How to Ruin a Perfectly Good Argument About Peak Oil, Climate Change, or Economic Troubles

Here are some suggestions from my soon to be published (released May 30, 2011)  ebook:

“’I Can’t Believe You Think That!’ Relationship Struggles around Peak Oil, Climate Change and Economic Hard Times”

Anyone can simply act badly, by pouting, sulking, or stomping out of the room when they begin to lose an argument, but here are some additional ideas to vary the strategy:

1.  Be completely disinterested in your partner’s perspective.

You can indicate this disinterest in any number of ways:

  • look away,
  • sigh heavily,
  • tap your foot or hands impatiently, as if waiting for them to finish,
  • mutter under your breath,
  • roll your eyes,
  • sneer,
  • look bored when they are talking,
  • start changing the TV channels,
  • ignore direct questions.  (This one is particularly good for upsetting women)

2.  Disregard everything you know about them in favor of taking a stereotyped or derogatory perspective about what they must value, how they see things, or what they want.

  • “I thought you valued good sense, our family’s welfare and basic hygiene but obviously you don’t.”
  • “I guess you think frugality is just another stupid idea…”

3.  Alternatively, use what you know about their past failures or mistakes to negate or undermine the value of their perspective.

  • “Oh, is this another one of your conspiracy theories?  Another Y2K?”
  • “You are a master of bad judgment, you know that?   You pushed me to buy this house, and now we’re underwater!”
  • “If you are such a big believer in the status quo, how come you got fired?”

4. Show a huge amount of contempt.

There are also a lot of effective ways to do this:

  • The Direct Insult-
  • “What are you, stupid?”
  • Sarcasm-
  • “Yes.  Let’s spend all of our money on jewelry and trips to foreign lands and forget we have credit cards.  Smart idea.”
  • Superiority-
  • “Unlike you, I truly understand the research, Kelly.  After all, I’m a scientist.”

5.  Attack the person, not their ideas.

  • “How would you know?  If you had a brain, you’d be dangerous!”
  • “I wish I had a quarter for every time you were wrong about something.  I’d be a millionaire.”
  • “Of course you don’t believe me.  If you did, you’d have to stop your shop-a-holic ways.”
  • “That is, like, the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard you say, and I’ve heard you say quite a few dumb things.

6.  When your partner starts to develop some persuasive rationale for their argument, redirect the focus onto their identity, rather than the argument at hand.

  • “Is that the way a loving mother thinks?  That they would risk their children’s life “hoping” bad things won’t happen?”
  • “You call yourself a professional?!!”
  • “Now you want to be a farmer?  You’re afraid of everything, including bugs!”

7.  Try simple name-calling.

  • “You really are an idiot, you know that?”
  • “Now you’re Mr. Environment?!”
  • “Do you what ‘sheeple’ are?  You should, because you and your friends fit the description perfectly.”
  • “Chicken Little!  Chicken Little!  Look, Susie, Mommy is a big Chicken Little!  She thinks the sky is falling!” (This is particularly effective–bringing in an innocent third party to help you to attach a critical label…)

8.  Emphasize their gullibility.

  • What, do you believe everything you read?

9. Make Threats.

  • “If you don’t stop spending your time on those websites, I’m going to smash that stupid computer!!”
  • “Whether you want to, or not, you’re going to have to change, if you want to stay in this family.
  • “If you keep talking like that at the kitchen table, you’re not welcome to eat with us anymore.”
  • “I’ll give you one more chance to change the subject, or I’m out of here!”

10.  Negatively ‘forecast’ and link their beliefs to bad things.

  • “We’ll have about 6 more months to cash in the IRAs before we’ll lose all of it.  Can you live with yourself, knowing you could have done something to prevent it, and you refused to?”
  • “I know what’s going to happen:  We’re going to make all of these dramatic changes, and in a year from now, you’ll have another new thing that will disrupt our lives some other way.”
  • Our children are already doing poorly in school, and I think it’s listening to that kind of talk.  Do you want them to end up suicidal?

11. Digress and distract.

  • (In response to discussion about carbon release in air travel)  “Speaking of air travel, here’s where I thought we could go on vacation next year…” (That’s a double whammy, because you digress with your own argument…)
  • “Honey, are you okay?  You sound hoarse.  Are you getting a cold?”

12. Be irrational.

  • “Your brother will lend us money and we can move to New Zealand, where we’ll raise sheep.”
  • “…But you’re allergic to wool, and my brother’s unemployed…”

13. Make broad sweeping generalizations about your partner.

  • “Why do you always…!”
  • “How come you never…!”
  • “You haven’t been right about anything yet!”

14. Exaggerate to the absurd.

  • “If I listened to you, we’d end up in poverty!”
  • “If you said one positive thing, I’d have a heart attack, do you know that?”

And if all else fails:

15.  Shout down your partner.

  • “SHUT UP! or the more polite “WOULD YOU PLEASE STOP TALKING!”

These and other great strategies for how to let your concerns about the world ruin a perfectly good relationship can be found in my upcoming e-book:

“’I Can’t Believe You Think That!’ Relationship Struggles around Peak Oil, Climate Change and Economic Hard Times”

To be released TBA.

Celebrate 6 years of Peak Oil Blues!

Buy now for a donation of $8.99 or more (prior to publication) and
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Anger in Marriage

Anger in marriage can’t be good, right? I mean, aren’t couples supposed to get along and resolve their differences without feeling angry at each other?

It turns out, no.

Avoidant "Ordinary People"

In fact, couples that proudly proclaim “We never fight” are often the ones who eventually land in divorce court. There are, however, exceptions. Some couples tend to minimize differences.  These couples are labeled “avoidant” couples, and they can get along quite well by making a goal out of ignoring differences. As long as no dramatic crisis challenges their togetherness, they stay calmly engaged.

For most marriage, however, conflicts, or efforts to resolve disagreements are essential.

Gender Differences in Marital Spats

Women and men don’t act alike in marriage, as if you needed me to tell you that.  Research* has found a few differences, however, that might surprise you. As you might have guessed, women are the ones to bring up complaints, and they do it 80% of the time in marriages.  They are the emotional monitors of the relationship. They pay attention to the “thermostat” of the marriage.  The conversation might go like this:

She: Honey, what’s wrong?
He:   Nothing.
She: You’re awful quiet…
He:   I’m fine. Nothing’s wrong.
She: Are you mad because I’m going away this week-end?
He:   No, I told you I didn’t care. Enjoy yourself.
She: Was it the conversation with your brother?
He:   Sheila! I told you nothing was wrong!
She: Okay, but I know when you get that look…I hope you’ll talk to me about it later…

Three hours later, he tells his wife that his brother said something to him in the phone call that really bothered him, and they discuss it.

Women have been socially conditioned to tune into and discuss feelings. Men, on the other hand, have been taught to stuff feelings and focus on action. As the saying goes, “men join teams to compete, while women compete in order to join teams“. Girls will stop the game rather than risk hard feelings between the players, while boys will fight about it, and when push comes to shove, they repeat the play that was in question. This youth-based inexperience with emotional communication has other interesting physiological ramifications.

"Lucy, you have some 'splainin to do!!!"

Men are much more easily autonomically aroused by perceived challenges in their marriages than women. This arousal (increased heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, and the like) happens more quickly to them.  While this physiological arousal is horribly noxious to both, men take a longer time to calm down. Men also have been demonstrated to become physiologically aroused by even low levels of conflict, such as their wives’ complaints, and they become more easily withdrawn and defensive.

Another fascinating finding is that men ruminate after ineffective marital fights, especially if they withdraw in an effort to calm themselves down. Thoughts such as: “I don’t have to put up with that!” or “She’s going to be sorry she said that. It is so untrue!” tend to continue the autonomic arousal.  If his goal was to take a break from the “hassle” and calm down, his brain is not cooperating.

“The Thin Man” Movies
Nora: Take care of yourself.
Nick: Why, sure I will.
Nora: Don’t say it like that! Say it as if you meant it!
Nick: Well, I do believe the little woman cares.
Nora: I don’t care! It’s just that I’m used to you, that’s all. 

Unresolved disagreements will often ramp up a wife’s complaints transforming them into criticisms. Criticisms are much more physiologically arousing to men than are complaints. The difference between them may seem subtle, but are, in  fact quite different. Take the proverbial toilet seat discussion:


She:   Jim, I found the toilet seat up again. Will you please try to remember to put it down after you use it?


She:   Jim, what’s the matter with you?   I’ve told you a 1000 times to put the damn toilet seat down, and you never do!  I can’t believe how selfish you are.  You never think of anyone but yourself!

You can see that in the first example, the “complaint,” the wife focuses on the action (i.e. putting the seat down). In the second, the “criticism,” not putting the seat down becomes a character flaw, and the comment turns personal.  There are a lot of “you never!” or “you always!” type comments in criticisms.

Men also can complain, but they do it less frequently (20% vs. 80%).  This might have something to do with the autonomic arousal I mentioned earlier. Rather than risking an emotionally upsetting exchange, they adopt a “let sleeping dogs lie” approach.  They may claim that they are “easy-going,” while accusing their wives of being “a nag” or “always complaining,” when things turn sour.

Both men and women tend to criticize, and get defensive equally in troubled marriages.

Dirty Fighting

"Swept Away:" Volatile Couple

Not all fighting is healthy, however. Fights become damaging when they are filled with ridicule, mocking, defensiveness, contempt, disgust and belligerence.  Stonewalling also enters the picture.  Of partners who stonewall, 85% are men.

The gender differences between men and women can sometimes bring on these more harmful and destructive battling styles.

Take for example, Sheila and Jim. Sheila is upset because Jim refuses to talk  to her about their plans (or lack thereof) for the upcoming week-end. He stonewalls her attempts by dodging the issue:

She: Jim, what do you want to do this week-end?
He:  You want to do something?
She: You know I want to do something. I keep asking you. Do you want to go to the movies?
He:   (Silence. Picks up the newspaper.)
She:  How about going to dinner somewhere nice. I heard about a new Italian place that opened up across town…
He:   (He keeps reading without looking up or acknowledging her.)
She: (raising her voice) Don’t you want to go anywhere? Why are you such a stick in the mud!  Hey!!!  I’m trying to talk to you and you’re still reading the paper!
He: (from behind the paper) Now I’m not allowed to read the paper?
She: (mocking him) “Aren’t I allowed to read the paper?” No Jim, you aren’t, because you can’t concentrate on two things at the same time. What am I even doing in this marriage? We never have any fun. You won’t help around the house, you’re hardly ever home, and when you are home, you’re on the computer or reading the paper. You’re useless!!!
He: (tosses the paper down in a huff and leaves, with a roll of his eyes.)

In this example, Sheila has heightened the anger, ridicule, and mocking in response to Jim’s stonewalling. Instead of directly expressing his opinion, Jim has dodged the issue by picking up the paper.  When she calls him out on it, he changes the subject to whether or not he’s allowed to read the paper.  The more Sheila escalates in order to demonstrate her frustration, and engage Jim, the more he stonewalls and defensively withdraws. She then resorts to “throwing the kitchen sink at him,” i.e. complaining about every past grievance.  His eye-roll at the end is his final communication. Sheila reads it as: “You are being ridiculous. I won’t engage with you any further.”  He’s probably flooded with emotions (and adrenaline) at this point, and if she does get him to engage, that’s when he’s likely to “say things he didn’t mean.”  Why isn’t Jim addressing his wife’s concerns?  Maybe he feels that saying that he doesn’t want to go anywhere this week-end, will start an even bigger battle.  He figures by keeping his mouth shut, he’s doing them both a favor.  He isn’t.

If complaints or criticisms get men going, nothing upsets a woman, physiologically, as much as  stonewalling.  Stonewalling is a set of behaviors that demonstrate that a person is unwilling to deal with the disagreement, and so sits in stone-faced silence, withdraws or walks away.  Unfortunately, raising her volume is likely only to intensify Jim’s stonewalling, and the relational interaction spirals further downward.  Men do 85% of the stonewalling in marriages, while women bring up 80% of the complaints.

Marital Styles

More important than angry expressiveness, is the style each couple uses in conflict.  One may be volatile and actively engage in the battle.  Another may be avoidant or attempt to sooth the angry spouse.  A mis-match of conflict engagement can intensify the problems.  A person who soothes a volatile spouse will not be warmly received.  A volatile spouse is likely to feel rejected with an avoidant partner.  And while the soothing spouse attempts to engage and reassure, the avoidant prefers to dodge and distract.  Any of these three styles can make for effective conflict resolution as long as both partners share the same style.

