Photo essay by ERIC SHULTZ
Last Friday at the busy Alameda and St. Francis intersection, drivers waved and emphatically honked their horns to support the dozens of Gonzales School community members holding picket signs in front of the Burger King. Their issue was a health concern but—perhaps surprisingly—not about the food. The owners of the fast food outlet’s site have made a deal with ATT to place a 4-G antenna tower there. And from there, a kid with a baseball and a good arm could break a classroom window. That’s how close the proposed tower site is from the place where thousands of northwest Santa Fe kids will spend a large part of their early lives.
There is broad scientific consensus that electromagnetic radiation (EMR) of the kind these antennas emit causes serious health problems. There are even U.S. government health regulations regarding exposure. But as we have seen regarding the health effects of tobacco, for example, or the human causes of climate disruption, powerful economic interests actively muddy the waters of science to the benefit of corporate shareholders and to the detriment of public health. In the case of EMR, scientists agree that such radiation causes problems. The only disagreement is about whether low levels are safe. As has been the case with all other forms of environmental contamination, more focused research is finding negative effects from levels several orders of magnitude below those currently regulated as safe. And in a classic example of an agency held captive by the industry it regulates, the FCC claims legal power to overrule any local government’s opposition to EMR sources if the decision is based on health concerns. Look for an upcoming article on the scientific, economic, legal and political issues involved in this looming environmental crisis of the information age. The Gonzales School protest is as local as politics gets, but its implications are truly global. Long live the Gonzales School families!