Perhaps you have been already convinced by reading articles on this site about the devastating effects of the ongoing rollout of massive numbers of 4G/5G so-called small cells (short for cell towers) throughout cities in the U.S. If you’re not up to speed about why you should be extremely, extremely alarmed, you can read my previous article on the subject (“The 5G Juggernaut, Coming Soon to a Utility Pole Outside Your Home“)
Assuming you are now aware that this rollout will have devastating impacts on our quality of life, and the-well being of the planet, how can you take action to fight it? Two bills have been introduced in the CA legislature to essentially remove any local government oversight of the telecoms, and will be catastrophic if passed. These are AB 537 and SB 556. This article explains how you can be effective in convincing legislators to oppose these bills, but this same advice applies to lobbying legislators in any state.
My advice is based on my past experience as a lobbyist representing a statewide human rights organization when, on more than one occasion, a tiny group of us were able to win extraordinary victories against bills being strongly pushed by powerful corporate interests. I also worked as a legislative assistant to a city council person, giving me an inside look at the dynamics of local government, and was very involved in the successful 2017 campaign in California to defeat a similar 5G greenlighting bill.
Mindset is important. If your mindset is “The government is totally against us, we live in a corporatocracy and I just need to register my outrage, but I know we’re not going to win,” your lobbying efforts are unlikely to succeed. If your mindset is “Legislators definitely don’t share my values, but maybe I can trick them into supporting us, by greatly watering down what I believe into a more palatable ‘mainstream’ message,” No, this is not going to convince them to take the action you’re hoping for. Or “What if I come up with an assertion that is so powerful that the person I’m talking to will be absolutely overwhelmed, and whether or not I provide them with supporting arguments and documentation is not really important?”– Uh, no.
There is no question that anti-5G lobbyists are up against huge forces that have almost unlimited funds to bribe legislators with donations, and pay full time lobbyists to perpetuate their propaganda.
In my opinion, there is only one way to win when the odds are so stacked against us, and that is to connect with the person that you’re communicating with as a fellow human being, who is trying to make sense of a world where all our usual assumptions about normality have been turned upside down. A fellow/sister human who cares as deeply as you do about the health and well-being of their children, family, and friends, and who has a strong interest in the future of California, and does not want the state destroyed by catastrophic wildfires which could result from this massive, unregulated cell tower rollout.
Ask yourself what argument is going to overcome all the years of telecom and mainstream propaganda they’ve been programmed with? Maybe explaining that their child could get a brain tumor — or they might not even be able to have children
— as a result of the ever-increasing close proximity radiation that this legislation would create? Or perhaps giving them documented information about the extreme fire risks posed by locating these very powerful small cell towers everywhere. (You can see a lot of the documented evidence of 5G fire dangers in this article I wrote, which describes the woeful lack of fire protection provided by Berkeley lawmakers when they crafted their city’s small cell ordinance.)
Although the industry likes to describe them as “small” cells, the equipment can be quite large, adding greatly to the aesthetic deterioration of California cities and towns. And the radiation can often be just as powerful as the traditional 3G/4G macro towers, now with the added very strong EMF (electromagnetic field) pollution that is caused by the 5G antennas. 5G is not replacing 4G, it is adding on to it.
It’s important to do your homework, so you are familiar with what the bill you are lobbying about says, and can provide backup documentation for your assertions.
It should go without saying that you need to adhere to the truth 100% of the time. The truth about the planned rollout of thousands of 5G cell towers directly outside our homes is so horrendous that we don’t have to exaggerate anything, or slant the truth to get a desired effect.
An example of activists of being less than accurate was the flyer, posted on many webpages, which noted that for many years, telecoms had not been able to get insurance for small cells. They could only get insurance if there was an exclusion for “EMF pollution” (i.e., all the people that can be expected to get deathly ill as a result of having powerful 4G/5G antennas outside their bedroom windows). Then there’s other information indicating that small cells present very serious fire risks. Somehow these two arguments got combined into one shorter message, that telecoms can’t get insurance for small cells due to extreme fire dangers. Since many legislators might not even know what EMF pollution is, that makes for a much more impressive message, since everyone who lives in California is worried about wildfires. The only small problem is that that argument is not true.
