What would John Muir- the founder of the Sierra Club- have thought of smart meters?
By Joshua Hart MSc
If you picked up the latest Sierra Magazine, you might have noticed a column under the section, “Grapple” with an image of a foot kicking out a smart meter from a house. Has the Sierra Club finally looked at the evidence and come to its senses? Have they accepted that the smart grid is really a false solution to our dire environmental problems, and a major health crisis to boot? Sadly, instead of listening to expert opinion and common sense, the Sierra Club is now twisting the words of experts who are increasingly raising the alarm about smart meters, and tarnishing the reputation of physicians groups- simply to maintain their unsubstantiated claim that by adding millions of new energy sucking smart meters to an already inefficient grid- we will somehow ‘save energy.’ It appears that the Sierra Club and the editor of the Sierra Magazine Paul Rauber have drunk the Kool Aid and don’t want to come down from their corporate cash soaked smart grid dreams. Yet come down they must, as the dawn of smart meter resistance is shining through the curtains and waking them up to a hangover brought on by their past follies.
Editor Paul Rauber attempts to distance the Sierra Club from the growing smart grid debacle in the latest issue of Sierra. Neglecting to mention that the Sierra Club, along with the NRDC and EDF have long been champions of the smart grid, encouraging policymakers down this path without a shred of independent evidence of energy savings, they depict themselves suddenly as champions of the consumer, pointing the finger at the utilities:
“the utilities have only themselves to blame for public recalcitrance.”
We tried to warn the Sierra Club that all was not kosher with the smart grid. We sent them a ton of information about the problems with smart meters a year ago, but instead of engaging, they just asked us not to e-mail them anymore.
According to the article in Sierra:
“David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany’s School of Public Health, says that the health risk from a smart meter probably depends on how close it is to your bed or your easy chair. But he also suggests weighing that risk against those from dirty energy, an archaic grid, and climate change: infectious disease, lung damage, famine, heatstroke, fire, and flood. ‘In terms of a body count,’ Carpenter says, ‘that’s orders of magnitude more significant.’”
We contacted David Carpenter MD, to ask if this was an accurate representation of his expert opinion. This is what he told us:
“As is often the case my comment reported here is taken out of context. And I certainly did not imply in any way that imposition of smart grids reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. However I stand by the conclusion that the death rate from increased heat waves, ocean level rises, violent weather etc. are going to kill more people than will die from greater exposure to RF fields, where the deaths will come primarily from leukemia and other forms of cancer. This is a perfect example of how comments that are rational are printed implying a totally different meaning.”
The article also ridicules the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, a respected group of physicians concerned with environmental impacts on human health. The only thing Sierra managed to criticize them for is their opposition to water fluoridation- the subject of serious medical debate regarding whole body health impacts. By trying to prevent tooth decay, we may be causing far worse problems. A parable for our failing mechanistic approach to health care.
The author makes it sound as if Marin County is alone in its opposition to smart meters, neglecting to mention the inconvenient truth that now 56 cities and counties in California alone have demanded a halt to the smart meter rollout in its current form.
“While most of us get far more exposure from our cellphones and wi-fi networks than we would from smart meters, they do emit radio frequency radiation in short, powerful bursts.”
At least Sierra is admitting that the meters do emit powerful bursts, but ignores studies like that conducted by UC researcher Dan Hirsch which indicates that smart meters subject us to 100-150x the cumulative whole body radiation of a cell phone. Anyway, how is exposing us to even marginally greater carcinogenic radiation good public policy, especially when safe alternatives exist?
Now don’t get us wrong- we think the Sierra Club over the years has been critical in defending much of the nation’s wilderness areas from inappropriate development, and protecting at-risk species. Their local chapters are often free of the creeping corporate influence that has been rotting away the morals of the central office. For example, the Club’s own San Francisco chapter voted unanimously in March 2011 to demand a moratorium on smart meters due to pressing health and environment threats. Yet you won’t read about that in the national magazine. Like much of the country’s media, growing wireless health damage is simply blacked out as if it doesn’t exist. The invisible hand of the telecommunications industry at work?
The problem with the Sierra Club is that they remain committed to a dead end mode of environmental philosophy- that ‘green’ consumerism and technology can save the world. They promote wildlife iPhone apps, ignoring the fact that the iPhone may cause brain tumors in the user and damage to the very wildlife that people are admiring, from the network of cell towers it depends upon.
Their faith in humanity to look squarely at our environmental problems and change course accordingly is dim to non-existent. By promoting false solutions like carbon offsets, smart grid development, and electric vehicles, the Sierra Club is sanctioning and perpetuating the root cause of our environmental ills: capitalism and hyper-consumerism. Like an enabler to someone addicted to heroin, they soothe our worries with glossy magazine pics of natural environments, urging us to consume ‘green’ products we don’t really need, promoting a path that will just delay the inevitable. Marlboro lights are not a solution to cigarette addiction.
David Carpenter is right. We need to make major changes to human civilization- if we want it to avert major public health consequences. We need to quit fossil fuels, and reign in wireless technology and obscene levels of consumption. But that doesn’t make anyone uber-wealthy. And therein lies the problem.
In the last issue, Sierra featured an article about how to make a microwave oven into a mailbox. Perhaps they have some ideas about how to encourage the adaptive reuse of millions of smart meters that Americans are rejecting. How about paperweights to sit on our desk and remind us how false, techno solutions won’t save anything other than the corporate bottom line?
Maybe the Sierra Club is secretly pleased about the health damage being done by its precious smart meters- after all if they really believe that humans will never change our ways, perhaps the only way to ‘save the planet’ so that rich Sierra donors can jet off to Bali is through microwave population control.
Certainly not our vision of “exploring, enjoying, and protecting the planet”
Upset with the Sierra Club’s backing of the smart grid? Are you or someone you know a Sierra Club member? Consider terminating your membership by calling (415) 977- 5653 (telling them why!), and re-directing your donation to organizations such as ours who are fighting to protect humans and wildlife from the smart grid. Please donate today– an insignificant amount for the Sierra Club can enable a significant amount of anti-smart meter advocacy!