5G–New, fast, profitable, & possibly quite dangerous

Susan Cooke

Please pardon my long absence, caused by a need for lots of time  to research an upcoming post designed to help people find cleaner-running, quieter landscape tools, and therefore find city life a little less stressful. I interrupted that work to bring up something really important that I feel can’t wait. Let’s look at a new technology that may be affecting your health soon:  It’s called 5G.

Below are several links to articles I’ve found on 5G and the cell towers that apparently are going to be inflicted on all of us (lots and lots of them) without much concern for possible health effects. Personally I have enough to do battling and living with city stress both for myself and others already. It’s upsetting to me that  no matter what we do to be healthy–which is challenge enough in the modern world– we may have our efforts sabotaged by thousands of new barely-studied 5G cell towers near us, and have no control over what they might do to us. We already live and work in buildings full of people using a wide array of electromagnetic equipment about which there’s still not conclusive evidence of safety.  We have pretty much the same human body we did centuries ago but it wasn’t exposed to all this stuff 24/7.

If you’re concerned or want to know more, I hope you’ll take a look at these articles. I’ll mention a few more things before the articles come up below.

I’ve seen a variety of opinions on EMFs (electromagnetic fields), but I still find enough negatives to make me want to insist on no further electromagnetic radiation near where I live.  An accomplished software engineer I know says he doesn’t see that the new 5G technology is that necessary, especially if it puts people’s health at risk. He says instead what we need is faster connections to people’s houses, which you can do with  just wires only. (Full disclosure,  I’m married to the software engineer. His name is Victor Preston.)

We figured at our house we’re probably already swimming in electromagnetic radiation, and it’s likely you are too. We now turn wifi off at night so at least we’re not sleeping in so much of it.  (This was recommended to me by a book I read on possible causes of auto-immune illnesses.) Still, as a person with a PTSD brain and who seems to have a couple of ailments there are no explanations for (blood tests normal) like chronic fatigue) I’m not happy about having another not-well-understood threat added to the mix I’m living in. My understanding is none of us has the power to say “No” to these towers. As one article states it, they’re coming, period. That’s pretty pushy, wouldn’t you say? What I think we need to do then is block this technological “advance” until its proven safe for adults, kids, and animals.

Why not delay it until it’s known for certain not to cause harm? And if it does cause harm it clearly must be redesigned or scrapped. We’re going to be exposed to this stuff for most hours–maybe all hours–of every day. What’s the big hurry?  I suspect the usual–big money.

Unless and until  there’s proof all this activity in our environment is not already making people sick, we shouldn’t  allow ourselves to be bullied into accepting even more of it that’s even more untested.  If we don’t stop this plan to dump these towers on us, and we do get sicker, the companies profiting from them will likely just find ways to blame any resulting illnesses on something else.

Some people are already planning to uproot themselves and move just to get away from the towers (but where can they go?) This works further to destroy sense of community, which this country desperately needs more of–and it’s another way the towers will harm wellbeing. The companies–and also governments allowing the towers–should also consider what they may likely have to pay for the lawsuits that will likely show up later due to illness if they charge ahead.

The time to investigate and to protest is now, before they put all the towers up. I feel bad for the initial test cities, which you’ll see listed in one of the articles. Did those people have any say in the matter? In one of the articles you’ll see that one resident expects property values to go down a lot when the towers come since most people in her area don’t want them. I honestly don’t see how this many towers can be shoved on us all without asking our permission and with so much ignorance about future results. I saw a figure of 800,000 by 2026 for the US.  And even if a neighborhood wants them (I doubt that will happen given the risk) each house should be able to say no.

I’m all for technology making our lives better but when health is endangered and anxiety over the technology causes stress and the increased depression often caused by added prolonged stress, the change is not better.  Ignoring such concerns shows a lack of respect for people’s peace of mind, something too little attention is paid to already by government and business, and which deeply affects wellbeing and health and therefore the very length of our lives. It looks as if we’re going to need to stand up to protect our health and wellbeing since government is failing to do it,  and because profit can and often does roll over a people like a tank. As I say ad nauseam, enough money is one thing; more and more profit no matter the cost to health of people and the planet is another.

Those planning on big profits from 5G need to keep in mind the potential increased healthcare costs caused by more illness, not to mention the suffering. Is it worth the trade-off, especially if you’re making the public angry in the process?

I don’t want to be part of this experiment, or for you to be either. Too often in the past  we’ve accepted new technologies without asking enough questions and demanding proof of safety.  I believe a good chance to have a healthier, less angst-ridden life is a basic human right, and government and industry need to be reminded of this constantly.

I’ve already written two of my reps in Congress about 5G, and I hope you’ll do the same if you’re concerned. My  purpose in this blog and in my book is to find ways to increase wellbeing for all living things, and to show that profit need not always be king. Yes 5G does some helpful things, but it doesn’t seem near worth the possible price. If it’s forced on us where I live, I don’t know what I’ll do or where we can go, and am feeling more anxiety because of it–not good for the immune system! (By the way the towers don’t look that great either and would not be a garden enhancement for sure.)