Couples  who fight as often as they enjoy each other are quite likely to split up, according to research.  Five positive interactions to 1 negative interaction is the minimal baseline that stabilize any given couple.  Happy couples have ratios closer to 20 to 1.

Perpetual Problems

One thing all couples share is what researchers call “perpetual problems.” Perpetual problems are problems that never go away, no matter how hard one tries.  Here the goal is not to resolve the difference, but to keep a good sense of humor about it, accept it as a “third force” between you, instead of attacking each other.  Happy couples are also similar in other ways.  Wives in these marriages tend to have “soft start-ups” or a way of introducing a complaint that frames the issue less harshly.  (i.e.:  “I know you have a lot on your mind but…” or “It’s not a big thing, but it really bugs me when…”)  Perpetual problems are also handled with a sense of humor.  Take this comment from one husband said in front of his wife:

He:  She never met a pair of shoes she didn’t want to take home.

In an unhappy marriage,” them would be fightin’ words,” but in a happy one, the wife might laugh and agree.  She might point out that he’s much better at saving money than she is, and he might add that like her shoe-buying habit, he can go overboard in the ‘Scrooge Department.”  It is a difference they’ve learned to live with in each other.

Finally, happy couples tend to be biased in a positive way toward each other.  Even a comment that researchers agree was “hostile” or “rude,” might be interpreted differently by a contented spouse.  Positive emotions act as a buffer that allow even hostile comments to take on neutral or positive meaning.   He or she may (mis)interpret it as “he/she was just tired” or “It is an issue they feel strongly about.”  Finally, even in the most heated argument, each partner knows how to signal the other to de-escalate the anger.  Humor, apologies, or accepting and acknowledging the others’ point of view, all tend to keep the happy couple from flooding, falling into criticism, getting defensive, or stonewalling.  The wife will interpret stonewalling as “he’s got to have some time by himself to calm down” instead of feeling rejected. The husband will see the complaint as an attempt to get along better, and connect rather than bat it back and get defensive.
Anger, as research has shown, activates the right side of the brain in PET scans, the “approach” side, whereas fear and sadness reside on the left. Therefore, instead of defining anger as necessarily a destructive emotion, it is best thought of as electricity that needs to be harnessed and directed.  The protective “insulation”  are the good feelings, respect, and esteem both partners have for each other.  Anger instead of being seen as damaging, can be the energy that brings about constructive change, airs differences, and seeks greater understanding and contentment between partners.

If it is kept under control.

* John Gottman from the University of Washington has spent 25 years studying the physiology, facial expressions, blood pressure, rate of perspiration, tone and verbalization of couples in his  apartment “lab” in Puget Sound.  His work is one of the few that studies these couples over time to determine which variables are associated with marital dissolution and which are linked to marital happiness and stability.


What role does anger play in relationship struggles around Peak Oil, Climate Change, and Economic troubles?

I Can’t Believe You Think That!”  Relationship Struggles around Peak Oil, Climate Change and Economic Hard Times will be available on May 30th for the celebration of five years of Peak Oil Blues.  Reserved copies of this e-book are available for a donation of $8.99, a 40% savings over the Amazon’s price. To reserve yours, click the “Donate” button on the top right side of this page.

Announcing a New E-Book for Doomer/Skeptic Couples

“I Can’t Believe You Actually Think That!”  A Couple’s Guide to Finding Common Ground about Peak Oil, Climate Catastrophe, and Economic Hard Times

“Opposites Attract” has become a truism about marriage and intimate relationships.  Why, then, are we so surprised to find that some of us, who see a dramatically different future looming, have partners who aren’t so sure?

Who are you to fret about “getting your spouse on board,” as if you have some kind of “Noah’s Ark” that will save your family from certain disaster?

Is that the most respectful stance?

Do you lecture your partner like:

  • A “Wizard of Odds,” with a “Timeline of Turmoil”?
  • Do you embrace your role as an “Elder of Entropy?”
  • Is your dinner hour a “Diatribe of Doom,” distancing you from those you love?

Let’s face it.  Love is the capacity to say “maybe…” when you disagree.

Whether or not we feel a deep certainty, what we most need to share isn’t our faith, but our feelings.  You may be sure TEOTWAWKI is coming, but the wild-card is When?”

And won’t you need your partner before collapse is undeniable?

How do we tone down our rhetoric and ramp up the conversation?   Can we find a passion that speaks from a place of love, not an insistent litany that drones:

Now is the time!”    “This is the place!”   “Here is the answer!

This E- book is for both of you – the Doomer and the Skeptic.  While the Doomer might buy it, the Skeptic will read it.

It will make you laugh.

It will poke fun at both of you.

Unless you had a “shotgun wedding,” do you really have to shanghai your partner to “get them on board”?

My audience are couples who love each other and want to stay together, to get closer, and work towards a common goal—with a common purpose.

I won’t try to convince anyone of “the facts,” because facts don’t change hearts and minds.

As a clinical psychologist who works professionally with “battling couples,” I’ll talk specifically about what happens when marriages get into trouble, and how they mend.  I’ll encourage you both to slow down, open up, and explore what works for you right now, as a family, and discover your shared, common values.

You’ll “lighten up” and “get serious.”



The E- book will be available for download in the fall of 2011.  You can pre-order it now for a donation of $8.99 or more, which is $6.00 off the Amazon Kindle price. Leave a note saying “book” in the “Purpose” box, and be sure to include an email address where you want it sent.



Dr. McMahon is the only licensed psychologist active in the Peak Oil blogosphere.  She’s been researching and writing about the psychological impacts of Peak Oil for the past (almost) five years, and she’s trying to put the humor back in “Doomer.”  Dr. K is “Living the Dream,” Icon Bored with a Doomstead, larder, livestock, and an active community.

No B.S.  No New Age Psychobabble and I don’t trash survivalists.

This is a true Doomer Psychologist you can believe in, (assuming you still believe in anything…)”

Read her complete bio here.

Understanding Nuclear Power and Propaganda: A Simple Guide

It seems to me that you’d have to go out of your way to figure out a more confusing explanation of the dangers of radioactive exposure (RE).  Were I a paranoid person, I’d think that was on purpose.

The first thing I needed to recognize for myself is that the dangers of RE is measured by what is practical not what is possible.  This begs the question:  “Practical to whom?

According to WiKi:

[In] “As Low As Reasonably Practicable“.[3] [t]he aim is to minimize the risk of radioactive exposure or other hazard while keeping in mind that some exposure may be acceptable in order to further the task at hand…This policy is based on the principle that any amount of radiation exposure, no matter how small, can increase the chance of negative biological effects such as cancer, though perhaps by a negligible amount. It is also based on the principle that the probability of the occurrence of negative effects of radiation exposure increases with cumulative lifetime dose.”

So here is one fact that I sort of missed when I tried to understand RE, and perhaps you did too:  Whenever you read a RE level, it is given to you by “hourly” dose, not in some abstract, one-time “hit.”  This means that when you are born, you begin with some nine months worth of radiation exposure, and continue to accumulate doses until you die or it kills you.

Unlike, say, a gunshot wound, the impact of RE is usually quite difficult to measure unless the hourly dose is extremely high.  When that happens at the top levels, radiation sickness occurs and death is fairly swift.

Explaining Contamination

In contrast, almost all of us are exposed to very low levels of radiation from the environment which adds to our tally so slowly that that, by itself, is unlikely to impact us unless we live hundreds and perhaps thousands of years, which we don’t.  Therefore, most of us are content with levels of RE that resemble what is found in the natural environment, and are upset when RE hourly levels far exceed that amount.

Half-Life of Radiation

Not all RE lasts in the environment for the same amount of time.  Some have longer “half lives” than others, meaning “how long it takes this radiation to be half as powerful as it is right now.”  Plutonium-244, found in plutonium, for example, has a half-life of about 80 million years, which means that it will emits half the amount of RE after 80 million years than it does today (radioactive potency.)  Lucky for us, Japan’s spent fuel rods in Reactor #3 are Plutonium-239 which has a half-life of only 24,100 years.  Nevertheless, that still makes it an undesirable lawn ornament.

Radiation as a Water Sprinkler Toy

I don’t know about you, but I like to think in terms of metaphor.  Think of RE like a water sprinkler play toy.  If you are right in the center of the spray, there is no doubt, you are going to get wet.  If you are farther away, you may or may not get wet, depending on how hard the wind is blowing in your direction.  The longer you stay in the vicinity of the spray, the wetter you get, (unless you are wearing water-proof clothing.) If this were RE instead of water, we’d tell the children not to drink the water if they had to play in it, because RE on the inside of your body does more damage than RE on the outside.  That’s why you shouldn’t eat salad greens grown in RE areas, or the animals that graze on that grass either.  That’s taking outside RE and putting it inside.

We are still dealing today with radioactive sheep across England, Scotland and Wales who remain under post-Chernobyl restrictions 19 years later.
The sheep may not be the same animals, but the grass they graze on is still radioactive.

Welsh Sheep Graze Radioactively

Let’s imagine that the kids in the picture are like the residents close to Fukushima.  The Japanese Gov’t has told them “That’s too close, move farther away to be safer (dryer).”  The Japanese and US gov’t disagree about how far away is dry enough to still be safe. When the RE is high enough, experts have said that even the airtight suits worn by nuclear power workers would do little to stop the contamination. For other isotopes, they are stopped pretty easily by a wall, or even something as thin as a piece of paper!

What’s Spraying Out?

What’s coming out of that hose?  What’s coming out is the radiation from both the reactors themselves and from the 3,400 tons of radiation in seven spent fuel pools.  Why they insist on putting them on the roof, I have no clue. That radiation is composed of more than one source.  At Fukushima we have: Iodine-131 (half-life: 8 days), Uranium-235 (half-life: 700 million years), Caesium-137, (half-life: 30 years), Strontium-90 (half life: 28 years), and Plutonium-239 (half-life: 24,100 years present in the MOX fuel.)

Some of these elements are lighter and therefore can be carried more easily by wind than others, like Caesium-137.  Some, like Plutonium-239, are heavy and will drop down right where it comes out of the spout of the sprayer.  Lighter RE will “wet” even the children outside the direct stream of water with a gentle breeze.

In contrast to immediate threats of death, radiation more slowly impacts the health of people both close to the site, and hundreds of miles away, and in unpredictable patterns, depending on wind and rain. It is a “Russian Roulette of Radiation” and you have to see where the contaminants land and who it rains down on.

Measuring RE:  Sieverts

Imagine that the water toy is spraying out “water,” in a variable flow of water pressure, where the higher the water pressure, the more water is projected. You now can imagine that RE is also being delivered at different radioactive intensities to the environment.  The “wetness” (or radioactivity) is being measure in “sievert” which is abbreviated by the symbol “Sv.”

The sievert is a large unit of radiation, like, say an Olympic size swimming pool is a large body of water. An Olympic size pool holds  2,500,000 liters or 550,000 gallons of water.  It would take either an intense water pressure (think: “nuclear bomb”) or someone staying under that sprinkler for months or years (think: “living there”) to be covered by the amount of water contained in an Olympic size pool.

Sieverts to Millisieverts

Most RE luckily isn’t that size, so scientists break it down by 1000’s and call the smaller amounts “millisievert,” symbol “mSv”.  If one SV is 2,500,000 liters of water (swimming pool), then a mSv is 2,500 liters.

Millisieverts to Microsieverts

A “microsievert,” symbol μSV, is 1,000,000 of a SV.  Time to remove more 0’s!    In our example, a “microsievert” is 2.5 liters of that original Olympic size swimming pool.

Here are the fractions of a sievert:

1 sievert = 1000 millisievert (mSv)
= 1,000,000 microsievert (μSv)
= 1,000,000,000 nanosievert (nSv)


Remember, even a teaspoon of RE is bad for you, according to anyone who isn’t full of “bullshit,” (see that post for the difference between “bullshit” and “lying”) and the more you are exposed, over a longer period of time, the worse it is.

RE and “Risk”

So when they say “1 mSv gives you a 1 in 20,000 lifetime risk of cancer” it means that “one hour of exposure at 1 mSv increases your risk of getting cancer by that much over your lifetime.”  That is an accumulative dose, including every exposure to RE you’ll ever have.

So, going back to our example, if that water toy sprayed out 1 mSv an hour of RE, and the kids play in it for one hour, they would increase their risk of getting cancer by 20,000 times.  And, in the same way, if the toy sprayed out .5 mSv an hour and they play in it for two hours, the risk would be the same.

