10 January 2017
Open Letter to President Obama on the Eve of His Farewell Address to the American People
Dear President Obama,
Thank you for your service to the American people and to the world during the last eight years. You have accomplished much for many and you and your team are in a better position than anyone to understand the depth and breadth of those accomplishments. Of course, there are those who are eager to assess your “legacy” – historians, journalists, pundits, etc. and this can be interesting and important. The format is typically a summary of legislative and related accomplishments followed by a second guessing about “mistakes” or initiatives that were not fully realized. Everyone knows that perfection in a role like the President of the United States is not an option. I am writing to you to ask you to consider briefly addressing one aspect of your legacy tomorrow that you may not have had the time to fully consider.
In your final State of the Union address, you asked the nation “how do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?” In 2010, my wife became electrically sensitive. We did not understand what was happening to her for almost two years, but she had joined the ranks of millions across the globe whose health has been moderately to severely compromised through exposure to wireless technology and/or “dirty electricity.” Today, she can not leave the house without experiencing serious symptoms. She does not have access to Federal or State buildings, hospitals and most other public spaces. Her story is available here:
Your confidence in the American people was beautifully evoked in Ta-Nehisi Coates’ portrait in the Atlantic and so many of us, in turn, have been confident in you. I agree with you that private sector innovation is the “lifeblood of our economy.” But the economic juggernaut that the tech sector represents would be even stronger, in the long term, if the reality of human health impacts as documented in more than 15,000 studies of non-ionizing microwave radiation were incorporated into this trajectory.
You have been adamant in helping the nation see the transition away from fossil fuels as an economic opportunity. Similarly, the development of wireless and wired systems that minimize health risks is an enormous financial and societal opportunity.
Safe technology advocate and engineer Jeromy Johnson concludes in his recent article for the National Engineering Honor Society “A New Paradigm in EMF Science”:
"Solutions also exist on a societal level and this is where engineers can be of immense value. One of the primary solutions is to wire our society with optical fiber. Using light to transmit data creates no electromagnetic fields, except at the switches. Fiber optics is also “future proof” because it provides nearly unlimited bandwidth. This will allow our technology industries to prosper as bandwidth is no longer a limiting factor. Finding inexpensive ways to bring fiber optics to and within every home will be a boon for our society. There are already companies doing this 33, 34, 35 and a company in Germany and Austria has already developed a technology that turns existing copper wiring into fiber optics by extracting the copper and blowing in optical fiber.
"We can also create safer products. This includes lowering the radiated power of consumer wireless devices so that the emissions are not just within the FCC guidelines, but at levels that are determined to be safer for users. Research will be needed for this, but based on the work of Dr. Pall and others, it may be possible that there are certain wireless frequency, polarization, pulsation and power combinations that have minimal biological effects. It will take very complicated research to determine these windows, but once we admit we have a problem, this work can begin in earnest and will help society tremendously.
"For now, one of the most important things we can do is to limit the rollout of wireless technology to only necessary applications and in ways that do not directly overexpose humans, especially children. Our current carefree expansion of wireless technology must come to an end. A more intelligent path forward is needed if we are to have a technological society that is also safe for humans.
"I believe that acknowledging the importance of this issue will move our society forward in a beneficial direction. It will also birth entire industries devoted to creating safer technology. Billion dollar ideas and companies can be created in this new frontier. You may already have an idea that will serve the forward-thinking parents who are now demanding safer technology for their children. As engineers, creating a healthy society with incredible technology would be a true paradigm shift and one of the greatest achievements we can accomplish. I hope that you will join me in this grand endeavor."