Here’s a novel idea:  How about these big companies taking a kinder, wellbeing-promoting route? I urge them companies to make their money on something known to be safe. If they can’t find safer communication technology, they could turn their vast innovative powers to other businesses desperately needed to make life healthier. They could for example replace some of the many toxic chemicals the FDA allows with safer ingredients. They could work on ways to grow more healthy plant food and feed more people, or find ways to house more people. Instead they’re promoting possible increased illness and more of the chronic anxiety already rampant in our society by forcing 5G on us.

Before getting to the articles on 5G, I want to mention, for those of you who are interested, what I also just read about transformer boxes (a related issue). If you want to skip it just go to the next paragraph after the link to an article discussing these boxes.

We made a point when choosing our house not to get one near one of those transformer boxes on poles we were warned might have bad effects on health. I just read in a response by an aerospace scientist to one of the articles that the bigger wires running from those boxes may be also be a big health problem. To see an interesting discussion on transformers alone and on the effect of “hum” and vibrations related to them (all news to me),  go to this link:

https://www.quora.com/How-dangerous-is-electrical-transformer-for-human-health-if-it-is-near-to-house

Below are the articles. If 5G makes you nervous I hope you’ll alert those in power in business and government, including local government, that you’re worried and that you don’t want it around until and unless it’s proven to be 100% safe for health (which I doubt can happen for some time if ever).

Meanwhile, stay well and I’ll be back soon with quieter landscape options. Here are the article links and a couple of comments on some of them:


The first, from CBS News, includes some photos. Note that one person interviewed feels she’ll have to move to avoid living next to a tower.

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/5g-network-cell-towers-raise-health-concerns-for-some-residents/

———————————

This next article details some of the worries about 5G’s health effects including some studies. It’s thorough, alarming, and I think proof this is not a good idea, at least not as it’s now planned, and it should not be forced on us:

Why 5G Cell Towers Are More Dangerous


Next an important article from Environmental Health Trust:

For this one please just google “5G and the IOT: Scientific Overview of Human Health Risks”   (Sorry, I can’t make a link on some of these without pulling up a big piece of the article. If searching for this title doesn’t work, please go to the main site first, which is:  Environmental Health Trust, then search for the 5G title.)


Here’s one from ConsumerWatch (I had same problem with making a link with this one):  Please google “ConsumerWatch: 5G Cellphone Towers Signal Renewed Concerns Over Impacts on Health”


And from UK’s Daily Mail:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5784487/The-roll-5G-wireless-service-massive-health-experiment-public-health-expert-warns-a.html

The above UK report (which is mostly about the US) states that some studies have already linked older wireless service generations to cancers of the reproductive system and heart, and 5G health effects have hardly been studied yet. But still the plan is, without asking us, to inundate us with some 800,000 new cell towers to support 5G. (The report says now we have 154,000.)

————————————

These articles and reports make clear that it’s highly irresponsible, unethical, and, might I say, greedy, to bulldoze over the entire US population with hundreds of thousands of new cell towers we certainly can’t trust to be safe.

Lack of Climate Change Action is Now Deadly Dangerous

Susan Cooke

Yesterday I’m pretty sure I heard Senator Lindsey Graham, in his moving farewell speech about his best friend Senator John McCain, say that both of them believed in climate change. I still am unclear about how many Republicans actually do not believe in climate change, but I hope, with some desperation, that all of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, will soon say enough is enough to the White House and the EPA and stop the current horrifyingly dangerous ignoring of this crisis.

I don’t think too many of us can take another month, let alone years, sitting by while not only nothing is done but while many earth-saving regulations are actually rolled back. Not only are we more isolated since Trump, we may soon have the honor of being blamed by most people on earth (and all of our children and future generations, if there are any) for not leading the way in immediate and intense steps to stop global warming, while instead, unbelievably, slowing progress in stopping it. We’re so near the point of no return (and beyond it for some events) that even those who don’t believe can certainly manage, if they have a caring bone in their bodies, to go along with the possibility that the climate experts are right, and hurry feverishly to act to save this planet and every living thing in it. It seems nothing short of promoting mass murder not to act now. We only rent our places here, we don’t own this beautiful planet. We have no right to do this to it or its future living things.

A Note on Our New Background Photo

Thanks to Ken McAllister for his beautiful photograph showing nature close to city life, in this case in Vancouver, British Columbia. He in fact titled the photo Nature Meets the City. See his site, www.kjmphotographic.com, for many other magnificent photos. You can see more of his photo on our site if you scroll down some to where there’s less print.

Test post

Dear readers,

It seems some people who wanted to be notified of posts are not getting those emails. We’re working on it, but for now would appreciate knowing if you got this test post and/or notification of the latest post, on industrial noise. We hope you’re able to answer in the comments section, which we also suspect is not working properly.

Thanks for your help!   –Susan

Industrial Noise and Fumes, & their Effects on Health

Susan Cooke

This is an updated and clarified post and reminder of how we’re affected by industrial noise, how we can help others by limiting the noise we make, and how we can begin to persuade government and business to help us find more quiet in our daily lives in the city, including quiet in the few bits of nature we can find there. Research increasingly shows we’re starved for time in nature without industrial noise, and that loud noise in general is decreasing wellbeing and adding to illness.