A nuclear power plant worker can only play in that radioactive “sprinkler” for a total of 100 mSv’s over 5 years, in normal circumstances. So for example, they can stay 15 minutes at 20 mSv, one time,  1 hour at 1 mSv, the next, and so on, up to the maximum of 100 mSv’s over the 5 years. Plant owners are willing to increase their chance of death by cancer that much because, after all, that’s their job. Most plant owners will accept that risk because they consider it “reasonable” as long as they aren’t doing it. This is what is meant by “cumulative dose.”  When Japanese officials increased this amount by 250 mSv’s over 5 years, they basically said “We’ve come to the conclusion that we are putting your life at increased risk for a good reason.”

Now let’s look at how much RE was released per hour at Fukushima compared to other levels of radiation:

  • 0.365 mSv (365 μSv) (.000365 Sv) – hourly release West Gate Fukushima Plant 3/19
  • 1 mSv = (1000 μSv)= (.0010 Sv) – 1 in 20,000 lifetime risk of fatal cancer
  • 10 mSv= ( 10,000 μSv)= (.010 Sv) – 1 in 2,000 lifetime risk of fatal cancer
  • 11 mSv= (11,000 μSv)= (.010 Sv) – maximum hourly amount ever release at the Gate TEPCO
  • 100 mSv=(100,000 μSv) = (.10 Sv) – recommended limit for radiation workers every 5 years
  • 100 mSv=(100,000 μSv)= (.10 Sv) – 1 in 200 lifetime risk of fatal cancer
  • 350 mSv=(350,000 μSv)= (.35 Sv) – Exposure level of Chernobyl residents who were relocated
  • 400 mSv=(400,000 μSv) (.40 Sv) – Fukushima maximum radiation level per hour 3/14
  • 700 mSv=(700,000 μSv)=(.70 Sv) – Vomiting happens within hours of exposure
  • 750 mSv=(750,000 μSv )=(.75 Sv) – Hair loss two weeks after exposure
  • 1000 mSv=(1,000,000 μSv)= (1 Sv) – Onset of early radiation sickness
  • 1000 mSv=(1,000,000 μSv )= (1 Sv) – 1 in 20 lifetime risk of fatal cancer
  • 1000 mSv=(1,000,000 μSv )=(1 Sv) – Highest reported release near leaky reactor
  • 2000 mSv=(2,000,000 μSv)=(2 Sv) – Threshold for early death
  • 2000 mSv=(2,000,000 μSv )=(2 Sv) – 1 in 10 lifetime risk of fatal cancer
  • 4000 mSv=(4,000,000 μSv)=(4Sv) – 50/50 chance of continued survival
  • 4,000,000 μSv (4000 mSv)(4Sv) – 1 in 5 lifetime risk of fatal cancer
  • 6,000,000 μSv(6000 mSv) (6Sv) – Early death.

To determine cumulative dose, multiply the dose rate by the time exposed:

Cumulative Dose = Dose Rate x Time Exposed

Two Smile Island

So while we know that there is a direct relationship between the amount of RE exposure and health risk, (all the way down to a mythical “zero” exposure,) researchers can’t do a precise job estimating that risk, because it is going to depend on how much total RE has floated or rained down, at what intensity, and what amount of radiation this given population has ALREADY had.


“That means, at zero dose there is zero risk of harm, and at around 6,000,000 µSv (6 Sv) death is almost certain – a straight line between the two points gives the relationship between dose and risk.”

Babies and Radiation

According to some industry findings, nuclear disasters claim “mostly mental distress” upon their victims; however paradoxically a 1984 survey, by a local psychologist of 450 local residents near Three Mile Island documented acute health effects attributed to radiation.  While typically 2.6 people would normally be expected to be diagnosed with cancer between 1980-84, 19 cancers occurred amongst the residents [9].  This ultimately led the TMI Public Health Fund to review the data[13] and supporting a comprehensive epidemiological study by a team at Columbia University, according to Wiki.

Because RE literally is subject to wind patterns, it is difficult to conduct large-scale epidemiological studies, as few countries have an unlimited number of radiation monitors throughout the potential reach of a nuclear plant.  It is also handy to know how much a given population had previously been exposed to RE, in order to assess future health risks, as previously mentioned  (Mangano, 2004).

One population for which this isn’t true are infants and in-vitro fetuses, who are much more susceptible to radiation.  At Three Mile Island, in the US, (TMI), the following was reported:

Radioactive Hold-up

“In Dauphin County, where the Three Mile Island plant is located, the 1979 death rate among infants under one year represented a 28 percent increase over that of 1978, and among infants under one month, the death rate increased by 54 percent.”(Mangano, 2004, pp. 31 -35).

Despite this finding prompting further research, health effects of infants and pregnancy were not included in future studies, according to Mangano.

Impacts on the Environment

Radiation leaks contaminate ground soil and waterways, at high doses, immediately killing wildlife and humans close to the disaster site, while silently impacting life in ways that are hard to detect at lower levels or greater distances.   Unlike earthquakes and tsunamis, chemical and radiation disasters devastate the geographic area, and alter the ecological balance silently.

Impact on Marine Life Is Expected to Be Minimal” proclaims one headline, implying somehow that our oceans are a pretty safe place for radiation to rain down.  According to the Wall Street Journal:

[Radiation should blow off to sea] where it should rapidly dissolve in seawater and pose little risk to marine life or commercial seafood fisheries, scientists and federal officials said Friday.  Even if radiation levels in the immediate vicinity of the plant increase, there is likely to be no significant hazard off the coast of Japan or out to sea, according to researchers who studied the marine effects of fallout from nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific and the Chernobyl nuclear accident, which spewed a radioactive plume over the Black Sea.

Is that so? Oceans, like people, have previous RE exposure.  The Washington Post labeled the Black Sea as “the toilet bowl for half of Europe.

“Pollutants, including agrochemicals, toxic metals and radionuclides, made their way into the sea either through the atmosphere or river discharges. Increased “nutrients” caused an overproduction of phytoplankton, which block the light reaching the sea grasses and algae. Industrial activity, mining, shipping, and offshore oil and gas exploration further contributed to the sea’s destruction. Tanker accidents and operational discharges caused oil pollution, and coastal industries discharged wastes directly, with little or no treatment. Some countries dumped solid waste into the sea or onto wetlands. Urban areas flushed untreated sewage; and poor planning destroyed much of the aesthetics of the coastlines.”

By the time the Chernobyl accident happened, human-caused radionuclides bioaccumulation had been building up for decades, as a result of large-scale atmospheric nuclear weapons tests carried out before 1963 (Buesseler and Livingston, 1996).  Anything that couldn’t adjust to radiation would have already gone extinct.  The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant accident in April 1986 was just one more nail in the oceanic coffin.

From the early 1960 until shortly after Chernobyl, the Black Sea had deteriorated in terms of its biodiversity, and habitats.  Once supporting a rich and diverse marine life, and abundant fisheries, by 1990, this “resource” was on the brink of extinction. Over those years not only had the fish supply been plundered, it had become the premier dumping ground for solid and liquid waste.

“[T]he dolphin population has declined to just one percent of the number recorded 46 years ago. In 1950, [the researcher] said, one million dolphins belonging to these species lived in the Black Sea. However, their numbers started decreasing soon after. By 1970 there was a population of 70,000 dolphins, by 1995 the school had reduced to 10,000.” Bologa

From this same Wall Street Journal article:

“We released significantly more of these elements when we tested nuclear weapons on a global scale and they haven’t caused much of a problem,” said marine geochemist Timothy Kenna who studies radiation and the ocean at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York.

“We can see them in ocean water 50 or 60 years after they were released,” he said. “And they have not been that detrimental to food supplies and other things.”

So you say.  And if you are the guy who did it (“we”) I’d like you to leave your name and address.

The extent of the cognitive distortion in nuclear research and the industry as a whole, is nothing less than startling.  While it certainly is a challenge to determine  which of the multiple pollutants are killing our oceans, it is completely irresponsible to claim that radiation has definitively and without a shadow of a doubt has not been a contributing factor.

“Radiation is Good for You”:  The Spindoctors

…[T]he memories of the disasters at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are now distant and the perspective of nuclear energy is changing in positive fashion.  The growing worries created by the ballooning demands on the world’s energy sources, an increase in the competition for energy supplies, rising concerns regarding global warming, and the volatility of the gas and oil prices are reasons that many countries are now re-thinking the nuclear energy proposition.

Politicians and scientists around the world are now viewing nuclear energy as being eco-friendly…  Investing in nuclear stocks is now an option that is back on the table and is being viewed as an ecologically positive investment.  [It] does not leave a carbon footprint on the environment…  From the standpoint of being morally beneficial, that may still be up for speculation as nuclear energy is still not the preferred energy source that many environmentalists feel will solve the problems we are currently encountering in the global environment.  However, based on the above, we may not have any other viable alternative energy options to choose from other than the current ones – hydro, solar, and wind.  In so many words, nuclear energy and re-investing in it may benefit the Earth’s chances at survival.   [source]

All over the world nuclear is being recognized as an integral part [emphasis added] of clean energy generation in a developing and expanding world. President Barack Obama has announced more than $8 billion in federal loan guarantees for the first nuclear power plant in the United States in close to 30 years. Obama says investing in nuclear is critical for the United States as it will reduce US dependence on foreign oil, and help the US economy by creating high-wage jobs. [source]

It was all going so well for the nuclear industry, and then this had to happen.

We should expect to see an entirely new slant on the health effects of Chernobyl. Current articles suggest that Chernobyl is beginning to resemble a pre-historic animal theme park, with live prehistoric animals, like 10 foot long catfish, and killer wolves. It’s a Disaster Nature Park, as this article talks about, where tours and tourism are really picking up.

We should not be surprised to see more of this type of propaganda:

The financial vs. health push-pull will continue to be seen, as it was during the Chernobyl disaster. This news report from 1986 provides an interesting insight into this issue. april-30-1986-chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-24502473 You’ll recognize some of the arguments.


Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano confirmed the radioactive contamination of food products in areas around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant but assured that “these detected levels of radiation would not affect the health of consumers.”

Of course not.

The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was not so sure. While it “confirmed the presence of radioactive iodine in food products” it was “less reassuring about its harmlessness“: “Though radioactive iodine has a short half-life of about eight days and decays naturally within a matter of weeks, there is a short-term risk to human health if radioactive iodine in food is absorbed into the human body.” That “don’t drink the water, kids” thing again.

Japan had now ordered a stoppage of the sale of all food products from the Fukushima Prefecture, the IAEA noted.


The nuclear industry has suffered major setbacks over the years, and, prior to this accident, was experiencing a “green renaissance.”  For the first time since Three Mile Island, a “progressive” US President has approved new nuclear plants with a promise of government-funded guarantees insuring them. (Who else would be foolish enough?)  While many will argue that nuclear power is “clean,” emitting no green-house gases, much rides on corporate spinsters convincing us that little-to-no long-term damage will result from this current catastrophe in Japan and that all currently functioning nuclear plants will keep functioning correctly.

I’m not naive. I’m fully aware that solar and wind aren’t going to help us sail into a bright green future. However we all should have a say in ‘picking our poison,’ once we know and accept its fatal effects. That’s not what’s happening.  And if the reaction in Japan is any measure, they say “get me out of here.”  Call it “radiophobia” if you will, but fear is what seems rampant right now.

The impacts of nuclear radiation contamination is being compared to arguably extremely infrequent and low-level, familiar sources, as air travel and X-rays. Don’t be confused. In order for such comparisons to be legitimate, we must compare hour-by-hour contamination.

While a one-way trip from New York to Tokyo might provide a RE dose of .2 mSv, you’d have to spend more than 500 trips to equal the radiation of one hour at the Fukushimo nuclear power plant at the height of the emissions release this past week. That’s a round-trip each and every month from NYC to Tokyo, for almost 21 years.

You’d need to have 312 chest X-rays to have the equivalent dose of RE that you’d get after spending a single day in the town of Ōkuma yesterday, the town that hosts the nuclear power plant.

It’s not benign and no, Ann*, it’s not good for you…

* Harry Frankfurt makes a distinction between “bullshit” as opposed to “lying.” Bullshit completely disregards the truth in favor of media spin, impression management, and the like. For the bullshitter, … all bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may pertain to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose. (pp. 55-56)

Want to continue the education? Club Orlov has a post called Nuclear Meltdown 101.

What Happens in Japan Stays in Japan –NOT

An economic chain ties us all together.

Take your calendar and circle March 11th.

The Day the World Changed

That was the day your life began changing no matter where you live.

