Topical issues: nature

Our natural world is under assault from human activity. The trouble is, to recognise damage to nature reveals also the risk to ourselves. ‘Progress’ is in the hands not of individual people, nor their elected representatives and politicians. It is in the hands of the free market, the large corporates who set the direction of our world through creating profit streams however they can. We don’t have to identify this as evil; rather it is almost inevitable. We are persuaded of the benefits of convenience and consumerism, and we are the source of the profits and the stimulant to corporate behaviour and the setters of social trends. What we must do is to observe, to ask questions, and be honest enough with ourselves to recognise that nothing we do is without consequence. If we are custodians of our children’s futures, we must accept individual and joint responsibility for the condition of our planet.


Here are examples of honest concern over EM fields from telecoms affecting wildlife:

  • The Kompetenz initiative writes urgently to bee associations and beekeepers and explains about EM fields and bee colony collapse
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Concerns Over U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Concerns Over Potential Radiation Impacts of Cellular Potential Radiation Impacts of Cellular Communication Towers on Migratory Birds and Communication Towers on Migratory Birds and Other Wildlife Other Wildlife – Research Opportunities Research Opportunities

Birds, magnetic and electromagnetic fields

US and German scientists have shown that oscillating magnetic fields disrupt the magnetic orientation behaviour of migratory birds (Ritz T et al. ‘Resonance effects indicate a radical-pair mechanism for avian magnetic compass’, Nature 2004, May 13, Vol 429, p. 177). Migratory birds are known to use the geomagnetic field as a source of compass information and there are two competing hypotheses for the primary process underlying the avian magnetic compass, one involving magnetite, the other a magnetically sensitive, chemical reaction (see links below).

The researchers found that robins were disoriented when exposed to a vertically aligned, broadband (0.1-10 MHz) or a single-frequency (7-MHz) field in addition to the geomagnetic field. In the 7-MHz oscillating field, this effect depended on the angle between the oscillating and the geomagnetic fields. The birds exhibited seasonally appropriate, migratory orientation when the oscillating field was parallel to the geomagnetic field, but were disoriented when it was presented at a 24- or 48-degree angle.

The authors state that their results are consistent with a resonance effect on singlet-triplet transitions and suggest a magnetic compass based on a radical-pair mechanism. They comment:

‘The magnetic compass of birds is light-dependent and exhibits strong lateralization with input coming primarily from the right eye. However, the primary biophysical process underlying this compass remains unexplained. Magnetite, as well as biochemical radical-pair reactions have been hypothesized to mediate sensitivity to Earth-strength, magnetic fields through fundamentally different physical mechanisms.’

In the magnetite-based mechanism, magnetic fields exert mechanical forces. In the radical-pair mechanism, the magnetic field alters the dynamics of transitions between spin states, after the creation of a radical pair through a light-induced electron transfer. These transitions in turn affect reaction rates and products. Although in most radical-pair reactions the effects of Earth-strength magnetic fields are masked by a living system’s background ‘noise’, model calculations show that such effects can be amplified beyond the level of background ‘noise’ in specialized, radical-pair receptor systems.

Alasdair Philips (Powerwatch) comments:

‘The support for a possible mechanism is interesting. However, medium- and short-wave frequencies have been used since the 1930s with little evidence of any effect on bird behaviour. But since the mobile phone networks went up there have been increasing reports of birds, especially homing pigeons, getting lost. Research now needs to look at the effects of base station signals, particularly in view of the disorientating effects of EMR ‘noise’ reported in this study.’

An early warning?

In 1956 a military radar engineer working on the Sussex Downs witness first hand the effect of 3GHz microwave radiation on migrating birds. Before leaving UK shores for other destinations, the birds would gather at high altitude, between 3 to 10 thousand feet, spend some time circling chosen landmarks for perhaps 20 minutes, then disperse. This was a well known and documented phenomenon amongst technical personnel at coastal radar stations.

One day, while testing a new form of radar with a very fast rise time and very short duration pulse (very much like pulses now used in digital communication systems) he noticed the echoes from the flock of birds (mainly swifts and house martins) suddenly disappear from all their radar displays. Some time later they had reports from veterinary sources and other concerned parties that thousands of birds had been found either dead or dying, spread over a wide area.

The fatalities, it seems, only occurred with the then ‘new’ radars being rapidly installed because of the Cold War situation with East Germany and the USSR. The specific frequencies and pulse widths in use then are no longer used – at least not by the military. However, what is of great concern is that they are being used by the mobile phone industry.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Simon Best and Cyril Smith attempted, via various publications, to caution the government, radio engineers and the public about possible biological hazards if similar frequencies and pulse widths became commonly used for civilian broadcasts and/or telecoms. However their sound advice was overruled by senior members of the then NRPB (now part of the Health Protection Agency).

Other effects and observation on birds

Disappearing birds

The gardens around a football club in Worthing were well-tended, with hedges and ivy, and trees. And they were well-populated with birds as the residents fed them in the winter. The small birds nested in the hedges and (less popular) gulls nested every year on the chimney blocks. On one occasion a bird of prey devoured a pigeon in a garden. This was the pattern through to the 1990s. Then through the early 2000s mobile phone masts started going up around the ground. In February 2004 the fourth, TETRA went live.

During that year the small birds left. The nests were left empty, and the gardens silent. Only pigeons and seagulls would pass through and perch. That winter, for the first time, the gulls did not roost.

Coincidence? If it wasn’t for so many other similar reports during this time, one might suppose so. But in Bognor Regis, where TETRA had also caused the people a lot of problems, the birds returned, well out of season, when the illegally erected TETRA was removed.