———-

Do you ever find that there’s no place near home where you can experience even a few minutes of quiet time in some green space like a garden or park, or even your own yard, porch, or balcony (emphasis on the word quiet)? How many times can you go outside or just open your windows on a lovely day without hearing leaf-blowers, giant lawnmowers, diesel trucks, jets overhead, or construction equipment? Do you go into your garden if you have one, to take a moment to smell the roses or some other flowers you planted, or just to hear the breeze rustling the leaves, and get a lungful of nearby leaf-blower or diesel exhaust along with an earful of roaring noise? Do you get blasted with loud sound systems or TVs in every eatery or store you enter? Do you ever say “enough” to the ever-increasing noise assaults of all kinds? Did you know that besides the stress you feel, and even if you don’t feel it as much as many others do, that so much exposure to all these loud sound assaults, and in the case of engines, their exhaust, is harmful to your health?  

In my town, a small city next to Boston, you can take what you might hope will be a quiet walk as late as 6 or 7 pm and still be forced to hear or inhale, on street after street, noise and fumes from leaf-blowers, giant lawnmowers, weed-whackers, power saws, sanders, stone-cutting equipment, and more. When you add this to the many loud and smelly (and unhealthy for you and the planet) oil trucks, huge UPS trucks, and souped-up motorcycles, you can see you’re living in a chronically toxic atmosphere humans were never exposed to for most of their existence but now experience constantly. 

Our nervous systems haven’t changed much and they don’t react well to this onslaught. While many Americans suffer from hearing such noises most of the day and into the evening, these practices at these hours are illegal in many cities in the world. Noise laws are generally lax in the U.S. In my town and from my research, in many others, the loose laws are clearly designed to make landscape and construction businesses happy, along with a few residents on every street who are in love with their own private stash of power equipment, all of whom are seemingly unable to consider how anyone else may be very stressed by the noise and fumes or even by the effects on their own health.

There is similar lack of empathy in legions of restaurant and store owners who now regularly torture many of their customers (and employees) with sound often loud enough to damage hearing, cause headaches, and raise blood pressure for hours after the exposure. I’ve noticed that the sound systems tend to become louder every year, unless many people request that the volume be turned down (and mostly that doesn’t happen because often such requests are met with surprising hostility). I and many people I’ve interviewed are finding we’re more and more uncomfortable everywhere we go. Lately the music has moved from fairly annoying to sounding like World War III in some of these places, starting as early as 6:30 in the morning when customers’ eyes are barely open. My own experience has convinced me that torture by noise (yes, noise has been used to torture) must be quite effective.

In many American cities, attempts by residents to ease their noise burden are met with passivity, stubborn resistance, or even rage. Heads in the sand, oblivious to the pleas by suffering residents, many city, state, and national leaders put noise on the bottom of their priority lists. This is hard to understand when healthcare costs are so high and the effects on health of noise and fumes are so egregious. In my town loud noise is allowed 7 am to 7 pm on weekdays, and is hardly better on weekends (including Sundays)—8 am to 7 pm.

This kind of schedule would astound people in some other countries whose governments are sensitive to this problem. In Germany, making others suffer with your noise is understood to be rude and to cause stress. As you’ll see below, German cities and some other European ones such as Stockholm are some of the quietest in the world. There is more awareness of the bad health effects of noise in European countries today than in most others worldwide. American cities temporarily became concerned around the 1970’s, but despite more noise than ever now, they’re now less willing to take action than in the 70’s. (But the good news is there’s evidence that’s slowly changing.) To read more about these noise issues, see the wonderfully comprehensive article in Wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noise_regulation . 

The top five quietest cities in the world are all in Europe: Zurich, Vienna, Oslo, Munich, and Stockholm, according to the World Economic Forum. In addition to Munich, three other German cities are in the quietest top 10: Dusseldorf, Hamburg, and Cologne. The criteria used included measuring the sound of music and TVs in restaurants and shops along with all the aforementioned types of industrial noise. The site says the world’s noisiest city is Delhi, followed by Cairo, Mumbai, Istanbul, and Beijing. The only US city among the quietest on this particular list is Portland (the list doesn’t say whether that’s the one in Oregon or Maine but I’m assuming Oregon). Some of the U.S. cities In the moderate range are New York, Houston, Detroit, Chicago, Birmingham, and San Francisco. I think New York may have managed to get a moderate position partly because of Central Park, and Battery Park City, a planned community that’s so uniquely separate from the city that you can be close in, yet experience quiet and lots of nature in that park and along the water. To see the chart of noisiest and quietest cities go to ttps://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/03/these-are-the-cities-with-the-worst-noise-pollution/

For a more personal viewpoint of one woman who traveled to a number of US cities in search of quiet places to take a vacation, blogger Jessie of Jessie on a Journey lists as the quietest of those she visited Durham, NC, Cape Cod, MA (not actually a city ), Hartford, CT, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Des Moines, Iowa. She lists the loudest as New York, Detroit, San Francisco, Miami, and Chicago. (See Jessie on a Journey at (https://jessieonajourney.com/usa-quiet-and-loud-cities/.)