You probably didn’t notice any change then, other than the pain and horror of watching this triple disaster unfold on the news, but make no mistake change will arrive on your doorstep sometime soon. And I’m not talking about the unfolding nuclear radiation  disaster specifically.  So if it isn’t radioactive fallout, what are our big worries?

There will be several kinds of fallout from Japan’s crisis.  One hit your 401k or your investments this morning.  It is the economic fallout.  Japan is the world’s third largest economy, and the third largest holder of US government debt.  Right now Japan’s economy is on the ropes from the triple disasters that befell it on March 11.  Their economy will recover some, but it will be a long time before they return to the good old days of March 10th.  An economic chain ties us all together.  It will take hundreds of billions of dollar equivalents to begin to restore what the Japanese lost in a matter of moments.  Those are the obvious losses.

Less apparent are the hidden losses from factories and businesses that have had to shut down due to insufficient electricity to operate their facilities.  No production, no exports, no incoming money.  No one has had the time yet to even hazard a guess as to how big a hit that will be, or how long it will last.

We can see the effects of that economic chain on our stock markets this morning (Mar 15).  Depending of the severity and length of the economic turmoil in Japan, we could see severe turmoil in our own stock markets.   And if Japan has to cash out some of those US Treasuries to finance their recovery, what does that do to our economy?  I’m afraid that the destabilization of Japan’s economy will have long lasting and very negative effects on all of the world’s economies, and especially that of the USA.

The next fallout will emerge in the petroleum sector.  Today the price of oil has fallen almost $4 a barrel.  For consumers that would normally signal a good thing.  It struck me today that the sudden drop of the oil price was like the sudden drop of the water level just before a tsunami reaches shore.  Conventional wisdom is thinking that since this will depress Japan’s economy, their oil usage also will drop significantly.  And if everything were humming along as normal in Japan, that would be a reasonable assumption.  But everything is totally abnormal as it exists there now.  In order to rebuild their economy to some semblance of recovery, they will have to have electricity to replace that lost from the earthquake zone.  The severity of this earthquake means that the 5 major power plants that were shut down at the first shaking, the ones that escaped a nuclear incident, will have to have a thorough, inch by inch examination before they can be returned to service.  That could take many months if not years to accomplish.  The nuclear power plants that have had reactor problems will likely never be repaired nor restarted.  So where does Japan find excess electricity that can brought into service quickly?  It will have to be from large diesel and gas turbine generators, that suck up petroleum like there is no tomorrow.  As soon as the markets realize that this arrangement will have to supply some of Japan’s electricity needs for perhaps years, oil prices will quickly rise.  Japan’s oil demand may quickly dwarf its daily usage on March 10th.

Secondly, Japan lost several large petroleum refineries due to the effects of the earthquake and tsunami.  Those may be out of service for many months while repairs are made.  Japan has a very large petroleum reserve, but now they have lost some of the refining capacity to process it to meet their demands.  That refined petroleum product will have to come from elsewhere, for many months or even years.  Knock knock!  Could we borrow a tanker or two of diesel?  What does that do to our availability and costs?

Another fallout will be a tsunami of price increases on everything else for everybody.  Japan has few natural resources. Rebuilding will require immense amounts of cement,

asphalt, lumber, iron ore, and copper to start.  All will have to be imported.  Medicines and plastics all rely on chemicals derived from petroleum.  Diminished refining capacity means needed chemicals will have to be imported from somewhere else until those refineries are back online.  The old supply and demand laws kick in, and prices will rise.

At the moment, we are watching from front row seats, a country dealing with the effects of “powering down,” trying to come to grips of the complexities of what to do next to try to restore to a March 10, 2011 world.

This is no spectator sport though, because we will soon be on the field ourselves.

Chuck Willis

The Psychology of Disaster

Fortunately, for most of us, we learn about disasters through movies or books and not direct experience. These renditions are dramatic snapshots of lives, events, and heroism, but rarely do they show us the long-term impact of disasters on wildlife, psychology, culture, environment or finance.

While much has been written in the field of psychology about resilience, the disaster environment provides an active and ongoing opportunity to reframe, reorganize and construct new meaning in a compressed timeline. In Japan, the disruption they face challenges, as a society, their capacities  to respond to widespread loss of human life, environmental devastation and infrastructure. The sheer magnitude of the natural and man-made catastrophe boggles the mind for those of us who are, for the present, frozen bystanders. While we may share some of the intense anxiety and fear, we cannot grasp the full impact, both physiologically and psychologically to this country.

Natural disasters are far from rare events, killing a million people a decade

What is a disaster? One definition is “A disaster is the tragedy of a natural or human-made hazard (a hazard is a situation which poses a level of threat to life, health, property, or environment) that negatively affects society or environment. Natural disasters are far from rare events, killing a million people a decade and leaving many more homeless, with costs reaching into the billions.

Universal Crisis

The events unfolding in Japan would be considered a “universal crisis” – a crisis so catastrophic that anyone living through it would experience tragic reactions. It strips everyone experiencing it of safety, security, and threatens survival, regardless of an individual’s level of skill or cognitive resources. There are no “solutions” to be found in such a disaster, and therefore trauma survivors are disrupted in their capacity to “plan” such a solution.

Some natural disasters are predictable, like hurricanes, giving people sufficient time to purchase emergency supplies, secure their homes, and leave the vulnerable area. For others, the notice is extremely short or absent altogether. Earthquakes and tsunamis fall into that latter category.

…Radiation slowly impact the health of people…

Technological disasters like radiation leaks can contaminate ground soil and waterways, immediately killing wildlife and humans close to the disaster site, while silently impacting life in ways that are hard to detect. Unlike earthquakes and tsunamis, chemical and radiation disasters can devastate the geographic area, and alter the ecological balance leaving it uninhabitable.

In contrast to immediate threat of death, radiation slowly impact the health of people both close to the site, and hundreds of miles away in unpredictable patterns depending on wind and rain.

Phases of Disaster

Emotional reactions to disasters have predictable patterns according to some researchers.  Starting from left to right, this graph illustrates the general progression of the disaster effects and reactions on communities.

Pre-Disaster Phase:

The amount of warning a community receives varies by the type of disaster. Perceived threat varies depending on many factors.

Impact Phase:

The greater the scope, community destruction, and personal losses associated with the disaster, the greater the psychosocial effects.

Heroic Phase:

This phase is characterized by high altruism among both survivors and emergency responders. Emergency responders actively begin search and rescue missions, direct assistance to people, and resources begin arriving. During this phase people struggle to stay alive. Goal is to prevent loss of lives and to minimize property damage.

Honeymoon Phase:

Here survivors feel a short-lived sense of optimism. May last from two weeks to two months. These massive relief efforts enhance the morale of survivors, and people are appreciative of that help. Survivors hope things will recover quickly and life will return to normal.

Disillusionment Phase:

Over time, survivors go through an inventory process where they recognize the limits of available disaster assistance. Optimism fades, as the realization of what happens begins to settle in, and disappointment, resentment, anger and frustration become evident. This leads into the Disillusionment Phase where survivors are coming to grips with reality of their situation. This phase may last from several months to a year or more. Certain trigger events, such as the anniversary of the disaster, can prompt survivors to re-experience negative emotions related to the disaster.
It can be considered the “second disaster,” as help happens slowly, organizational assistance is tedious, and recovery delays set in.

Reconstruction Phase:

Gradually, the emergency responders leave, and people start to assimilate the shock of what has happened and begin to reconcile themselves to the “new reality.” Survivors experience setbacks and work through their grief, eventually readjusting to their new surrounding and situations. People realize that they must do for themselves and grief and anger is gradually replaced by acceptance. No miracles happen. Those left in place will have to solve problems and rebuild their shattered lives. It is a process that will continue for several years as the “new normal” functioning is gradually reestablished.

Coping with Disasters

Coping can be thought of in various ways. One way is as an “ego process” that operates to reduce emotional tension, but here we’re equating “coping” with “mastery” over a stressful situation (Folkman and Lazarus 1980).  Others consider coping as a “trait” (Conway & Terry, 1992), but people don’t respond identically to all stressful life events.  Finally, coping can be seen as an interaction between how a person sizes up an event as impacting their decision-making.

Goodness of Fit

An individual’s coping mechanisms have been cited as an important factor in helping disaster victims adjust to this dramatically new environment.  Coping is defined as “constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts to manage specific external and internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding the resources of the person” (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, p. 141).   It can take one of two general forms:  emotionally-focused (internal emotional states) or problem-focused (altering the stressor by direct action).  We might think of this theory of coping as a psychological serenity prayer:

–Reinhold Niebuhr

Some researchers propose that those who attempt to change the changeable will adapt better than those who effort to change what cannot be changed.  In the same way, those who attempt to accept or reframe a situation which cannot be changed will also cope better than those who attempt by mental or physical effort, to change what cannot be impacted.  This is known as the “goodness-of-fit” hypothesis (Lazarus and Folkman, 1984).  The former requires a change in action, while the latter requires emotional acceptance and adaptation.

In order to cope effectively, a person asks and answers a series of questions about their environment, control of the situation, and resources available to us:

  1. Why is this situation stressful?  To what extent is it stressful?
  2. What demands are placed on me?
  3. Can I manage these demands?  How do I emotionally respond to these demands?  Is there anything I can do in response to these demands to change the environment I’m confronting?

We first assess whether a situation we confront is irrelevant, benign-positive, or stressful.  Once we determine that they are stressful, we can put them into three primary Appraisal groups that will evaluate the degree of control you have and the resources that are available to you:

  • Harm/loss:  What damage has already been done to my body or to that/those around me?
  • Threat:  What potential damage, harm or loss am I anticipating?
  • Challenge:  Is this a stressful situation I can actively master or benefit from?

Emotional Coping

If you assess that nothing can be done to change the harmful, threatening, or challenging environmental conditions, emotional coping is likely.  Here you might engage in reframing, meditation, acceptance, on the positive side and wishful thinking, minimization, or avoidance on the negative.

Problem-focused Coping

On the other hand, if you think you can change the situation, problem-solving strategies would include learning new skills, finding alternative channels of gratification, or developing new standards of behavior.

There are overlaps in coping strategies that touch on both emotional- and problem-focused functions at the same time.  These include seeking social support.  Curiously, emotional and problem-focused strategies aren’t opposite poles on a single continuum of “coping” but rather are distinct constructs.  An increase in one doesn’t imply a decrease in the other.

Therefore “coping” requires “the wisdom to know the difference” between that which you can change, and that which you can’t.  Whether or not you perceive your ability to control accurately is essential in determining whether your coping mechanism is effective.  If one can control the stressful occurrence, it is best to focus on the problem itself.  On the other hand, if it is not, your efforts will be ineffective, or detrimental.

Believing in Control that You Don’t Have

Think for a moment about those lost in the wilderness.  Assessment about whether or not “I can find my way out” will spur action or settling in.  Believing one could become “unlost” has resulted in the death of many a lost wilderness traveler.  This belief in their efficacy made them take unnecessary risks and made it more difficult for a rescue party to locate them.

When the situation is assessed as “out of your control,” one may be better served by reducing stress, through escapism, minimization, self-blaming, seeking meaning, learning relaxation and breathing techniques or “managing negative thoughts.”

When you can impact the stressor, through instrumental action, developing and following through with a plan, etc, is a more effective strategy in lowering your psychological symptoms.  Researchers emphasized that “coping efficaciousness” or how well you felt you dealt with the stressor played an important role.

Also, in highly distressed subjects, cognitive distortions (“stinkin’ thinkin’” such as “I can never adjust to this trauma”) can impact accurate appraisals and therefore impact a person’s capacity to determine the right coping mechanism to use.  Finally, lowering distress is not a universal goal for some.  For example, some complex and difficult situations might lead to increased distress (for example, maintaining a relationship) in the short term.

Psychological symptoms of distress are more likely when there is a poor fit between one’s appraisals and one’s strategies for coping (trying to change what you can’t or not trying to change what you can).

Other Theories

Tobin, et al (1989)  found that there was a hierarchical structure of coping with three levels:

At the primary level, eight coping strategies were found.  These are:  problem solving, cognitive restructuring, social support, expressing emotions, problem avoidance, wishful thinking, social withdrawal, and self-criticism.

The secondary level was of two types of problem-focused coping:  problem engagement and problem disengagement. Two types of emotional-focused coping were also found:  emotional engagement and emotional disengagement.

At the tertiary level two basic approaches to deal with stressful situations could be found:  engagement and disengagement.


