My husband and I are part owners of family property. Since we are the only family members living in Georgia, the cellphone people came to us when they began looking for a new tower location in this area.
Our extended family pays taxes on the property and spends a considerable amount of money in upkeep, so the opportunity to generate a little income from the land was welcome. My husband listened to their proposal. He explained that the family might be interested, but they wanted assurance that the tower would not be visible.
Oh no, the company men said, “You will not be able to see it. We’ll float a balloon from the site so you can judge for yourself.”
The next thing we know the balloon is up — a big bright-red balloon floating high above the mountaintop and visible to everyone in the valley below. When my husband pointed this out, the cell tower people replied, “But you can’t see it from your house.”
The two men seemed genuinely surprised. Why would anyone turn down perfectly good money simply because it might offend someone they didn’t even know? The same thing happened in our valley when developers cut down trees on the ridgeline to build new homes. The builders never gave a thought to those below them.
I’ll include one more item in this litany of neighborly complaints: the so-called security lights people install when they move into a rural area. When the power company starts service to a new customer, it promotes outside lights as a perfectly normal part of rural life. If customers come from a suburb or city, they’re usually a bit spooked by the dark and acquiesce without a second thought.
The result is light pollution. The new homeowner may sleep a bit sounder, but when the lights are excessive, unshielded or misplaced, the neighbors don’t. Look up at the sky on the next clear night. How many stars are visible? Not as many as when you were a child. Not as many as you can see at apod.nasa.gov where the NASA Picture of the Day often shows the Milky Way in all its glory.
In each of the above cases, individuals are indulging their own fears and fantasies at a cost to others. Outdoor floodlights don’t make you safer. If anything, they advertise your possessions and insecurity. A home with a spectacular view does not necessarily add to the beauty of a community, and just because you can’t see a cell tower, it doesn’t mean the structure doesn’t disfigure the landscape.
Furthermore, there’s such a thing as unintended consequences. Security lights not only run up one’s power bills and contribute to the nation’s energy problems, they disrupt wildlife by interfering with natural circadian rhythms. Building on the ridge of a mountain changes the natural flow of wind and water. Homes are vulnerable to tornados and heavy winds. This effects insurance rates and local emergency services. First responders are put in jeopardy.
But these things are minor compared to problems associated with cell towers. They emit radio frequencies, a form of electromagnetic radiation. Essentially, they are the same the frequency radiation as a microwave oven. Even at low levels, this form of radiation can damage cell tissue and DNA.
There isn’t space in this column to list the various studies on RF and EMR so I encourage readers to do their own research. Here are some questions to ask:
Why are the U.S. standards for radiation exposure among the least protective in the world?
Why does the U.S. Telecommunications Act limit the ability of states and local communities to oppose towers based on health concerns?
Why does the Federal Communication Commission set radiation standards for cell towers? The FCC is not a public health agency and has been criticized as “... an arm of the industry.”
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears biweekly on Tuesdays and at gainesvilletimes.com/viewpoint.