In any case it’s likely that If you do live in a U.S. city of any size you often suffer from unwanted, disturbing noise. Noise complaints and new organizations formed to fight noise are common in many U.S cities now. It’s sad and in fact I believe unethical that citizens have to fight so hard for what it seems should be their right not to be assaulted by others’ health-damaging noise, especially since, as you’ll see in my next noise post, so much of it is unnecessary.

So what’s the noise really doing to us? At the web site The Network for Public Health Law, you can see a litany of different types of noise complaints from around the country. The first sentence in its intro is telling: “Community noise can be detrimental to public health. Adverse health effects include cardiovascular problems and learning deficits. Studies indicate the incidence of heart disease increases as community noise levels rise above 40 decibels (db).” And, “Noise is the subject of tens of thousands of complaints to government and citizens, who often cite noise as a significant quality of life issue.” I found it intriguing to learn on the site that noise complaints have been with us for centuries. In sixth century BC a Greek council created a sort of zoning ordinance that required noisy tradesmen to do all their work outside of city walls. Sounds good to me. For more go to https://www.networkforphl.org/_asset/3rvh8q/5-23-13Survey_of_noise_activity_4.pdf . 

Besides the physical effects mentioned above, noise is having significant effects on mental health. Many people  feel isolated and even lonely now (who did not before) because they simply can’t go into most stores or restaurants or even coffee shops they used to enjoy. This is also happening to many UK citizens who can no longer go to the pubs that used to be their main venue for socializing. This is bad news since loneliness is such a problem there that there’s now a Minister of Loneliness. It’s a growing problem here too, but I’ll save that for another post. I’ve met others who feel hopeless about escaping noise, and then depressed (hopelessness often leads to depression). They see they have little control over their quality of life, since it’s scary and often useless to ask for noise relief and it’s lonely when you’re shut out of places you used to enjoy and that helped you get out into the world. Humans are social creatures and unwanted isolation is known by researchers to be extremely bad for mental and ultimately physical health.

So people now often find not only do they miss coffee shops where they used to see and meet many other people, but they no longer can find any peaceful place to have even a few minutes outside their own homes in nature, maybe just to sit on their own balconies or front steps. This is rarely possible from morning till night in more and more places. This is happening to people regardless of sex (noise is not just a “woman’s thing”, ethnicity, or occupation.

Such hopelessness was plain to see in my former neighbor, a U.S. Air Force jet fighter pilot who has flown missions in Afghanistan, and was working on a graduate degree when he was back in the states. He very much wanted and needed to have dinner at 5 or 6 with his young family on the balcony overlooking their small yard after grueling days at grad school. Yet this hero hardly ever could have this modest enough pleasure because of the chronic presence, even at that time of day, of the many yard work teams (often hired by absent landlords who don’t have to hear the noise) that descended on the neighborhood (and still do) almost every day because of our town’s cruelly lax noise laws. He would get depressed about this, and told me he felt hopeless because in the past his requests for relief were ignored. He and his family had lived in Germany for awhile and he said it was quieter there. He deserved better. He lives in another city now, and I hope for him and his family that it’s a quieter one.

To make matters worse, researchers say we desperately need more nature in our lives in order to thrive, yet most of us barely get a whiff of it compared to early humans who lived close to nature much of the time. Right now most nature we can find in the city and increasingly anywhere doesn’t promote wellbeing as it used to because it’s so often accompanied by industrial noise and fumes, loud car radios, and even loud people who shout at each other (when they used to just talk) and who shout on their phones on their porch or steps, ruining your own badly needed quiet time on your porch or steps. (Other writers have noted, as you may have, that Americans, at least lately, are just plain loud.) 

A typical event could go something like this: you do go outside for a few quite minutes (you hope) in nature if, say you have a garden or a nice yard with a few trees, and the neighbor drags out his leaf-blower. What can you do? Risk an enraged or even threatening response (this happened to my husband) or go back inside and shut all the windows.  I’m delighted to report that occasionally someone, such as another of our neighbors, tells us he had no idea the blower bothered people. He was kind and turned it off, for awhile anyway. But sadly, this response is rare.  

Let’s face facts. Researchers say we need relief from noise and we need more nature in order to thrive, yet in American cities today both are extremely hard to come by. Noise comes from all directions at increasing numbers of hours, noise that includes, besides construction, lawn equipment, and retail noise (noise inside stores and restaurants, who also sometimes blast it onto the streets), more and more jets and helicopters over our homes day and night, loud (and polluting) diesel trucks, and “modified” vehicles made artificially loud (illegal in many states but apparently hard to enforce).

A motorcycle and also one of the cars in my neighborhood both sound like the apocalypse when they go down our street. This problem too is common in many U.S. neighborhoods despite laws against it, laws that appear not to be very effective in many cases). In New Jersey alone in 2017, over 2800 summons had been issued for super-noisy vehicles just from January through September. For more, go to https://www.nj.com/traffic/index.ssf/2017/09/do_cops_actually_write_tickets_for_loud_exhaust_systems_we_checked.html .