Engagement      vs     Disengagement

Problem-engaged  vs  Problem-disengaged

Emotionally-engaged  vs  Emotionally-disengaged

Problem solving  vs  Problem avoidance & rumination

Cognitive restructuring  vs  Denial, wishful thinking

Social support prior to stressor  vs  Nonsupport

Social expressing emotions interactions vs.  Social withdrawal

Self-esteem  vs  Self-criticism

Coping self-efficacy vs  Ineffectiveness

(one’s perceived ability to produce desired outcomes in stressful situations)

Meaning-focused coping/positive appraisal vs. Meaninglessness action

(changing the appraisal of the situation to be more consistent with one’s goals and beliefs.)

Psychological Health

After Medical and physical needs, psychological needs of survivors need to be assessed. Psychological reactions to disaster include behavioral changes and regression in children including fear and anxiety about recurrence, sleep disturbances and school avoidance leading to development of school phobias.  Re-establishing routine is essential for both children and adults.  Familiar patterns of mealtime (with familiar food), work of some sort, socialization time, and bedtime routine are important for adults as well as children.

Adults may feel depressed or anxious, show anger, mood swings, suspicion, irritability, and/or apathy. Increased rate of psychosomatic illnesses and a worsening of pre-existing physical problems such as heart trouble, diabetes, and ulcers may occur in response to the increased level of stress. Visual memories of the event can be disturbing and social withdrawal is also common.

Flight of Thought

Often trauma survivors experience flight of thought, which interferes with decision-making. They search in their mind for a solution to help a trauma situation, but find none. They frantically continue to search, and this frantic flight of thought leaves them feeling disorganized. While their flight of thought is temporary, it usually does not stop when they are in a place of safety. Their decision making during this time is often chaotic. They focus on one repetitious thought and are unable to attend to the matter at hand.

Exaggeration of Dysfunction

Trauma exaggerates dysfunctional reactions.  A chaotic family or organization, with a history of anger, becomes rageful when experiencing a trauma. Their rage intensifies the chaos, and stops their ability to effectively manage the crisis.

For many, disasters mean the loss of everything: their homes or financial well-being, and daily routines.  Bereavement is ongoing for missing loved ones and friends.  Neighborhoods disappear, along with familiar rituals such as evening walks or familiar shopping rituals. Everything that ties people to their past, photo albums, wall hangings, religious items, computer games, and sentimental objects of all types are gone. An awareness of how time is marked changes into ‘before’ or ‘after’ the disaster.  For some, symptoms emerge immediately while for others, only as they start to rebuild their lives do stressful symptoms occur.

“The whole scene looked as if it had been painted in shades of gray. The children neither laughed nor played. The adults acted as if they were surrounded by a sheath of heavy air through which they could move and respond only at the cost of a deliberate effort. . . I felt.. . as though I were in the company of people so wounded in spirit that they almost constituted a different culture, as though the language we shared in common was simply not sufficient to overcome the enormous gap in experience that separated us”   Sociologist Kai Erikson observations from survivors of the Buffalo Creek dam disaster, 1972.


It is striking that there are no children crying and how orderly everything appears to be. Overall, there is an air of subdued calm and of people grimly adjusting to the new reality that their peaceful fishing town will never be the same again. When I ask how people are coping, the school’s headmaster , Mitsuhiko Shobuke, said: “Japanese people are enduring. It is not in our culture to express our sorrow or anger. We grin and bear it. There has been no looting and no riots here because in our culture we value order and dignity and we help each other. I am proud of how our people have behaved.” Japan, 2011


Psychological Responses to Disaster and Traumatic Events

“Most people are exposed to at least one violent or life-threatening situation during the course of their lives. Resilience is common and multiple pathways can lead to it” (Bonanno 2004).

Although many people exposed to large-scale disasters and traumatic events experience significant psychological distress, this is not an indication of pathology (Gray, 2004). Most people exposed to a disaster do well and experience only mild, transient symptoms (Ursano, et al., 1995). Their responses are normal responses to “inordinate adversity” (Gray, et al., 2004). Flynn and Norwood (2004) report that common physical responses include fatigue, nausea, fine motor tremors, tics, paresthesias (a sensation of tingling, pricking, or numbness of a person’s skin), profuse diaphoreses (sweatsing excessively and unpredictably), dizziness, gastrointestinal upset, heart palpitations, and choking or smothering sensations, and cognitive responses include memory loss, anomia, (problem with word finding. Impaired recall of words with no impairment of comprehension) decision-making difficulties, confusing trivial with major issues, concentration problems or distractibility, reduced attention span and calculation difficulties. Emotional responses include anxiety, grief, irritability, feeling overwhelmed and anticipating harm to self or others, while behavior responses include insomnia, gait change, hypervigilence, crying easily, gallows humor, and ritualistic behavior (Flynn and Norwood, 2004).

Thinking the Unthinkable

No one wants to consider the possibility of bad things happening to good people.  But they do.  Most of us in the Peak Oil community recognize how vulnerable we are to catastrophe, and our hearts go out to those suffering in Japan.  This blend of natural and man-made disaster is a toxic mix to deal with, multiplying the challenges to basic survival.  There but for fortune go you or I.


I’m Hanging up now…

It’s not a post, it is an 11,100 word tome.  And although it may only be indirectly related to Peak Oil, Climate Change or Economic Collapse, I wanted you to have it, Dear Reader.    KM

[C]ell phones may be the tobacco of today.   Source

It’s hard to talk about the dangers of cell-phone radiation without sounding like a conspiracy theorist. This is especially true in the United States, where non-industry-funded studies are rare, where legislation protecting the wireless industry from legal challenges has long been in place… GQ

1912: USA: The members of the Non-Smokers’ Protective League received editorial ridicule in various newspapers. One newspaper states, “Smoking may be offensive to some people, but encourages peace and morality.



Designed by Sung-Kyu Nam, at present still belongs to the concept of cellphone, aimed at 5-6 year-old child.



This post is a health alert, particularly to parents (but to all people) about mobile phone use.  It’s a long post, but the issue is complex.  If you read the entire piece, you’ll be able to intelligently assess the health risk, (at least as we now know it)   of mobile phone use.  I have no ax to grind.  I enjoy my cell phone and wonder how I ever lived without it.  But I’ve got to change the way I use it, and, I will argue, so do you.

The case I’ll make, with little personal commentary, is that we face a combination of industry forces and human health risks not seen since the first murmurs of health problems associated with smoking tobacco more than a hundred years ago.  I’ll be quoting from this great site on the Tobacco Timeline, and draw parallels to how the argument is being shaped and how public opinion is being influenced, both then and now.  I’ve provided an extensive list of medical references at the end, to those who would like to learn more.

I begin by explaining a variety of terms useful in helping you to understand the issues.  These include a very brief introduction to how home wireless phones and cell phones work, what can cause problems, and I’ll dispel some myths about what you should and shouldn’t be concerned about.  Here I’ll talk about two (yes, just two) medical studies that are competing to convince us that we either need to be concerned, or reassured about the safety of mobile telephones.  I’ll look at what I’ve come to believe are the essential elements to consider when examining any research on this issue.  They aren’t difficult to grasp.  I use smoking and health risks as a guide in that understanding.  After this, I review the two major pieces of research that purport to provide definitive answers to the question:  “Are mobile phones harmful to your health?”

Child's Play

In order to help you understand the issue, I’ll define terms like Specific Absorption Rates (SAR), and use industry websites to talk about the phenomenal growth of cell phone use over the last decade.  I’ll list the diseases that researchers are looking into, and which ones are of most concern.  I also provide a link to the most popular cell phones on the market along with their SAR’s, and explain why quite a few industry dollars are being spent to make sure you don’t get better educated about the potential danger of these mobile buddies.

I end the piece with a walk down ‘Memory Lane,’ Then, like now, consumers were ill-served by the competing and conflicting claims from the tobacco industry, medical establishment and mainstream media, each trying to convince us that smoking was either a health benefit, a harmless and relaxing past-time, or a danger to our health and longevity.  I’ll follow a number of these early tobacco messages with recent ones about mobile phone use.

Polemics and Fear

This is not intended as either a polemic, or a piece designed to scare people.  But the issue is, by necessity, full of political implication and the implications are frightening.  But fear not.  These health dangers can and should be minimized, and I’ll end the post with a discussion of safety precautions any adult should exercise while using a mobile telephone.  Based on what I’ve learned, it would take quite a bit to convince me that children should be given free access to cell phones at this time.

I hope you enjoy the post, and circulate it widely with its permalink:

First, a personal introduction:

I hate to do it.  I really love my iPhone, but I’m completely changing the way I use it.

This picture got to me:

5-year-old's brain with a cell phone depicted by radiologists in 1997

That is your five-year-old’s brain on a cell phone.  Your 10 year-old’s brain on a cell phone doesn’t look much better.  Those colors are the electromagnetic radiation (RF) penetrating into the brain tissue (the waves penetrate into 75% in a 5 year old’s brain and 50% in a 10 year old brain, while only 25% of an adults brain is penetrated.)

Don’t worry.  No child’s skull was subjected to cell phone radiation for use in this picture.  Radiologists extrapolated, using what they know about both kids, the skull, and radiation.  But increasingly, parents are providing the chance for kids, as young as pre-school age, to have their brains lit up like that for some period every day.

You see, kids have thin skulls, so low-level non-ionic radio frequencies (RF) goes deeply into them when they talk into a cell phone.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) knows RF’s aren’t good in large doses, but they aren’t quite sure they’re safe in the low doses that mobile

New Lab Mice

phones give out either.  Nevertheless, they set standards for just how much RF can be emitted, and they force mobile phone manufacturers to tell consumers about how much the device contains (…on page 34 of that manual you got.  You got that handy, don’t you?  It’s inside your home cordless phone too, but more on that later.)

Quick Review on How Mobile Phones Work

A Radio/Telephone Combo

Cell phones are  like a telephone and a radio combined. Remember “walkie talkies?”  Only one person could talk at a time, so you had to say “Over” when you were finished speaking and “Roger” when you heard what they said.  With mobile phones, the conversation is two-way, so both can speak at the same time.  When you make a call, it’s like talking on a two-way radio.

Cell towers/ Masts

Cell towers, or Masts, have radio transmitters that send out and receivers signals in a 10 mile radius. Each tower form honeycomb cells.  Honeycombs throughout an area pick up the signal from your phone then send it out, connecting you to your caller.

Mobile Phones are Low-Power Transmitters

Each phone has a low-power transmitters inside that radiates a small amount of power if you are close to a network tower, and more power if you are farther away in order to make the connection. The farther the outreach of the transmission your cell phone does to connect to a distant tower, the worse its health effects.  Good signal strength means you are in easy reach of a tower. Poor signal strength means you aren’t, and more “juice” is needed.

Cities have lots of cell tower honeycomb cells that cover the entire area. In rural areas, these cells are spread further apart, requiring the cell phone to use more power to transmit the signal over that greater distance. You can tell how close or far away you are from a tower by looking at the bars on the phone.

Cellular Tower or Mast

This RF Protective Clothing is suitable for all those who carry out work of any kind on antennae where they may be exposed to non ionizing electromagnetic radiation or to significant RF fields. FCC has full-body SAR radiation levels more than 4 times greater for Telecom workers than for the general public (.4 vs. .08)

In cordless home phones, the base is the mini-tower sending the same radio signal to your phone.

As I’ll be pointing out, in a growing number of countries around the world, they are warning parents not to allow children access to mobile phones because of the potential health risks.

But we’ll have none of that here in the US.  We design cell phones particularly for preschoolers and provide consumer reviews on them, so parents can make the “smartest choice.”

Let’s begin by defining a few important terms that will help you read medical research on cellular and wireless phones:

Mobile Phone/Cordless Phone/Cellular Phone

FCC regulates the RF output of both your home cordless telephone and your cell phone.  There is a limit on just how much RF they can emit.  I will refer to research subjects who use both cordless home telephones and cellular phones as “mobile phone users,” or “non-mobile phone users.” I will specify if one does or doesn’t use one or the other (i.e.: uses a cordless but not a cell phone.)

Odds Ratios

“Odds Ratio (OR)” in epidemiological studies is the relationship between an exposure and a disease.  In research, it is expressed (for example) as 1: 3.4.  In this case, the rate of having a disease is 3.4 times greater than not.  The greater the value of the odds ratio, the stronger the association.

In lung cancer and smoking studies, the OR compares the odds of a person who has lung cancer and smokes cigarettes (the second number, 3.4) against the odds that a person who does not have lung cancer and does not smoke cigarettes (number 1).  So in this hypothetical example, there is a 3.4 times greater risk of having lung cancer in the group that smokes vs. the group that does not.

