summer heat.  Vandalism is rampant.  It’s not uncommon to awake on a Sunday morning to find broken rear-view mirrors of 30 or more cars parked along the street.  Just recently, the electric wheelchair of a hemiplegic was damaged almost beyond repair by vandals.

I cannot tell my personal story here of being robbed due to confidentiality of the affair.  Only to say that this is the first time in my life that this has happened, and I have lived in Manhattan before the days of Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg who made New York a safer place than Geneva.  Geneva’s prison is over-crowded.  Justice is lax.  The thief was fined and released, perhaps to prey on others.
And what does the mayor of Geneva do about all this?  Try to make the city more attractive for its residents by offering such amenities as Wi-Fi in parks, museums, and libraries.  Its citizens who are unaware of its potential dangers to health were never consulted.  This has been done without regard for children who frequent these places and are especially vulnerable to the electromagnetic radiation emitted by wireless technology.

As for breast cancer, which afflicts one in 8 women in Geneva (doctors have told me that the rate is moving to 1 in 6), and where women are being diagnosed with this cancer at a younger age, there is little or no speculation about environmental causes.  The high rates are explained away by the usual suspects:  age, smoking, life-style, lack of exercise, obesity, genetics, early screening.  My theory is that it is perhaps due to air pollution caused by dense vehicle traffic and a busy airport, and the presence of vineyards in the canton which require heavy pesticide use and other types of agriculture which rely on chemical fertilizers and pesticides.  Monsanto's Roundup Ready, at least up until 2008, was being used to kill weeds in the vineyards.

These are only some of the problems one is confronted with, living in Geneva.  Others include overpopulation and subsequent lack of housing, poverty, very high medical insurance rates, unemployment, high rates of alcoholism amongst youth, drug trafficking. 

It is as  the editor of the Green Elephant blog said, reflecting on moving to environmentally friendly San Francisco vs. staying in Indiana to confront the challenge of creating better life quality for the less privileged part of the population and greater sustainability.  All the more reason to stay in Geneva to advocate for a better quality of life for its inhabitants:  restricting entry into Geneva at its borders, preserving trees and agricultural land cultivated with more natural means, strengthening police presence, establishing a stricter system of justice. 

Imagine!  A well-known human resources and financial consulting firm ranked Geneva as the third most livable city in the world in 2011 in its quality of living survey.

Update (Aug. and Sept. 2011):  The problem of security in Geneva will now be taken up by the President of Switzerland, following the assault of a 21-year-old American from New York, son of two United Nations staff members one night last July, which necessitated hospitalization.  He was aggressed by a group of about 10 prsons who tried to throw him into the swift current of the Rhône River.  He was rescued by a passing cyclist who chased away the aggressors and called the police.  The Chief of Security at the United Nations issued a warning to its 8,000 employees not to go out alone at night in Geneva.  The Geneva Police Chief defended the city by saying it was not more dangerous than other European cities.  But certainly a lot less safe than New York!!  And so, hearing how safe New York was (influenced by all those editorials in the newspapers, to which I also contributed), the Police Chief flew to this city of 12 million inhabitants to try to find out why it was so secure!

One troubling aspect of this affair is that Geneva's inhabitants have been complaining for a long time about lack of security in the city, but the authorities have done little to improve the situation.  It almost seems that the safety of diplomats counts more than the inhabitants.  What is at stake here is the reputation of Geneva in the international community and perhaps a financial angle as well because the many thousands of foreigners working for international organizations bring a huge sum of money to the city.  The positive side is that perhaps now the Geneva authorities will take the problem of security seriously, especially as many more persons are now relating their experiences of aggression and personal robbery, including members of Geneva's government.

Update (February 2012):  The New York Times/International Herald Tribune published this article on crime in Geneva on 2 February 2012, "Open Borders and Wealth Lure Thieves to Geneva".  

by Meris Michaels

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