If you’re going to contact legislators, it’s essential to make sure that your arguments relate to the particular bill that you’re contacting them about. Do not use a generic “5G is terrible” message. Telecoms have full-time lobbyists that will be sure to point out any factual errors in your arguments. Legislative aides and committee staff will also note errors. No point in your trying to give them information that can’t be backed up — aside from the fact that some readers of this kind of messaging will just have an intuitive sense that there’s something off about your argument.
Activists may have read somewhere that they should be certain to avoid mentioning health impacts, or even ANY harmful impacts caused by close-proximity cell towers, when talking to legislators. There is a huge amount of scientific evidence showing extremely harmful health impacts of living near a cell tower and/or being exposed to wireless radiation — cancer clusters, strokes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, etc. That is one of the most effective arguments you can use, since small cells will increase the level of radiation exponentially.
Because this dictum has gone out so widely to anti 5G activists, that any mention of health should be strenuously avoided, I reached out to several of the top anti-5G attorneys regarding this issue. They all said there is no reason for activists to censor themselves about detrimental heath impacts of cell towers when contacting state legislators.
As one of these attorneys explained it, according to federal law, the only time you cannot talk publicly about health and environmental impacts is before a local governing body that is deciding whether or not a particular cell tower is going to be placed. (You can feel free to say whatever you want when speaking to city council members privately.) If the telecom applicant can show in court that the denial of their permit was based on health concerns, the telecom wins the right to put in their tower.
Please don’t confuse that nuanced issue of local zoning procedure with what kind of issues you can and should bring up when lobbying state legislators.
Aside from the federal law which restricts local siting decisions based on health, there are other federal laws and court decisions that require governments to ensure the safety of communities from harmful effects of cell tower radiation, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fair Housing Act, which do not allow laws or regulations that deny access by EMF-disabled people to their own homes or services in their community. There is a DC Court of Appeals decision (Keetoowah Tribes vs FCC) that said national environmental laws also must be considered in the siting of all small cells.
Even the California Supreme Court issued an opinion (T Mobile West vs. City and County of SF) that cities cannot evade their responsibility to protect public safety regarding cell tower placement. Here’s a relevant quote from that opinion:
Under the California Constitution, cities and counties “may make and enforce within [their] limits all local, police, sanitary, and other ordinances and regulations not in conflict with general laws…. local police power includes broad authority to determine, for purposes of public health, safety, and welfare, the appropriate uses of land within a local jurisdiction’s borders.”
As a people’s lobbyist, you are not required to be able to debate the finer points of all these laws, regulations, and court decisions. Even though all the attorneys consulted agreed that none of these laws or court opinions represent a gag order for lobbyists, for strategic reasons, it’s always a good idea to bring up other issues, in addition to health and environmental impacts, when opposing 5G legislation. There are many other crucially important reasons to oppose this uncontrolled rollout, some of which I’ve described in my article which I linked to previously. More can be found here and here.
You will be on very strong ground legally and ethically if you base your discussion of health impacts on how these bills violate the ADA, that is, the rights of people who have electro-sensitivity (sometimes abbreviated to ES). However I believe it’s a mistake to make the whole issue of health impacts solely related to people who are already disabled by this condition. Many legislators probably don’t believe that such a thing exists, and even if they believe it does, that is a very small segment of the population, compared to the huge number who are being deprived of adequate high-speed internet access — the problem these bills claim to fix.
It’s excellent to bring up the ADA, but cell tower health impacts affect everyone, not just this small group who are already experiencing ES. As the former President of Microsoft Canada, Frank Clegg, explains it:
Everyone can develop ES. People are not born with ES but develop it as a result of exposure to radiation from wireless sources…. As with other conditions, a person may have a disposition towards a certain condition and therefore may develop it sooner than another person with the same exposure. The increasingly high prevalence of ES makes it clear that the attempts to suggest that those who suffer from the condition are a small fraction of the population that is ‘sensitive’ or that their response to radiation deviates from that of the general population, are false.
(Frank Clegg is now devoting much of his time to countering telecoms’ lies about the safety of 5G as you can see here.)
Even the former Prime Minister of Denmark, who is also the former Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, developed very strong sensitivity to EMFs.
The health impacts are not just the numerous discomforts experienced by those who are EMF sensitive — such as severe head pain and pressure, heart pain and palpitations, sleep disturbances, dizziness, ear pressure or ringing, brain fog, burning skin, constant nose bleeds, etc. The health impacts the legislators need to know about, in addition to the symptoms of EMF sensitivity, are the ones documented in peer-reviewed journals, showing serious diseases like cancer resulting from wireless radiation.