Longevity and Intensity

But we can’t stop there.  Medical science isn’t that easy, and here’s where determining the Odds Ratio get’s tricky. It’s clear that using terms like “smoking” or “not smoking” doesn’t tell us very much.  Some people smoke 5 cigarettes a day for 5 years, while others smoke 3 packs a day for 30 years.  We now know that when we study both groups, the OR for each group is different (when researchers compare  non-smokers to light or heavy smokers, the OR is different).  So early on, the Tobacco industry sponsored studies that compared, say, light smokers who had been smoking a relatively short period of time, with healthy non-smokers.  Or perhaps they got tricky and put people who smoked cigar in the “non-smoking” group.  Their studies often “proved” that cigarette smoking didn’t have harmful effects.  I’m simplifying a bit, but hang in there with me.

Like smokers, not all mobile phone users are alike.  Some have been using these devices since they first appeared, and live on them, (we’ll call them the “Gekko Group) for work or pleasure, while others are more recent or casual users.  Some use both cell phones and wireless phones at home, doubling their chances of RF exposure.

Gordon Gekko's Mobile Phone


1953: Dr. Ernst L. Wynder’s landmark report finds that painting cigarette tar on the backs of mice creates tumors. This was the first successful induction of cancer in a lab animal with a tobacco product, the first definitive biological link between smoking and cancer

February, 2010:  In an extensive piece on cell phone health hazards in this month’s issue of GQ, a 35-year-old investment banker who five years ago was diagnosed with a brain tumor just behind his right ear — where he presses his phone — said that his industry has, “been using cell phones since 1992, back when they were the Gordon-Gekko-on-the-beach-kind-of-phone.” The banker said four or five colleagues at his firm also have similar tumors.

2003: Two group of animals were exposed different levels of RF radiation in two different types of cell phones for 5 days a week.  Mice exposed to lowlevel radio frequency radiation (RFR) had slightly accelerated tumor development… that may warrant further evaluation. Heikkinen, PP, et. al.   (2003).

2008:  “This is the first study showing that molecular level changes might take place in human volunteers in response to exposure to RF-EMF.”  Karinen, et al. (2008).

How Slow-Growing is the Disease? 

Malignant brain tumours represent “a life-ending diagnosis"

Researchers also study different medical conditions and diseases.  In smoking, quicker effects, like “smoker’s cough” happens more quickly than lung disease.  With mobile phones,  glucose changes happens immediately when you use a cell phone, while slow-growing brain cancers might take as long as 30-40 years before the patient becomes symptomatic.  If you don’t follow heavy mobile phone users for 40 years, you may not see an effect epidemiological.  In addition, some diseases kill people, and dead people don’t share cell phone data with epidemiologists.  Keep these sorts of factors in mind as we look at the two large research projects on mobile phone or cell phone use.


Specific Absorption Rate (SAR)

The FCC sets guideline limits on human exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF) emissions while talking on a hand-held mobile phone including cell and home cordless phones.  They are defined in terms of a Specific Absorption Rate (SAR).  Like the child’s skull on a cell phone above, SAR is a measure of the rate of absorption of RF energy by the body.  The “safe” limit for a mobile phone user, set by the US FCC is “an SAR of 1.6 watts per kilogram (1.6 W/kg), averaged which is absorbed by one gram of body tissue” for one section of the body.  SAR is given for two areas: measured for partial body  exposures (e.g., head, waist, during use of a mobile phone) and whole body exposures (e.g., at a distance from a mobile base station/tower/mast).  SAR limits are based on whole-body exposure levels of 0.4 W/kg1 for workers in the telecom industry and 0.08 W/kg1 for the general public.

Your Brain: A Sponge for Radiation


World-wide, SAR upper limits vary somewhat.  Basic restrictions in Germany for example, are 0.08 W/kg for exposure of whole body and 2 W/kg for the partial body.

Corporations must demonstrate that their products fall below this number to be allowed to market them.

What is the  Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Field (RF) in Your Phone?

It’s the sort of information that telecommunications industry dollars are trying to stop you from finding out easily.  They don’t want to “scare’ you.

Every cell phone has an SAR, and some states are trying to legislate a requirement that cell phone manufacturers put hazardous warning labels on the outside of cell phone boxes…or as part of the store display.  The argument is that educating about SAR levels will allow consumers the right to choose just how much RF to expose themselves to.  These efforts are being actively fought (and often defeated) by corporate interests, who have been overall boosting their spending on lobbying year by year.

Organization 1999 Lobbying
1998 Lobbying
1997 Lobbying
Average Growth
Cellular Telecom Industry Ass $3,535,000 $4,570,000 $1,549,460 51.0

You can find the SAR for your cordless home phones too, if you find your manual, or if you are good at following directions on the FCC website.

Warning: there are a lot of them.

After taking my cordless phone apart, and making multiple clicks, I determined that my Panasonic had an SAR: head (partial body) of 0.15 W/kg; and body SAR of 0.26 W/kg.

Is that high?  I don’t know, since I don’t know anyone else’s secret cordless phone code, so I have nothing to compare that number to.

Phones on Stand-by

Phones aren’t always radiating radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF) emissions, because activated cell phones and the cell tower aren’t in constant radio contact with each other.  After the phone is registered, and turned on, it searches for the nearest cell tower/mast.  The farther away the tower/mast, the stronger RF it puts out to reach it.  Once it connects to a particular cell tower, it goes into a “receive-only mode.”

When the cell phone is on, but stationary, (e.g. at bedtime) approximately every 30 to 60 seconds it sends a short message to the tower, (“I’m still here!”) which lasts about one second long, to prevent drain on the battery.  But kids are known to do the darnest things, like put their cell phone under their pillows at night, and that’s not a good practice.  After 8 hours, they’ll get 8-16 minutes of radiation ever night, while they sleep.  The same goes for the cell phone you keep safely tucked into your front pocket, by your genitals.  This is why researchers have looked into testicular cancer and cell phones.

When on the move (e.g. in a car), the phone automatically sends a short signal whenever the radio “cell” (the area controlled by a particular tower/mast) changes, making a new base station the responsible communication link. So continuous signals are sent only if it loses contact with one tower and must searches for another one (“Hello!  It’s Kathy’s cell.  Closest Tower!  Please respond!), or an incoming or outgoing call is made or received.  Cell phones “bundle” your voice data and send it off that way.  Remember your Mother saying you had two ears to listen and one mouth to talk?  If you are listening, and not talking, your cell phone is not radiating a steady signal, but acts more like “standby” until you speak up again!

Don’t make calls when you have few “bars.”  Your phones will put out more RF to meet up with the next closest tower/mast, and that means an extra boost of RF to your brain.  Rural cell phone users also get a greater blast of RF, because more power is needed to connect to the cell towers/masts that are placed farther apart.

Text Messaging

When sending a text message (SMS ) your cell phone sends back its electromagnetic wave for 1 to 2 seconds as the SMS is being sent, thereby reducing exposure to RF.  That’s why texting is considered “healthier” than talking on your cell phone.  Research studies are showing that teens are texting, rather than calling, at a greater frequency.  Think of texting as “smoking but not inhaling.”

Penetration Rates in the Population and Minutes of Use

Cell Phones

The popularity of cell phones are growing all over the world. Below you can see how many people (subscribers) owned cell phones from June 1995 to June 2010.

Annualized Total Wireless Revenues and “Penetration Minutes of Use”:

Year                      Subscriber           Revenues            US Population     Minutes of Usage
June 2010            293 Mil                 $155.8 Bil            Penetration: 93%             2.26 Trillion
June 2005            194 Mil                 $108.5 Bil            Penetration: 66%             1.26 Trillion
June 2000:           97 Mil                  $ 45.3  Bil             Penetration:  34%             195  Billion
June 1995:           28 Mil                   $ 16.5  Bil             Penetration:   11%              32  Billion

What’s more, from 1987-1991, the ability of companies to handle the volume of those who wanted to place calls was pretty limited and only so many calls got through. In 1991, the cell phone industry expanded their volume by 1000% percent, giving many more people a chance to place their calls all at the same time.

While in 1987, only one million people were cell phone subscribers, by June 2010, that number rose to 293 million, and 93% of the US population owned cell phones, talking 2.26 Trillion minutes per year.

Martin Cooper -- Cell phone inventor and Early User

It is important to think about these additional people spending greater amounts of time on their cell phones.  Many more people ONLY have cell phones now, and have given up their land-lines altogether.  Medical research only 6 years old has not accounted for almost 100 million new cell phone subscribers.  Not that 60% of the people on Earth (4 billion) have cell phones, there should be a “rush” on finding out their dangers.

“Is there not something desperately wrong, in a world where everybody has a mobile telephone but nobody has clean drinking water?” Patrick Smith

85 Million cell phones are shipped to India each year.

Cordless Home Phones:

While cordless telephones were available in the 1980’s-mid 1990’s, they lacked high-quality reception and they were expensive.  By 1990, a 900 MHZ phone worked great but sold for $500, and could be intercepted by radio scanners, so they weren’t very private.  By the mid-1990’s, quality and distance improved and a good quality phone could be had for $340.  Finally, by 2000, you could buy a high-quality cordless phone for under $100, and this shift dramatically increased the percentage of the US population owning one.

USA Population Penetration for Cordless Phones:

2007 –   85%                         2005  –  88%                   2001 –  78%

So, medical studies that conducted data earlier than 1995 probably did not include a great many cordless phone users.


We know that a slow-growing brain cancer, can take up to 30 years before the sufferer is symptomatic.  Today, when 93% of the US have cell phones and 85% of us use cordless phones, researchers can’t yet predict how many of us will later develop a slow-growing brain cancer or tumor, because these diseases have such a long latency period.

So here is the research dilemma:  More recent studies may measure more mobile phone users, but these users will not have the years of mobile phone use (and therefore the latency) to be diagnosed with a brain tumor.  In another twenty years, we will have quite a bit of epidemiological data about the prevalence of brain cancers and mobile phone use.  Will you be one of those statistics?

A Tale of Two Research Studies

Interphone – A Well-Funded Telecom Industry Study

May 17, 2010 — A large international study of the risk of brain cancer from cell phone use has yielded “inconclusive results.” Although the study provides no definitive evidence of increased risk of brain cancer from cell phones, observations at the highest level of cumulative call time and the changing patterns of mobile phone use, particularly among young people, warrant further investigation, researchers said.  The Interphone Study Group published their initial results analyzing brain tumor (glioma and meningioma) risk in relation to  cell phone use.

After spending 1998 determining whether such a study would be “feasible and informative” the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) began its work.  This interview-based case-control study, which included 2708 glioma and 2409 meningioma cases and matched controls was conducted by 48 scientists in 13 countries using a common protocol in 1999 and the study continued through 2004 at a cost of $30+ million dollars. Why it took another six years after the data was gathered to publish a single article is anyone’s guess.

I won’t go into all of the criticism here, but this YouTube covers most of them.

While other studies of brain tumors and cell phone use have been conducted, this was clearly the largest study of its kind.

Scope of the Interphone study

“Interphone” was international with studies in 13 countries around the world (Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the UK) focusing on four types of tumors in tissues that most absorb RF energy emitted by mobile phones:

  • tumors of the brain:
    • glioma, a cancer of the brain that begins in the glial cells that surround and support nerve cells; and
    • meningioma, a type of slow-growing tumor that forms in the meninges, the thin layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord;
  • tumors of the acoustic nerve: schwannoma, a tumor of the peripheral nervous system that arises in the nerve sheath; and
  • tumours of the parotid gland: tumors that form in a parotid gland, the largest of the salivary glands, which make saliva and release it into the mouth.

The objective was to determine whether mobile phone use increased the risk of these tumors. Often touted in the Interphone study are the number of cell phone users with at least 10 years of exposure to cell phone use.

Funding of Interphone

The Interphone study was a collaborative effort initiated by the Telecom Industry.  Five and a half million € were contributed by industry sources both directly and through a “firewall” mechanism, set up in order to “guarantee the independence of the scientists.”

Other funding was provided by the European Commission (3.74 million €) and national and local funding sources (9.9 million € in total) in participating countries.


The average subject in this study spent 2 to 2.5 hours per month on their cell phone, or 100 total cumulative hours (less than four years) over their lifetime.  The heaviest users (the top 10%) had a set upper limit of  30 minutes per day with a lifetime accumulation of 1640 hours.  Subjects using only home cordless phones were considered “non-cell phone” users, despite the fact that both types of phones radiated RF.  Excluded were children, teens and young adults.