Loud Noise is often Accompanied by Health Hazards

Besides leaf-blowers’ terrible noise, we see in a report sent by investigators to the Lincoln, MA Board of Health an array of scary components of their exhaust that anyone close to users will be breathing in, and that get into the soil and water. The report says these include the volatile organic compounds benzene, 1,3 butadiene, acetaldehyde, and formaldehyde—all of which are labeled as HAPs or “Hazardous air pollutants,” that “can cause or may cause cancer and other serious health effects.” Then there are nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, hydrogen carbon, and particulate matter, labeled by the report as carcinogenic and/or ozone-causing. The particulate matter is composed of a mix of acids, organic chemicals, metals, soil, and dust.

The report compares the effects on the environment of a Ford Raptor Truck’s and a leaf-blower’s hydrocarbon emissions: 30 minutes of running a leaf-blower with a 2-stroke engine equals a 3,900 mile drive in a Raptor. Comparing for non-methane hydrocarbons, the leaf-blower generates 23 times the carbon monoxide and about 300 times more hydrocarbons than the Raptor. The leaf-blower’s particulate matter alone can include animal fecal matter, herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers, allergens such as fungal spores and pollen, diesel soot, brake dust, rubber tire particles, and toxic metals such as arsenic, chromium, lead, and mercury.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what you’ll be breathing today as you tend your garden next to the yard using the lawn care team. Or, if you just walk by with your dog or your children, who breathe it too. It’s even harder on their ears and lungs than yours. The fumes and particles also hang out in the air for awhile, then settle into dust and any water that’s around. I’ve even seen workers blow dust and leaves or just plain dust from the yard they’re working on into the next yard (where children may play) or on the sidewalk where people walk with kids and dogs. In Harvard Square I recently saw over a period of several days that one worker regularly blew both dust and litter into water drains leading to Boston’s beloved Charles River (yes that’s illegal here). 

How you can Help Yourself & Others

Here’s more technical information you might want to add to the above Lincoln, MA report in order to understand and explain to your town council and local businesses the harmful effects of loud noise and of gas-powered equipment’s noise and fumes. Among comments on the pollution from yard equipment and other smaller gas-powered machinery from California Air Resources Board’s “Small Engine Fact Sheet” is yet another comparison of environmental effects of driving a vehicle with using this machinery, in this case both a lawnmower and a leaf-blower:

“Today, operating the best-selling commercial lawn mower for one hour emits as much smog-forming pollution as driving the best-selling 2017 passenger car, a Toyota Camry, about 300 miles – approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. For the best-selling commercial leaf blower, one hour of operation emits smog-forming pollution comparable to driving a 2017 Toyota Camry about 1100 miles, or approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Denver.” (The Seattle Globalist, at http://www.seattleglobalist.com/2017/09/25/leaf-blowers-flagged-as-polluters-possible-health-threat/68802).

California has done better than many states in combatting noise or at least attempting to, with a number of cities there having completely banned gas-powered leaf-blowers. The Globalist writers say it still struggles against resistant tool companies (such as the big producer of gas-powered machinery Briggs & Stratton) in the state’s fight to protect workers and everyone else from the devastation to health and environment caused by this machinery. Yard workers themselves have complained of headaches, nausea, effects of hours of loud noise exposure that the CDC says will cause hearing loss without ear protection (and most don’t wear protection), and other health problems.

Despite the use of millions of these machines, there’s been relatively little testing, but even “improved” versions of them “still emit toxic contaminants such as carcinogenic benzene as well as surprisingly large amounts of other smog-forming chemicals.” Did you read that right? We’re talking about cancer-causing chemicals in the air here.

Highlighting the immediate medical dangers to us all, Jo Kay Ghosh, epidemiologist and health effects officer for the South Coast AirQuality Management District, a pollution control agency covering much of southern California (where there’s plenty of smog) says in the article “the smaller the particle, the deeper it can be inhaled into the lungs, and the more potential it has then to cause health problems” such as lung cancer, heart disease, asthma, and other respiratory ailments. She adds that ultra fine particles can even pass through cell membranes and slip into the bloodstream.

The writers say unpublished preliminary research by California regulators (to be followed with a more formal study) suggests that the equipment operators were exposed to at least 10 times more ultra fine particles than if they were standing beside a busy roadway. (They also mention a worker who suffered from migraines every day until he switched to a job where electric rather than gas-powered equipment was used.)

I recommend the Globalist article to help you understand and/or communicate the full impact of what these machines are doing to all of us, our pets, our kids, wildlife, and the planet. And yet the writers don’t have space to even begin to cover all the other gas-powered machines affecting our psyches and health besides gas-powered yard equipment, such as those in many gas-powered vehicles.

While many of us may have expected that gas-powered vehicles would have become illegal by now due to the obvious climate crisis we’re experiencing, not only has that not occurred, but there are in fact more and more of them including diesel engines (with their own uniquely dangerous exhaust) on our residential streets.  At least California is working hard to battle all small gas-powered motors including chain saws and other construction equipment that drive a lot of us crazy on residential streets. Later, after I’ve done more research, I hope to list some companies making cleaner, quieter equipment. I know they’re out there because there’s now a successful yard work company near me in Concord, MA using all-electric equipment.