You may be thinking, I don’t have time to track down all these scientific articles about the health impacts of wireless radiation. Luckily, Environmental Health Trust has done an exhaustive job of collecting all the documentation about health impacts, and many other issues related to stopping 5G, which you can find here.
The health effects of cell tower radiation was probably the winning argument (among many) that was used in 2017, when opponents of SB 649 kept bringing up the fact that firefighters were exempted in the bill from having a cell tower near their station, resulting from their fierce objections due to their past experiences of major neurological deterioration as a result of such towers. There is a similar exemption for fire stations in this current 5G streamlining bill, AB 537. If firefighters are protected, what about children, the elderly, and all the rest of us? In what upside down universe does that make sense?
So, no, it’s not true that you have to avoid any mention of health impacts when lobbying state representatives.
You may have been told legislators have short attention spans, so you need to make your message very short and catchy. They are not going to read a long letter with a lot of research attached.
Not true. They might not read every long letter, especially if it’s filled with rambling thoughts and unsupported assertions, but if your letter is well organized and accurately addresses what the bill says, their aides/staff will look it over, since it’s their job to know all the facts related to the bill. Some even appreciate that you are helping them do their job, and activists’ research will influence how they write up the bill.
Your task as a lobbyist is to explain all the reasons why the bill will be extremely bad for California. Yes, it’s good to choose your words carefully, but if it takes you more than one page to explain all the reasons, that’s OK. It’s also totally fine to focus on one or two key points, as long as you can back up your arguments with some form of documentation, and can explain how they relate to the bill.
As far as choosing which issues to focus on, don’t limit yourself to a neutral and non-controversial argument; e.g., local control by the cities is an important principle that should be upheld, or 5G next to people’s houses will reduce property values. Legislators are already aware that these bills greatly restrict or eliminate local control, and many cities will be writing to strongly remind them of that fact.
You are trying to transform the legislator’s entire worldview about the supposed miraculous benefits of saturating our lives with wireless radiation. A neutral message like “someone’s property values could go down” is not likely to convince them. (Is it even true that someone’s property values will go down from having a small cell tower in front of their house, if every third house in that community has a small cell in front of it, as the authors of these bills intend?)
This brings me to the very prevalent use of “talking points,” which are very condensed messages that can be used by members of groups to attempt to sway legislators. There is a school of thought which says the main goal in lobbying the legislator is to get the largest number of people possible to call into their office and/or wait in line at a hearing to give a “me too” statement. The “me too” statement only allows them to present name, organization, if any, and a yes or no position on the bill. And since the main goal is to get large numbers of people to call in, you don’t want to burden potential citizen-lobbyists with a lot of details about the bill. It’s better, this theory goes, to just give them some sound bites that then can be repeated endlessly by everyone who calls in.
There is some truth in this approach, which is if you can get a large enough number of people from the legislator’s own district to call in, they might be responsive to the sentiments of their constituents — but probably not responsive enough to overcome the power of the telecoms to establish the discussion parameters about why this bill is so necessary.
If there is a group of activists who all live in the same legislator’s district, they should set up a meeting with the legislator, or if that’s not possible, the top aide working on the bill. That would have a much greater impact, as opposed to all the activists in that district calling in with the same few, identical talking points.
One problem with talking points is that they make it less likely you will be able to make an authentic connection with the aide. They’ve heard it all before, maybe ten or twenty times before, and their goal will be to get you off the phone as quickly as possible.
Another problem with talking points is that they’re not always true. What?? I saw it on a flyer or I saw it on a website, so it must be true! I’ve already talked about the issue of wrong information being widely circulated. I think it’s like the game of telephone we played as kids. The first person in the circle whispers something to the next person, who whispers it to the next person, and by the time it reaches the last person, the original message has been changed into something totally different.
You need to ask yourself, does this argument make sense? Can I find any information to back it up?
Regarding what I described as the telecoms setting the “parameters of discussion,” they claim that due to the Covid-19 crisis, when people in low income and rural communities are unable to receive high-speed internet access, their ability to access government programs, education for their kids, and to earn money for their survival, is severely threatened. Providing high-speed access to these groups should be the main concern of legislators who are trying to help their constituents.
