Most fairly well educated people recognise pseudoscience as
bunkum when they see it — astrology, young-earth
creationism, alien abduction, pyramid power … Yet some of
these same people are now being sucked into a movement that
is, according to all rigorous scientific analysis, as
equally without foundation as the ones listed above: the
anti-smart meter movement.
Smart meters – in case you’ve missed it – are devices now
being installed by electric and gas utilities in millions of
homes and apartments internationally. A few times a day the
meter briefly sends a report on usage, via a wireless system
entirely similar to that used by mobile telephones.
Obviously such devices have advantages, both for the user
and for the utility. One of the present authors discovered,
using his smart meter, that his swimming pool filter pump
was using roughly 450KWhr per month, costing more than
US$100 a month. He then replaced this with a new highly
efficient, multispeed pump, and has now reduced this cost to
roughly US$40. Happy? He was pumped!
Yet there is a rapidly growing movement opposing the
installation of these meters. In the US, an organisation
Stop Smart Meters claims to be “fighting for our
health, privacy, and safety".
Similar organisations have sprung up in Canada and Australia
, and interest is spreading worldwide. Letter templates for
legal complaints to the Federal US government are easily
Unlike other pseudoscience, the anti-smart meter movements
are not, for the main part, being organised in right wing,
fundamentalist or not-well-educated circles. In Marin
County, California, a trendy suburb north of San Francisco
(and hardly a hotbed of pseudoscience!), county officials
have criminalised the installation of smart meters, citing
“health effects” of their usage.
In Canada, the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal has
accepted a complaint from Citizens for Safe Technology, a
group dedicated to “protect[ing] children and nature from
unsafe wireless technologies".
Canadian tribunals often investigate dubious complaints, so
this does not necessarily mean that BC is about to ban smart
What are the health risks? As mentioned above, smart meters
worldwide use conventional cell phone networks to transmit
their data. In the largest study conducted so far,
researchers in Denmark found no increased risk of brain
tumours from long-term usage of cell phones.
But even if some minute health risk is ultimately found for
heavy cell phone usage, microwave exposure from smart meters
is only a microscopic fraction.
Smart meters only transmit data for roughly 1.4 seconds per
day, at very low wattage. According to B.C. Hydro in Canada
: “Exposure to radio frequency during a 20-year life span of
a smart meter is equivalent to the exposure during a single
30-minute cell phone call.”
Even this reckoning is exceedingly generous, since the
typical cell phone is held to the ear, whereas smart meters
are typically many feet away from humans, and thus microwave
exposure is tens of thousands of times lower.
Meet the “experts”
All these rational and reassuring facts do not stop the anti
smart meter “experts” from revealing all the terrible things
being covered up. They always sound impressively scientific
to the uninitiated.
We should also note that privacy concerns — real and
imagined — quickly join the list of scary things about
But there are a lot of nasty conspiracy-milking types such
as Alex Jones , Stewart Swerdlow , Bill Deagle , Jeff Rense
and True Ott ready to take advantage of every human
They have never met a conspiracy theory they could not
exploit. Many are explicitly or implicitly antisemitic. Such
names are increasingly showing up in “legitimate” right-wing
contexts, partly thanks to Ron Paul’s brand of “libertarianism.”
Swerdlow even blogs for the Huffington Post and tells us
Stewart A. Swerdlow has the ability to see energy fields
and personal archetypes as well as read DNA sequences and
mind-patterns. A powerful intuitive, he uses and teaches
Universal Law to help others resolve life issues, even
reaching into simultaneous existences and beyond.
His great uncle, Yakov Sverdlov , was the first president of
the Soviet Union, leading to Stewart’s involvement in the
infamous ‘Montauk Project’ .
Similarly, William Deagle – who uses the honorific Doctor
despite no longer being allowed to practise his “medicine”
– can spout superficially compelling nonsense on weaponised
viruses, chem trails, micro-nuclear weapons, the Oklahoma
city bombing, shape-changing reptiles, the Illuminati, the
new world order, and smart meters, all while claiming to be
one of the witnesses from Revelations and leading tours to
the Holy Land.
Deagle’s realtor wife Michelle runs an internet-based
“nutrition” site (such are now illegal in Canada), and they
both appear on so-called Intelligent Talk radio station
KCBQ in San Diego.
An inadvertently amusing peek at a season in the life of the
Deagle family can be seen from the following smart meter
letters to and from San Diego Gas and Power, a peace
offering from the Deagles, and a fine final letter from the
But there is nothing remotely amusing about this crowd.
Almost certainly, most opponents of smart meters have no
idea of the company they are keeping.
Ignorance or disingenuity?
In any event, it strikes the present authors that the
proponents of the anti-smart meter movement are, at the
least, being highly inconsistent. If they truly believe
their health is at risk from microwave exposure via smart
meter broadcasts, they should immediately cease using cell
phones (including smart phones and iPads), and should not
permit anyone to carry or use such a device on their
For that matter, such persons should avoid any public place,
including grocery stores or restaurants, where someone might
use a cell phone, or where a WiFi hotspot might be in
What’s more, they should stop using microwave ovens, which,
even if in compliance with governmental regulations, emit
thousands of times as much microwave radiation as a smart
But somehow the present authors do not think the trendy
anti-smart meter fans in the upper middle-class suburbs of
San Francisco, Vancouver or elsewhere are going to give up
their cell phones any times soon; nor are they going to give
up microwave ovens or leisurely lunches with friends at the
local WiFi-enabled bistro or cafe.
And therein lies the problem — either such persons are
massively misinformed as to the relative risks, or else they
are being highly disingenuous in their public declarations
on the subject. The reader can decide which is the more
Either way, it does not speak well for the level of
scientific education worldwide that such movements can gain
traction. We can only hope a sceptical press will finally
take this movement on.
But in a
world where extremists are considered mainstream, don’t hold
for 3 months, absolutely
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