Meanwhile I’ll be posting more on the effects on us of industrial noise and fumes, on extremely damaging-to-health sound systems in almost all retail stores and restaurants, and what we can do about these problems that add so much suffering to already-stressed Americans’ lives. These solutions include a number of quieter, cleaner-running machines you can find online right now.

Another Way to See the World

Susan Cooke

I woke up this morning thinking about how strange it is that labels hold such power in our lives. Of course I see that they’re useful, or else how would you find a Target store or the right train station either in person or online? How would you find things and remember people, without names?

But I’m thinking we might be better off without some labels that might not be quite so necessary. It could  be wonderful if we consciously made efforts to remove the power from many of them. Think of the power of the labels Democrat and Republican, and even more about “liberal” and “conservative.” How many times a day do we hear them in heated arguments about problems we seem to fight about often yet rarely solve, such as immigration, abortion, gun control, and more? How about the word “immigrant” which in many people’s minds is associated with fear or hatred? Think of the sweep of assumptions many make about a person with that label, or the labels “Islamic” or “Jewish.”

Imagine you move to another country, and now you are called an immigrant. What if you were instead just called “new friend” or “newly arrived person?” You’d still have to be checked on for safety purposes, at least while the world is the way it is now, but what if you were assumed to be non-dangerous and innocent of crime or ill will while the checking was done, and treated accordingly?

Names of countries too can become labels that conjure up images that may be way off base. When you think of Russia whose face do you see? Putin, who certainly does not represent all people who live in Russia although he does try to come close by attempting to control their opinions about others outside Russia. When you think of Mexico do you picture the old stereotype of a guy asleep under a striped blanket with a big hat on, or do you think of poor and violent people coming to the US and taking our jobs? Neither one has much to do with the majority of people who live in Mexico. Mexico is filled with beautiful music of all kinds, gorgeous art, fabulous food, and friendly, often quite happy people (with quite a sense of humor despite being at odds with their government in the recent past, say researchers). If you find yourself thinking negative things when you hear “Iran,” watch Rick Steves’ travel program on public TV in which he goes there and talks to many sweet, smiling people on the street who are delighted to meet him and say they love America.

I heard someone in government say on the news the other day in a description of our country, that we were this, that, and the other nice adjectives–I forgot exactly what they were–but one stood out to me immediately–he included in that string the label “Christian.” He was only trying to make us sound like a good country in several ways, but why did he throw in Christian–an extremely loaded label? We are not in fact a Christian country but a country filled with many religions. When you slap on a label you signal things to people both inside and outside our country about us that may not be true. If he used the label to mean we were good and charitable, that’s offensive to the people of other religions who are just as good and charitable.

How about the words rich and poor?  While it’s true it’s easier, for example, to get educated and employed if you’re rich, there are many poor people who are educated and underemployed or unemployed. There are many rich people who are quite uneducated in all or in many ways that can be surprising, some of whom may use their wealth to gain power and whose ignorance may then sometimes cause damage. We might want to ask ourselves whether or not we’re judging a person’s intellect, competency, or character fairly or accurately when we place a lot of value on the person’s level of wealth.

It’s hard to write sensibly about labels because they’re everywhere and used in so many different ways. The problems they come with are woven into our use of language in general, and language itself wields great power. We’ve seen, especially recently, that language does in fact matter greatly. Because words are some of the most powerful weapons that exist, we need to respect them, and that includes taking care with our using them to label. We need to be aware about how we might think too automatically about our labeling, or our hearing and seeing labels. I hope we can start to question much of that labeling and our acceptance of its use by others. How else can we ever get closer to what many of us know deep down is one of the best ways to help us make a more peaceful world? That is, a world in which it doesn’t matter which name, level of wealth, political party, country of origin, religion, and color a person is or has. What matters is what the person is made of inside.

 

Trump, Hopelessness, and Depression

Susan Cooke

 

Trump, Hopelessness, and Depression

It’s taking me longer than I’d like to finish my book on stress in American cities, a book that I hope will help all of us, especially if our legislators and business leaders pay attention. I address many stresses in the book, some of which I cover in this blog, and one point I return to often is the way chronic stress affects us both mentally and physically, hammering away at our brains, our moods, for many of us causing migraines and lack of sleep, and ultimately when it gets bad enough making us physically ill by increasing blood pressure and in other ways contributing to heart disease and other ills. You probably already know that stress has been shown many times by research to affect our quality of life and even how long we live. 

What I did not so far include in my discussions of all the stresses, because it wasn’t around when I began the book, was the gut-wrenching, happiness-destroying, anxiety-inducing, chaos-pushing, rudeness and crudeness-modeling, insulting-to-allies and embarrassing-to-Americans behavior of the current wrecking-ball residing in the White House. He is, if you ask anyone I know, the cause of a slew of destructive mental and physical symptoms from chronic worry, anxiety, and even panic, to insomnia to real hopelessness, all of which can turn into depression—a huge problem already in our country and worldwide. (Since legislators are often so concerned with finance, they should know that depression costs our country well over $210 billion a year.)