The Interphone Study Group summarized its findings as follows:

Overall, Cell Phone Use is Good For Your Brain

This study found 207 “protective results” — indicating that cell phone users were actually less likely to become ill than were non-cell phone users (glioma,OR 0.81 and meningioma OR 0.79).  Since numerous studies on radiation links increased brain tumor with higher exposure of radiation, this finding was blatantly absurd.  Researchers suggested these findings “possibly reflected participation bias or other methodological limitations.”

The Top 10% of Cellular Phone Users in this Study- Mute by Current Standards

Only when researchers examined the top 10% of cell phone use, did differences begin to appear.  For those who spent 1640 hour over 10 years (16.4 hours per year), there was a 1.4 times (140%) greater risk of having glioma and 1.15 (115%) times greater risk of having the slow-growing meningioma.

Wait a minute:  16.4 hours a year were the TOP USERS?  By today’s standards, such users would be considered “average.”

Only 29 measures suggested any statistically significant risk of disease.  Most notable among these was the troublesome finding that greater ORs for glioma occurred in the temporal lobe on the side of their head where they held their cell phones [the region of the brain located nearest the ear] than in other lobes of the brain.

After the initial studies were published, and after considerable delay, a second series of findings were released by the Interphone study.  This revealed a 300% increased rate of acoustic neuropathy with cell phone use.  As the acoustic nerve is closest to where the phone is placed, most independent researchers  eagerly awaited the results, which now appeared almost 7 years after initial data collection.  Again, researchers reported these results as “biases and errors” preventing a “causal connection” to these positive findings.  There were “whispers” of trouble, but no “smoking gun.”  Industry spokesmen were ecstatic:

The statement from John Walls, vice president of public affairs for CTIA-The Wireless Association® was unequivocal: “’An increase of brain cancer is not established from the data from Interphone.’  Interphone’s conclusion of no overall increased risk of brain cancer is consistent with conclusions reached in an already large body of scientific research on this subject.  This includes extensive research in laboratories, which has not identified (italics mine) any known biologic mechanism by which cell phones can cause brain cancer or, as the Interphone report notes, ‘[H]as found no evidence that RF fields are carcinogenic in laboratory rodents or cause DNA damage in cells in culture.’  The results were an open and shut case:  ”RF products meeting established safety guidelines pose no known health risk.”  He later suggested no more research was needed.  Shame, shame.

Not quite, Mr. Walls.

John Walls says "Don't Worry, Be Happy!"

Annoyingly (at least to industry spokespeople) the researchers remained less triumphant: “We have not demonstrated that there is increased risk but neither have we demonstrated that there is an absence of risk. These findings of increased risk in the heaviest users suggest a possible association but we don’t have enough scientific evidence.

First, there was the definition of who constituted a “heavy cell phone users:” cell phone use of 30 or more minutes a day.  Next, there was clearly elevated risk of glioma for the heaviest users– whether the definition of “heavy users” were “how long they were using a cell phone”, “how many total minutes they used,” or “how many total calls they made, compared to non-users.”  Despite these troubling findings, this industry report described them as merely “suggestive” of problems, and full of biases and errors that “limited the strength of the conclusions that could be drawn from the analysis.”

Nevertheless Elisabeth Cardis, who led the Interphone project, took a less equivocal stand:

To me, there’s certainly smoke there. Overall, my opinion is that the results show a real effect.

The fanfare ended and the media had reached its pronouncement:  “Cell phones were (almost) safe.”  At least researchers couldn’t prove they were clearly dangerous.  Like the Tobacco Industry before it, this was a risk that the four billion dollar Telecom industry was willing to take, and like the Tobacco Industry, the pay-off was massive profits.

After all, we’re just talking about our brains.

And didn’t Steve Jobs claim Iphones were just below food and water on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

Selection Bias and Re-defining “Risk”

Most today will agree that 30 minutes a day of cell phone use would hardly be considered “heavy use,” especially for teenagers.  What’s more, excluding those subjects that died from brain tumors during the study may also slant the research in a positive direction.  But most notably, according to the critics, was the fact that researchers asked about home cordless phone use, but ignored the results.  Those only using a cordless home phone were put into the “non-cell phone” group.  Yet both phones emit very similar levels of radiation.  This is considered a serious flaw.  Critics continue to demand that the data from these 16 studies (excluding home cordless phones from the “risk” pool) be re-analyzed and re-published.  They are still waiting.

In another twenty years, we will have quite a bit of epidemiological data about the prevalence of brain cancers and mobile phone use.  Will you be one of those statistics?

Who would design such a flawed study that provided such inconclusive evidence but required $30+ million to complete?  Reportedly, the identity of the designers of this study are unknown.

Legislative Stirrings

Dennis Kucinich was outspoken: “Some studies find links. Some don’t.  But studies funded by the telecommunications industry are significantly less likely to find a link between cell phones and health effects. We need a first class research program to give us answers.” Meanwhile, “a labeling law will ensure that cell phone users can decide for themselves the level of risk that they will accept.”  In my estimation, Federal legislation has little chance of passing any time soon.

San Francisco was sued by the industry when the city recently passed the nation’s first local ordinance that requires retailers to post radiation-emission (SAR) data.  Wireless industry group CTIA vowed to withhold convention funds following the meeting already planned for October. “It’s clear that we weren’t welcome there,” Walls says.

1965:  Congress passes the Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act requiring the following Surgeon General’s Warning on the side of cigarette packs: “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health.”

1999: Maine bans smoking in restaurants.

2010:  Maine, LD 1706, the Children’s Wireless Protection Act, which would require a label on cell phone packaging, advising consumers of a heightened risk to children, as well as advising all consumers to hold cell phones away from their heads when using them was soundly defeated in the fall of 2010, after an influx of industry dollars.

Dane Snowden, a spokesman for  CTIA, was quoted as saying:  “It

Dane Snowden of CTIA: "You can't prove by me cell phones are dangerous."

does concern us that a warning label of any type is being proposed for a product that has not been proven to be dangerous.”

Stop for a moment and consider this:

Once upon a time, it was an INDUSTRY’S job to prove a product SAFE.  Now, it is the CONSUMER’S job to prove that a product DANGEROUS.

1957: REGULATION: Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act is amended. The manufacturer must bear the burden of demonstrating the product is safe and effective.


Dr. Christopher Wild, Director of IARC said: ” The changing patterns of mobile phone use since the period studied by Interphone, particularly in young people, mean that further investigation of mobile phone use and brain cancer risk is merited.”

She added:,”Because of concerns about the rapid increase in mobile phone use in young people, who were not covered by Interphone, CREAL is coordinating a new project, MobiKids, funded by the European Union, to investigate the risk of brain tumors from mobile phone use in childhood and adolescence.

Not willing to risk it...

IARC has scheduled a comprehensive review of the carcinogenic potential of mobile phone use under the auspices of its Monographs Programme. The review, scheduled for 24-31 May 2011, will consider all published epidemiological and experimental evidence, including the new data from the Interphone study.

Swedish Studies with Professor Hardell:

In a series of studies not funded by the cell phone industry, the research findings are consistent to what one might expect if cell phone use caused brain tumors.

They linked:

  • Higher risk associated with higher cumulative hours of mobile phone use
  • Higher risks associated with a higher number of years since first mobile phone use
  • Increased risk with higher radiated power from mobile phone use
  • Higher exposure leading to higher risk for those using their mobile phone on only one side of their heads.
  • Greater risk for younger users.  The younger the user, the greater the risk.

Mark my words:  Soon we’ll find this:

As cute as this:

Isn’t that adorable?

We used to think so.

Dangerous or Safe?

1929: HEALTH: Statistician Frederick Hoffman in the “American Review of Tuberculosis” finds: “There is no definite evidence that smoking habits are a direct contributory cause toward malignant growths in the lungs.”

1935: FORTUNE magazine reports on “Alcohol and Tobacco” (two of its chief advertisers), concluding (page 98), “the sum total of our knowledge of the ‘evil’ of smoking does not add up to much more than a zero.”

1933: ADVERTISING: Chesterfield begins running ads in the New York State Journal of Medicine, with claims like, “Just as pure as the water you drink . . . and practically untouched by human hands.”

1939: “Philip Morris — a cigarette recognized by eminent medical authorities for its advantages to the nose and throat.”


1993: The FDA, which has primary jurisdiction for investigating mobile phone safety, has stated that it cannot rule out the possibility of risk, but if such a risk exists, “it is probably small.”  [Source]

2006:  Firefly phone has won the prestigious  CES Innovation Award, presented by the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) and the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  The Firefly phone was specifically designed to address the needs of parents who feel that giving their 8-12 year old kids a fully functional “adult” cell phone is indulgent.

Firefly GlowPhone for Kids

(vs the Samsung Impression SGH-a877, with an SAR level of 0.35 W/kg)

Maximum radiation(SAR) : 1.46 W/kg

Maximum allowed:  1.6 W/kg

More Fun Kid’s Cell Phones:

LG MIGO (VX1000)

Maximum radiation: UNKNOWN

LG Rumor 260

Maximum radiation: 1.22 W/kg


2009: “I am therefore globally in agreement with the idea of restricting the use [of cellphones by] children.” Head of the Interphone studies, Dr. Elizabeth Cardis.

“The iPhone has become the Swiss Army knife of mobile parenting.”

  • Toronto’s Department of Public Health:  “Children under eight should only use mobiles in emergencies; teenagers should limit calls to 10 minutes or less.”

  • Russian Ministry of Health: “Young people under 18 should not use cell phones.”

  • The British National Radiological Protection Board, which has recently joined with the UK’s Health Protection Agency, warns of the possibility that mobile phones could cause benign tumors of the ear and brain. The NRPB urges parents not to provide cell phones to children under 8 years old.

  • Israel’s Health Ministry:  Advises caution

  • 2009: In France, marketing and designing cell phones for minors under 18 has been made illegal.  Lyon, France’s second city, launched an advertising campaign before Christmas aimed at dissuading people from buying mobiles for children as presents, with the slogan “Let’s keep them healthy, away from mobile phones!

1. NO advertising of mobile phones directed at children under 12.
2. BANS the sale of cell phones designed for children under 6-years-old.
3. Introduces new limits for radiation from the phones and require mobile phones to be sold with earphones. Source

Image © Peter Dazeley, Getty Images

20 highest-radiation cell phones (United States)

20 lowest-radiation cell phones (United States)

10 Best Phones  (US)             Dec 2010


Top Safety Guidelines (with moderations included)


Look up your phone on EWG’s buyer’s guide. (Your phone’s model number may be printed under your battery.) Consider replacing your phone with one that emits the lowest radiation possible and still meets your needs.  (If you live in a rural area, you may need the higher power…)


Headsets emit much less radiation than phones. Choose either wired or wireless (experts are split on which version is safer, but I say tether is better) using this cell phone headset guide. Some wireless headsets emit continuous, low-level radiation, so take yours off your ear when you’re not on a call. Using your phone in speaker mode also reduces radiation to the head.

cellphone earpieces


Your phone emits radiation when you talk or text, but not when you’re receiving messages. Listening more and talking less reduces your exposures.


Hold the phone away from your torso when you’re talking (with headset or speaker), not against your ear, in a pocket, or on your belt where soft body tissues absorb radiation.


Phones use less power (less radiation) to send text than voice. And unlike when you speak with the phone at your ear, texting keeps radiation away from your head.

cellphone text


Fewer signal bars on your phone means that it emits more radiation to get the signal to the tower. Make and take calls when your phone has a strong signal.


Young children’s brains absorb twice as much cell phone radiation as those of adults. EWG joins health agencies in at least 6 countries in recommending limits for children’s phone use, such as for emergency situations only.  Better yet, provide a mobile phone that has only GPS and texting available, so talk becomes impossible.  Too young to text?  Way too young to need a cell phone…


Radiation shields such as antenna caps or keypad covers reduce the connection quality and force the phone to transmit at a higher power with higher radiation.  Save your money.

9. Get Tethered:

Revert back to a corded phone when at home, and use a wireless home phone only to reach your corded one.

10.  Stow your cell phone:

in a bag, briefcase, or your car’s glove compartment when you aren’t using it.  Shut it off if you keep it in your pocket.

11.  Keep your cell phone shut off

and check it periodically or when you must make a call or send a text.  You’ll not only save your battery, but reduce “passive” radiation.

