Anti-5G campaigners raise funds for 'mother of all David and Goliath battles'

On a chill Sunday evening late last month, 70 concerned citizens packed into Addison Road Community Centre in Sydney for a 5G information evening.

A man with wild hair and a bushy grey beard met me at the entrance. “Welcome brother,” he said as I entered.

A documentary about the dangers of wireless radiation – Generation Zapped – was playing. Two older ladies busily scribbled down notes. A young man in a hoodie covered in vegan slogan patches kept whispering loudly to his partner: “See?!”

This was Sydney’s first ‘Community Forum Exploring the Hidden Dangers of 5G Radiation’, one of a number of similar information evenings held across the country in recent weeks.

Most here had found out about the event on Facebook, in groups and on pages like Stop 5G Australia (with close to 5000 members) and We Say NO To 5G in Australia (with nearly 7500 followers). There are more localised, affiliated anti-5G groups too, like Stop 5G Northern Rivers and No 5G in the Blue Mountains, where support was rallied for a coordinated, three city march in June. Another group protested outside a Northern Rivers’ council chambers last month to call for a moratorium on the rollout.

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A man in a leather jacket grabbed a microphone and introduced himself as Vic Leach from the Oceania Radiofrequency Scientific Advisory Association, a group of retired scientists who maintain a database of research relating to electromagnetic radiation and human exposure.

Leach described a condition called electro-magnetic sensitivity, which he claimed was caused by Wi-Fi and mobile signals. The database proved it, he said. The condition (which is not recognised by the majority of medical doctors) will likely get worse because of the mmWavetechnology needed for 5G, Leachsaid.

They didn’t think asbestos or smoking was dangerous for decades before they did, Leach added.

ORSAA’s president Dr Julie McCredden appeared next, via Skype, speaking earnestly about alleged links between electromagnetic signals and anxiety, mental illness, autism and Alzheimer's. “We hope the world has time. It may not be war that kills us, it may be we do it to ourselves,” she concluded.

A break. The bearded man reset the Facebook Live feed that had been streaming the event and pointed people towards the urn at the back of the room. Someone brought out a huge glass dish of sliced apples and carrot sticks.

Later a self-declared “anti-ageing medicine expert” wearing a maroon Paisley shirt called Dr Russell Cooper spoke. 5G’s origins, Cooper said, “was early military technology for crowd silencing”.

There is little basis to any of the speakers’ claims. The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA),which sets the standards around radiofrequency electromagnetic energy exposure limits, last month spoke out against the rise of ‘misinformation’.

“Contrary to some claims, there are no established health effects from the radio waves that the 5G network uses,” ARPANSA said.

Regulator of the radio wave limits, theAustralian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), says “allowable electromagnetic energy exposure levels are set well below levels at which harm to people may occur”.

Most health authorities globally, as well as the World Health Organisation, agree. But the anti-5G groups do not, and they are determined to make the roll-out of 5G infrastructure as difficult as possible for telcos.

The resistance

Today’s 4G macro cell base stations– usually installed on towers or roof tops – can serve areas up to several kilometres. ‘Second wave’ 5G uses what is called millimetre waves – mmWaves – in a higher slice of the radio frequency spectrum and able to carry more information. Because of their higher frequencies, mmWaves can travel less far, so networks require more base stations called small cells.

Optus predicts it will need “potentially 10 times more” small cells to cover the same area as a macro cell. They are likely to be seen on light, power and tram poles, at bus stops, railway stations and on advertising panels.

Typically, telcos do not require local council or government approval to install small cell equipment. This is to “bring you better, cheaper services in the fastest possible time” ACMA says, and leaves anti-5G campaigners little opportunity to resist.

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Telcos must notify owners and occupiers in the surrounding area – something Telstra recently failed to do, resulting in aformal warning from ACMA – and respond to submissions from councils and the public during a ‘comment’ period.

Acknowledging the "public concern" about the roll-out ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin in Mayurged telcos to "keep affected communities in the loop" and consider their feedback.

Although telco’s installing small cells enjoy a ‘low impact exemption’, the exemption doesn’t apply in residential areas, heritage areas, or if the cell makes the pole or fixture significantly larger. Owners of land where a small cell is to be installed can also object on limited grounds, and escalate their complaint to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman in certain circumstances.

Any windows for public opposition in the low impact exemption rules could soon be filled if the likes of Optus get their way. The telco in April called for new rules to replace old regulations which are geared towards the deployment of large, expensive macro towers, not hundreds or thousands of small cells, they argue.

The government has acknowledged such concerns in the past, and made amendments to regulations recently. Reforms have been made in the US and Europe to make small cell rollouts easier – such as the US FCC’s ‘5G FAST Plan’ and the European Commission’s ‘5G Action Plan’.

David and Goliath

The anti-5G groups are now raising funds for their fight and figuring out a course of action. A Northern Rivers region group is seeking to secure $30,000 for flyers, events, radiation readers and legal support via GoFundMe. They have raised $1166 so far.

Another Australia-based fund – started by Brisbane-based crypto-currency consultant Paul Seils – is hoping to raise $100,000 on the platform to spend on awareness, education and to lay “the groundwork for a legal class action”.

Telstra is nevertheless handling the campaigners concerns with care.

“AtTelstrawe take our responsibilities regarding the health and safety of our customers and the community very seriously. We also acknowledge that some people are genuinely concerned about the possible health effects from electromagnetic energy and we are committed to addressing those concerns responsibly,” a spokesperson told Computerworld.

At the very end of the Addison Road Community Centre, after more than four hours of talks, the Stop5G Australia group admin Steve Galvin addressed the remaining audience.

“A lot of people say to me it’s pointless, you’re up against the telcos and the governments and there’s billions of dollars behind it. Okay I’m not confident because it is a huge uphill struggle. This is the mother of all David and Goliath battles,” he said.

“Everything we do is a step forward. It’s gaining traction. People are starting to wake up. I truly believe Stop 5G is that event that is going to make people sit up and say, that’s it, enough is enough,” he added.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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