We suffer everyday shock and awe at Trump’s dictator-like behavior and narcissism, his bullying cruelties, his unprecedented delivery of coy, confusing messages, his turning around of many upsetting things he says, one of the worst of which was his recent glee over the idea of sending Americans to Putin to be questioned (which in the case of one of them was likely to mean certain death), and he didn’t turn that around until those Americans and their families had sweated through several long and fearful days and nights. We also suffer from his and his administration’s increasing secretiveness as with that recent Putin summit, secretiveness that leaves everyone churning in the wind with worry about what might happen next. Therapists sometimes use a term for how he treats the American people: he’s “crazy-making,” and he seems to enjoy the resulting chaos as much as Putin is purported to enjoy the chaos Russia adds to the mix as it tries to turn us against one another..

While we stew in confusion, we also watch helplessly as he destroys the environment, relations with allies, and the lives of desperate immigrants. He’s removed for many of us what little feeling of security we once might have had in a world that includes monsters like Putin. In short, Trump is stressing much of America, and likely shortening our lives right now, all by himself. He’s surely having much the same effect on millions worldwide. We do the world a great disservice by letting him continue, and the only moral and right thing to do seems to be to get him out of office as soon as possible, meanwhile limiting, curbing, and protesting loudly and constantly every step he takes that leads to more destruction. Occasionally he does something good, but these moments are so rare they can’t counterbalance the enormous amount of stress he causes.As I watch Congress react, I find most of them much too placid and not livid enough. I want them to get really angry (but not with weapons!) and stop all this destruction of so many facets of our country and our freedom we hold dear.

What he’s done to the environment alone is keeping many people up at night as we watch the horrors of climate change and species extinction multiply right in front of us. What we needed in these difficult times was a leader of extreme intellect and ability, and what we got was a thoughtless, largely incompetent (for this job), and strangely non-empathetic person, who seems to thrive on making people feel awful. He is not in the slightest prepared for the emergencies of climate change such as the moving northward of tropical diseases and the endangering of wilderness lands and wildlife. In general problem-solving he seems mostly unable or unwilling to think ahead more than a few minutes, which to me is one of the most frightening things about him.

I’m stunned at how much he’s gotten away with so far, but to save what quality of life we might still be able to hold onto we need to take more and faster action. I beg Congress to act to repair the damage, and I beg us all to vote people into office who will do the same. Trump as we now know him simply seems too dangerous a choice as continuing leader for a country that needs to remain a beacon for the world. He doesn’t study, he doesn’t know history, and he doesn’t appear to make much use of the amazing brain power available to him. He thinks so highly of himself that he doesn’t think he needs to do any of those things I just listed, and that is not leading. A good leader prepares deeply and makes good things happen, or clearly tries to, and inspires and serves as a shining example to others. 

I realize many of Trump’s base may feel less stressed than before, but now that we understand better what their needs are, can we not help those people and address those issues without all this destructive fallout? Surely we have the ability and the smarts in this highly educated country to lift everyone in ways that we know they need but that don’t do this kind of harm in the process. But to do this we need a leader who is not mostly concerned with himself and his whims at the expense of the entire world. We need a leader devoted to undoing and stopping damage to the planet, to feeding, housing, caring for, and providing a better life for the poor and desperate in our country and in the world, and to helping others by building, with careful thought, study, consultation, and planning, the many systems and practices we need that are humane and good.

Another reason we need to stay stabilized (that is,Trump-less) and not fall further into fear and hopelessness is that we must work together as a country to keep Putin and other likeminded creatures away from our precious democracy and freedom. We need to remember when we see on TV or online spectacles of conflict and chaos, that Russia may be behind much of it. We’ll need to stand strong together so Putin can’t play us into more chaos so we’re too broken and weak to fight him. We need to stand together with our allies for the same reason.

Meanwhile here are some thoughts on possible ways we could make some other recent terrible events turn out at least somewhat less badly:

Some of Trump’s own millions should go immediately to getting every single parent and child he’s separated back together, and as I’ve mentioned before, to pay for the years of therapy they’ll need. (No, I’m not joking, I really think he should pay.) He should also give at least a thousand-dollar stipend to each family (though it isn’t near enough) to help them start again, wherever they end up living. And most should live here rather than be sent home to die in violent countries or to live in fear until they die. We need lots of workers here right now, so he should keep every person not clearly proven dangerous here in the country (with children) and find them housing and a job, and we DO have the resources for both, especially if money is spent more wisely (not on military parades–an offense to even think about in the face of so much poverty and suffering). I wish he could be made to pay also for the therapy, lost sleep, and illness caused by stress of the millions of Americans suffering deeply every day from the fear and desperation he causes, but I know that won’t happen. 

He (and Sessions) should go to trial for cruel behavior and emotional abuse of those immigrants. I so wish Trump could also be tried for emotional abuse of all Americans caused by increasingly frightening many of them as he acts more and more like a dictator every day, and a rather unstable dictator at that. As I write this the WH has removed phrases from printed versions of the press conference at the Helsinki summit, and decided that there will be no written versions of his phone calls to other leaders. He has told us not to believe what we read or hear on the news. Hardly anyone can figure out from day to day what he really thinks or means to do about anything. Does this sound like our forefathers’ idea of a good leader for the United States of America?

