Lost democracy and the abdication of responsibility
How did it happen and with what outcomes?
Do you ever feel we have developed a political climate in which what is best for society and for individuals is totally subsumed by business and power politics? Maybe your personal worry is about supermarkets driving out small businesses, maybe it is about GM foods, or fluoride in the water. Or perhaps our place in Europe, or fox-hunting, or the war in Iraq. Sometimes it seems your biggest free choice is in what to feel most threatened by!
When do you feel you last really had a say? And do you just wonder who on earth to vote for? Is there any real difference, not in the manifestos (which can be remarkably similar in any case), but in the attitudes? Here we are, battling against masts being put wherever the operators want, backed up by government. Some of us are afraid of the long-term effects. Some of us are certain of them. Some us us already feel the effects. But instead of the issue becoming one of positive social concern and genuine enquiry, it is becoming a political football: can we beat Labour by capitalising on peoples concern about masts? And on what grounds? That people dont like the look of them and want them out of their back yards? Where is the enquiry to find out whether the physiological effects people are already feeling, and the clusters of cancers and motor neurone disease, are correlated with masts, and if there is a link?
But no; it is so important not to upset the industry, that the issue of whether this use of microwaves freely in the environment is safe long term, is completely avoided.
How much do you know about the Aarhus Convention on Environmental democracy? Ratified by the EC in February 2005, this convention is about access to environmental information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters. Are you getting good information? Are you truly participating in the decisions? Do you have justice? Whether you object on visual environmental impact, or effects on birds, or because it makes you unwell, this Convention is one to understand and exercise. Read it, discuss it, and raise your objections using it. Europa website on the Aarhus Convention.
Here is an anonymous contribution, highlighting the moral dilemma people are being placed in.
Home sweet home
We have a lovely home, but a mobile mast has been put up right next to it. Do we have a choice? No; none. Even though we protested and successfully objected so that our local planners refused, along came an HM Planning Inspector to tell us it wouldnt look bad to them, and thats all that matters. So up it went.
Now I have problems sleeping, my partner has headaches and my daughter has started having nosebleeds. Who will believe me? I know there are lots of people and families out there like ours experiencing the same, but no-one accepts what we are saying. The collusion is staggering between the industry that says we just dont understand, police who say it will all prove to be unfounded and the protection authorities who say there is no evidence, whatever we say and however many of us say it. Then the industry is lobbying government and asking for more de-regulation, because they are slipping behind in international competitiveness and not making as much money as they want. And the government stands by and will not even listen to MPs in the House of Commons who want proper debate, and a slow-down in this hateful race, until we know more.
My partner was then approached by O2 Airwave because he runs a business with a convenient location for a TETRA mast. He knows that the people who work for him are worried so he asked the NRPB for a current statement on safety, and whether he can tell his employees that TETRA will not affect them.
And the NRPB told him that he must make his own mind up on that, and by the way, some people say that low frequency microwaves like TETRA have been used for weapons or mind control, but there is no evidence. He didnt ask that!
A cruel dilemma
So we put our lovely home on the market to move on. We feel we cant risk the children living with this radiation so close. Maybe their school is protected by the planning rules, but our home isnt.
What do we do? Protest and risk drawing attention to our house? Or keep quiet and hope no-one notices the silver monstrosity by the garden fence? If we protest and cant sell, we cant get away. And then we will be told that it is because we have scared people off, not because of the mast itself, because without us they would not have worried! But it is really making us unwell!!
We decided we must tell everyone who asks that the mast has been declared OK. It has a certificate that says is is operating according to the guidelines, and that the NRPB says it is probably safe. If we say that the NRPB says it is safe we could be held to account for lying.
We wrote to the local planning office to seek advice. What do we legally have to say to people buying our house? Does this fear of ours (that our symptoms are from the mast, and may be bad in the long term as well as very unpleasant all the time), count as something material to be declared about the property? The planners refused to advise us, and suggested we seek our own legal advice.
Am I getting this right? It appears that since the government has chosen not to protect us from something that they certainly know may not be harmless, we must pay to find out if we must warn prospective buyers of the danger they say probably does not exist? And if the legal advice is that we must inform prospective buyers? Isnt that like warning them off? How extraordinary.
A family viewed our house, with happy little children. It is a lovely house, and the rooms are bright, a good size and well-proportioned. It is an ideal family home. I dont want them to buy it. But I want to get away. I want to sleep again, and for us all to be happy and well.
Mr Blair; Mr Prescott; Mr Clark; Sir William Stewart, at the Health Protection Agency. None of you seems to care. Is my family an acceptable casualty in the cause of your politics? Forgive me if I believe down to my toes that we have lost democracy, lost our human rights and that you have abdicated all responsibility.
See also Nicola’s story
See also Phil and Nancy’s story
Unsightly but harmless? Is that all there is to be concerned about? 50,000 mobile masts in the UK may be more than we can take. And TETRA has special concerns of its own.