It is my belief that the governments’ subsidizing the rollout of wireless technology in the form of wi-fi in schools, smart meters on homes and businesses and the soon to come 5G network everywhere will be seen in 10, 20 or 30 years as our most costly Federal decision over the last eight years – both financially in the form of lost productivity, health care costs, forced early retirement and missed work days but also in terms of human suffering. In 2014 at a Middle School in Maryland, you said "In a country where we expect free WiFi with our coffee, we should definitely demand it in our schools," in the context of a $2 billion "down payment" by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on expanding internet access to 20 million students in 15,000 schools across the country. In our political landscape, investing in our children’s access to technology, like investing in upgrades to our nation’s electric grid, is a “no brainer” and I am sure there were aspects of this investment that were beneficial. But given the research and rising tide of public awareness over the last two years, don’t you think America has the ingenuity, honesty and creativity to drive progress while simultaneously acknowledging the seminal falsehood: "non-ionizing microwave radiation is safe"? This is the unspoken assumption shared by the majority of consumers who are purchasing products, except in Berkeley, that have no warning labels. The industry position is “more research is necessary”, which sounds reasonable, except when you learn that they are funding scientists to conduct experiments designed to create doubt and its byproduct, at least in the U.S., inaction.
Of course, this “mistake” began much earlier with the assessment in the 1950’s and 60’s that creating health-based limits on these emissions might compromise our military’s flexibility in regard to radar, etc.. Jeromy Johnson writes:
" . . the people making those decisions in the 1950s and 1960s could have never imagined that sixty years later, our society would be experiencing the tremendous boom in consumer wireless technology that has occurred. Nor could they have imagined the predicament that future political and industrial leaders would find themselves in. Today we have a situation where the growth in consumer wireless technology has created some of the biggest and most profitable companies in the world. Wireless technology has quickly become an integral part of our economy and, lately, one of the few reliable growth sectors.
"Wireless is also an incredibly popular technology that much of the population loves and is addicted to. 5 This is primarily because of the convenience and the fact that people simply enjoy communicating.
"Plus, it provides immense tax revenue and surveillance capabilities to the government through data collection. For all of these reasons, there is no politician or industry leader who will be able to admit that the safety standards do not protect the public because they are not designed for the exposures we experience today."
I know that sometimes you have recognized citizens during major speeches for their work on behalf of the community. There are many individuals who have made major sacrifices while advocating for safe technology – independent scientists who have lost their funding and been the subject of industry-driven public attacks, mothers, fathers and teachers ostracized in their community and by school administrations, activists who have become electro-hypersensitive but keep showing up for public meetings when they know they will have to spend days recovering from wireless exposure, the mother of an EHS teenager in England who now works to inform the public after her daughter hung herself in the woods.
But one colleague I want to single out is Cece Doucette in Ashland, MA. Ms. Doucette, after helping bring wi-fi to her school system before hearing about the health risks, has since become a tireless advocate for the safe use of technology. She is responsible for the legwork that went into Ashland, MA becoming the first school district in the country to adopt a set of wi-fi best practices, including turning wi-fi off when it is not in use. They are available here:
You are often inspired by American’s examples and Ms. Doucette, rather than denying or willfully ignoring the effect of her efforts on the children in her community has dedicated herself to doing right by them. Other districts around Massachusetts have now adopted or are considering adopting these best practices. I know it is unlikely you will speak directly to this issue in your Farewell Address but you are perhaps more aware than any previous President of the potential for learning from our neighbors. Historically, America is not very strong when it comes to prevention and public health. Countries like France, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Israel, Italy, Taiwan, Switzerland and Finland are making steps in this direction in regard to wireless exposure, particularly for children and pregnant women. I know the primary energy for this work needs to come from the grassroots, but there is nothing to prevent leaders like yourself from offering a few inspiring words to elaborate on the key question you have already posed:
"How do we make technology work for us, and not against us — especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change?"
Like climate change, the health impacts of non-ionizing microwave radiation are inconvenient – but may turn out to be more damaging. In May, the Federal Governments’ National Toxicology Program’s 25 million dollar study published partial findings that cell phone exposure led to both DNA damage and cancer in rats, echoing the results of other independent investigations around the world, including that of our military back in the 1970’s.
Thank you again for your service and I wish you and Mrs. Obama all the best for your next efforts on behalf of American and the world.
Artistic Director, Piti Theatre Company
Co-Creator, “Innocenzo” an international touring performance for all ages with a message of prevention about the health effects of electromagnetic pollution
Note: This letter has been published in the holistic health magazine, "Spirit of Change":