Trump should also send whatever money he was going to have us spend on his military parade directly to Puerto Rico right now, and keep sending more until they are back on their feet and everyone has power, food, meds, and clean water. 

For the wellbeing of the entire world the best thing for Trump to do on top of the above-listed items is resign. A President who regularly causes so much damage to health and wellbeing should not stay or be allowed to stay in office. An enormous apology to us, to the world, and to the founding fathers seems in order too, but we know that’s not going to happen either. In order to make a sincere apology, people need to be able to find within themselves at least a modicum of humility.

Trump, human rights abuse, & racism

Susan Cooke

Despite the fact that most of us have observed that Trump rarely thinks about anything before acting, and that he’s focused not on planning but mostly on what he apparently perceives as his Almighty self, I can’t help but believe based on all his past actions and statements, that his ability to even think of separating parents and kids with no plan to unite them and not feel an ounce of guilt or responsibility is based on an innate fear and hatred of non-white human beings.

Yes you can say it’s just his obsession with staying in power by pleasing his base (notice I didn’t say “Presidency,” I said “power” which seems to be, as with Putin, his main reason for living), you can say occasionally he’s hugged a black person on TV, and you can say many other things, but let’s cut out the hedging and go ahead and call him what he is–a racist. We have a racist President.

When you combine the racism with a love of power, an egocentric impulsivity that makes him able to insult longtime allies, endanger the world order, and indeed endanger the world’s very existence by his willingness to invade other countries and by ignoring the science concerning climate change, you end up with an astonishingly toxic mix. By the way I believe  he does believe in climate change and global warming, yet loves power so much he feels no remorse about the damage he and the EPA are now causing.

Trump in fact seems to loves Trump more than anything else, and the world’s and little children’s and their weeping mothers’ welfare be damned. They’re mostly brown so they’re not quite human in his book, meaning the suffering isn’t quite real to him or doesn’t matter. Many monsters want to continue acting monstrously but will say to us, how dare we call them monsters?  If he doesn’t like being considered a monster, he should drop everything else he’s even thinking of doing and personally make certain those families are reunited immediately, pay out of his own pocket all the money it’s going to take to get it done now, and pay all the bills for the therapy these people will need. He should also, along with Sessions, be tried for human rights abuse.

As he might say himself, he should man up and be tried for all the destructive blunders he’s made, blunders that have damaged so many. Yet there’s no sentence heavy enough to pay for causing what may well be lifelong depression and other mental illnesses for thousands of traumatized children and their parents.

American Priorities

Susan Cooke

It’s wonderful to see the country fight back against the Trump administration–well–at least much of the country. I hope the others will someday come around to understanding that people and kindness coming first is part of what makes a country and a culture great.

No matter who is President, we the people will always need to remind each other about kindness, and then make decisions from there. Even protection from enemies can be engineered with the most kindness possible with some effort. Whatever we do that’s noble in this country will demonstrate to other countries what we’re truly made of. It would be good if they could see such values right now since many of them must be quite disillusioned with us.

In my forthcoming book Stress in the American City I write about kindness and a few other things that help to make our lives more peaceful, happier, and healthier in both mind and body. These include paying vastly more attention to mental health and what harms it, caring for and providing more nature for all (humans desperately need it, especially in cities, and it reduces crime), making sure Americans get help with reducing our increasing isolation from one another by providing more gathering places such as coffee shops in every neighborhood (feeling part of a community close to home  is critical for good mental health), and respecting the science that tells us we must save the environment rather than continuing to wreck our children’s future (that is, we need to get on with practices we know will help to keep global warming from being a permanent, irreparable tragedy).

There are many more practices and issues we need to take off the bottom of priority lists and move to the top, Without paying attention to the wellbeing of all living things on the planet and caring for the planet itself, tons of money won’t keep us from having the sicker and shorter lives now seen in many large cities including American cities. Enough money, or we could say adequate money, and more peaceful, less driven “success”-and-wealth-oriented lives for most of us will help everyone live longer, allay more anxiety and depression, and help provide some leftover funds to lift those at the bottom. Research shows that even the rich are less happy in a terribly unequal culture.

I ask government at all levels to put wellbeing and kindness at the top of its priority lists, and I believe everything else will fall into place in ways much better for all than what we’ve seen lately.

Trump goes down in history

Susan Cooke

 

Even if President Trump wins his border wall or whatever else he’s making children and parents at our borders suffer for, he’ll surely have created for himself a reputation that even de-nuking North Korea won’t be able to wipe away. In addition to being cruel he seems astonishingly ignorant about the mental health effects, now and in the future, on the families.

He’s always sounded quite interested in being known as the guy who was the best or the first in history to do one thing or another he sees as important. I think he will go down in history as the most self-involved and heartless U.S. President. He’ll also be remembered for his rudeness, lack of empathy, ability to lie easily with no self-judgment, and lack of even decent manners toward longtime allies. I doubt a Nobel prize is in his future, not now. Even if he won a Nobel, many people would still think of him as a destructive President and not a very nice human being. “Sad.”