All other arguments seem to pale against that urgent need — unless you can get into a real conversation with the aide, and explain the fallacy of that position. Of course, we agree that all under-served communities need to have high-speed internet. However, corded internet connections (such as Ethernet, DSL and cable) are just as fast or faster, and they don’t have the downsides of EMF pollution and extreme fire risks. Point out that there’s nothing in the bill that requires telecoms to actually serve under-served communities.
The much-touted promise of 5G to provide faster connections and download speeds has not held up in practice, according to investigators from PC Mag, who did tests of 5G vs. 4G speeds. 5G also does not work in very hot weather. You can explain that by removing local control, the bill also removes the ability of the local government to negotiate with telecoms to provide access for everyone.
Instead of trying to manipulate, or bombard with robo-calls, the person you’re trying to convince, what if you just tried to educate them? As I previously noted, humanity right now is facing unprecedented threats. Rather than this piece of proposed legislation providing a solution, you can tell them how this bill will increase environmental and public health disasters a hundredfold.
What is the point of giving everyone in California internet access (not that we’re saying these bills WILL do that) — if at the same time you are putting in thousands of extremely fire-prone installations throughout neighborhoods? To put it another way, what good is it for a family to have fast home internet, if they don’t have a home?
These fires can be caused by overloading utility poles, frequent use of smart meters (which are a documented fire hazard) on the small cells, lack of built-in fire safety features, lack of state-required fire safety inspections and reports, and the temporary or permanent use of backup generators containing fire-prone substances, such as diesel fuel or lithium batteries.
Thousands and thousands of these terribly risky installations will be put in right next to people’s homes, or kids’ schools, or facilities for the elderly, so there will be no time for people to escape in a disaster.
On April 19. 2021, fire safety consultant Susan Dana Foster was the first opposition witness regarding SB 556, a 5G bill to greatly reduce the involvement of local governments in the 5G rollout, in a hearing of the Senate Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Communications. She was providing refutation to the testimony of the Verizon representative. She explained that firefighters cannot put out electrical fires, such as would occur at a 4G/5G small cell, because putting water on those fires would cause electrocution.
All they can do is wet the ground next to the fire in short bursts. They have to wait for the power to be shut off, which for various reasons that she explained, could take from ten minutes to up to two hours. She also describes how the telecoms have been successful in evading the usual government electrical codes at the federal, state, and county level.
During that hands-off period for firefighters, that could last up to two hours, strong winds could spread the original electrical fire much, much further. In a state like California, where massive wildfires are already causing immense destruction to life and property, these provisions seem like a recipe for unimaginable disaster.
One thing I would strongly urge when trying to find out accurate info about a bill, is to read the official analysis and summary of the bill you are going to be speaking or writing to legislators about. These official analyses are a gold mine of information, and sometimes sound like they could have been written by a fellow activist. (Of course, sometimes they also sound like they could have been written by telecom spokesperson.)
You need to familiarize yourself with the lingo. The term “deemed approved” is one you will see over and over again in these bills. It means if the city is unable to respond to a telecom application within a very short time period (called a shotclock), then their application is automatically accepted without the need for city approval.
Another important term is collocations. This refers to the telecoms’ ability to keep adding more and more antennas, which they would prefer to do without local government oversight. You can find all the information you need about each bill, including what committee it’s headed to, here.
Another good site to know about is the California Legislature Position Letter Portal, which allows you to send a letter to the entire committee where the bill is headed, by just going through their easy registration steps. It’s also helpful to send a copy to your representatives in the Assembly and Senate.
In a few committees, the letters sent through the official portal do not reach the individual committee members, which is why it is good to also send it to them individually. You might even consider using snail mail if you are unable to reach individual legislators through their email.
Sometimes when calling their office you may be told that the legislator only wants to hear from district constituents. You can tell them that as a resident of California, you are a constituent, since their decisions on this committee will affect everyone in the state.
To sum up, while I’m not saying that large numbers of people calling legislators’ offices with talking points is never of benefit, in my experience, the only truly effective way to win the legislator’s or aides support is to get them to understand the deeper reasons this bill will be devastating to so many people. It actually only takes one citizen-lobbyist to have that kind of conversation.
Your underlying message should be: Don’t vote against this bill because we’re asking you to. Vote against it because you care about the well-being and safety of your family and community, and about the people of California, and will do whatever is necessary to protect them from the catastrophic impacts of this technology that is running amok.
The post Taking Action Against 5G: Advice from a People’s Lobbyist
first appeared on Dissident Voice