A walk down Memory Lane & Deja Vu All Over Again:

1912:  First strong link made between lung cancer and smoking. In a monograph, Dr. Isaac Adler is the first to strongly suggest that lung cancer is related to smoking.

1993-03:  MEDIA:  FORTUNE magazine reports “DO CELLULAR PHONES CAUSE CANCER? According to the article, “One researcher for Motorola wouldn’t use them more than 30 minutes a day. But there’s an appalling lack of convincing research on risks from electromagnetic fields.” Quoting Granger Morgan of Carnegie Mellon: ‘‘We’ve done enough research to suggest there may be a problem, but not enough to resolve it. If we don’t crank up and get some answers we’re going to have a long, expensive period of chaos.” He thinks total federal support for ELF research, now about $7 million a year, ought to top $20 million. While the measurable danger from electromagnetic radiation so far seems much less than the risk you run if you don’t fasten your seat belt, the public won’t be reassured by anything less than thorough, conclusive studies.”

After the article was published – Motorola canceled all of their advertising in Fortune magazine for several years.

1936: American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology publishes an article raising concerns about the effect of smoking on unborn children.

2010: reports that a new study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, has found that children exposed to cell phones in the womb and after birth, up to age 7, are more likely to experience behavioral problems such as hyperactivity, attention, and social issues than those who aren’t exposed.

1939: GERMANY: Hermann Goring issues a decree forbidding the military to smoke on the streets, on marches, and on brief off duty periods.

1939-1945: WORLD WAR II As part of the war effort, Roosevelt makes tobacco a protected crop. General Douglas McArthur makes the corncob pipe his trademark by posing with it on dramatic occasions such as his wading ashore during the invasion and reconquest of the Philippines. Cigarettes are included in GI’s C-Rations. Tobacco companies send millions of free cigarettes to GI’s, mostly the popular brands; the home front had to make do with off-brands like Rameses or Pacayunes. Tobacco consumption is so fierce a shortage develops. By the end of the war, cigarette sales are at an all-time high.

1940:  JAMA publishes an article linking smoking with a higher risk of coronary disease.

1943-07: GERMANY: LEGISLATION: a law is passed forbidding tobacco use in public places by anyone under 18 years of age

1946: ADVERTISING: RJR begins “More Doctors Smoke Camels” ad campaign. One of the ads cited in B&W’s “A Review of Health References in Cigarette Advertising 1927-1964″, the phrase will run in ads through 1952.

1946: A letter from a Lorillard chemist to its manufacturing committee states: “Certain scientists and medical authorities have claimed for many years that the use of tobacco contributes to cancer development in susceptible people. Just enough evidence has been presented to justify the possibility of such a presumption.

1948: HEALTH: The JAMA argues, “more can be said in behalf of smoking as a form of escape from tension than against it . . . there does not seem to be any preponderance of evidence that would indicate the abolition of the use of tobacco as a substance contrary to the public health.”

2010: At Benicia (California) High School, Principal Gary Jensen decided to confiscate the Apples, Droids, etc.  According to the San Francisco Chronicle of 11/15/10, Jensen stated:

“When you take a cell phone away from a student, it’s like taking an arm or a leg.  We’re simply stating ‘not during class time.’  I can’t overemphasize that.”

1954-02-12: UK: Government officially acknowledges smoking/lung cancer link. Health Minister Iain Macleod, finally meets the press in regards to the Doll/Hill studies. This study looked at the link between lung cancer and smoking cigarettes. He says of the government-approved scientific committee’s findings, “It must be regarded as established that there is a relationship between smoking and cancer of the lung, ” and that “it would appear that the risk increases with the amount smoked, particularly of cigarettes.” He emphasizes that the evidence is statistical only, thanks Doll and Hill for ‘what little information we have’ – and chain-smokes throughout the proceedings. He also announced that the tobacco industry had given £250,000 for research to the MRC.

2008- “A driving force behind the memo was Devra Lee Davis, the director of the university’s center for environmental oncology.  “The question is do you want to play Russian roulette with your brain,” she said in an interview that she did from her cell phone. “I don’t know that cell phones are dangerous. But I don’t know that they are safe.” [source]

1954: Leonard Engel, a popular medical writer, stated in Harper’s Magazine that “the case against cigarettes is by no means proved” and that cigarettes may have “little or nothing to do with cancer of the lung.

1954-06-07: LITIGATION: EVA COOPER files first tobacco lawsuit; sues R.J. REYNOLDS TOBACCO COMPANY for her husband’s death from lung cancer. He had smoked Camels.  Mrs. Cooper’s complaint alleged her husband, Joseph, who had died of lung cancer, “to his detriment relied on advertisements doctors considered its cigarettes healthful and that its cigarettes were harmless to the respiratory system.” She sought to recover damages for pain and suffering and death of her husband.

1992: Lawsuit brought by a Florida man, David Reynard, against a number of companies that manufactured phones and provided cell service, following the death of his wife from a brain tumor.

1957-07-12: First Surgeon General declares link between smoking and lung cancerl. SG Leroy E. Burney issues “Joint Report of Study Group on Smoking and Health,” stating that, “It is clear that there is an increasing and consistent body of evidence that excessive cigarette smoking is one of the causative factors in lung cancer,” the first time the Public Health Service had taken a position on the subject.

1963: LEGISLATION: FDA expressed its interpretation that tobacco did not fit the “hazardous” criteria stated of the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act (FHSA) of 1960, and withheld recommendations pending the release of the report of the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health.

1964-02-07: The AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSN accepts a $10 million grant for tobacco research from six cigarette companies. The AMA shelves its previous plans to issue a report on smoking’s relationship to cancer; the official AMA word on smoking and health won’t be issued for another 10 years.

1964-02-28: The AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSN supports the tobacco industry’s objection to labeling cigarettes as a health hazard, writes in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, “More than 90 million persons in the United States use tobacco in some form, and, of these 72 million use cigarettes… the economic lives of tobacco growers, processors, and merchants are entwined in the industry; and local, state, and the federal governments are recipients of and dependent upon many millions of dollars of tax revenue.

2005 Cities have long depended on telecom taxes to help pay for everything from sewer lines to teachers’ salaries. cities worry their tax bases could be seriously eroded. Telecoms contribute $22 billion annually to local tax coffers, says Paul Glenchur of Stanford Washington research group, a Washington, D.C.-based firm.

Cities rely on the tax revenue generated (by telecoms) to provide critical services to their citizens,” says Cheryl Leanza, an attorney for the National League of Cities, which represents 18,000 cities across the USA.  Traditional telecom is one of the most heavily taxed services in America.  Depending on where you live, taxes account for roughly 2% to 21% of your monthly phone bill, says Scott Mackey, a partner at Kimbell Sherman Ellis.  Most of that tax burden is shouldered by the big telecoms, which pass it along to consumers.

1967: First report concerning the adverse effects of environmental tobacco smoke (ETS) on children’s health is published. (Cameron P. The presence of pets and smoking as correlates of perceived disease. J Allergy. 1967;40:12-15)

1968-03-03: PROPAGANDA: National Enquirer publishes “Cigarette Cancer Link is Bunk.” “To Smoke or Not to Smoke–That Is Still the Question,” by Stanley Frank, a widely read sports writer, appears in True Magazine.

1969: SMOKEFREE: Pan American Airlines creates the first nonsmoking sections on its jumbo jets; United Airlines did the same two years later.

1979-01: MEDIA: Mother Jones magazine publishes “Why Dick Can’t Stop Smoking.” According to MoJo in 1996, As a professional courtesy, Mother Jones gave tobacco manufacturers advance notice of the cover story so they could pull their ads from the issue. Philip Morris, Brown & Williamson, and others responded by canceling their entire commitment: several years’ worth of cigarette ads. In a show of corporate solidarity, many liquor companies followed suit. See:

1980:  ENTERTAINMENT: Superman II: Lois Lane lights up. In fifty years of comic book appearances, Lois Lane never smoked. For a reported payment of $42,000, Philip Morris purchases 22 exposures of the Marlboro logo in the movie; Lois Lane, strong role model for teenage girls, gets a Marlboro pack on her desk and begins chain smoking Marlboro Lights.

1983: REGULATION: San Francisco passes first strong workplace smoking restrictions, banning smoking in private workplaces

1995-07-13: FDA declares nicotine a drug

1997-07-21:  For the first time ever, a tobacco co. executive, Ligget CEO Bennet Lebow, testifies that cigarettes cause cancer.

1999-10-13: BUSINESS: Philip Morris launches website; for first time, acknowledges scientific consensus on smoking. “There is an overwhelming medical and scientific consensus that cigarette smoking causes lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema and other serious diseases in smokers,” its website,, states. “there is no safe cigarette . . . cigarette smoking is addictive, as that term is most commonly used today.” In 2003, William Ohlemeyer, noting the occasion, said the admission “meant we were becoming less literal in our view of the effects of tobacco.”

2001-07-16: CZECH REPUBLIC: News reports reveal that Philip Morris released to the government a PM-commissioned Arthur D. Little report which concluded that smokers save the state money–by dying early.

2001: Philip Morris publicly apologizes for the Arthur D. Little report. The statment reads, “For one of our tobacco companies to commission this study was not just a terrible mistake, it was wrong. All of us at Philip Morris, no matter where we work, are extremely sorry for this. No one benefits from the very real, serious and significant diseases caused by smoking. We understand the outrage that has been expressed and we sincerely regret this extraordinarily unfortunate incident. We will continue our efforts to do the right thing in all our businesses, acknowledging mistakes when we make them and learning from them as we go forward.”

Medical Researach and the Telecom Industry

2002:  STANDARDS:  The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified power frequency magnetic fields as a possible human carcinogen.  Despite findings that there is evidence of an increased childhood leukemia risk far below the international standards for EMF, the exposure level set by the ICNIRP panel did not use this evidence as a basis for the derivation of the guideline level for power.   The panel setting the standard frequency fields using other criteria. (Kundi,2009b).

2006: Lack of data spurs the World Health Organization to put the effect of electromagnetic fields on children’s’ development on its research agenda.

2006: Science Daily–Long or short-term cell phone use is not associated with increased cancer risk, according to a study in the December 6 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

2007-09:  Britain’s largest investigation into the health risks of mobile phone technology, Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research (MTHR) programme — funded by “government and industry sources” — reported that “Mobile phones have not been found to be associated with any biological or adverse health effects.”  The six year research programme has found no association between short term mobile phone use and brain cancer. The MTHR programme management committee believes there is no need to support further work in this area.  But its chairman, Professor Lawrie Challis, admitted that only a small proportion of the research had covered people who had used the phones for more than a decade. He warned: “We cannot rule out the possibility at this stage that cancer could appear in a few years’ time.”

September 2007: HEALTH:  the European Union’s environmental watchdog, the European Environment Agency, warned that cell-phone technology “could lead to a health crisis similar to those caused by asbestos, smoking, and lead in petrol.

2009:  Before a tumor can be diagnosed,…the tumor was present for many years or even decades.  For meningioma, average induction periods of about 20-40 years have been calculated in adults…For acoustic neuroma, slow growth, which an average volume doubling time of about 1.7 years, suggests similar induction periods. ..For glioma, case reports…and long-term follow-up after childhood radiation therapy of tinea capitis also suggests induction periods of decades. ..It is necessary to consider not only time since first exposure but also duration of exposure.  Number of calls and average duration of calls seem to be too difficult to remember for periods far in the past, but information about periods of regular use is more easily recalled and therefore could be the best choice for exposure determination. (In principle, it may even be validated by network provider data.)  Years of regular mobile or cordless phone use up to 5 years before diagnosis would possibly be the appropriate exposure meter for most slowly growing tumors.  Because such evaluations have not been performed, I instead assessed exposure duration or latency of > 10 years, as available.…An association [between mobile phones and cancer] that is of moderate strength and in the range delineated for passive smoking and lung cancer.  There is no meaningful indicator of exposure dose available, but longer latencies are associated with higher risk estimates and there are indications that risk is higher in rural areas where phones typically radiate at higher intensities (Hardell, et al, 2005b).  Risk estimates for longer duration of use are higher, on average, than overall estimates, and estimates for ipsilateral (on one side) mobile phone use (i.e., use of the mobile phone on the same side where the tumor occurred) where available, tend to be even higher…Kundi,(2009)

2008:  Tumor immunologist Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, is the last in a recent succession of authorities that are speaking out publicly about the potential dangers of cell phones.  “Really at the heart of my concern is that we shouldn’t wait for a definitive study to come out, but err on the side of being safe rather than sorry later,” Herberman said.

2009:  In summary our review yielded a consistent pattern of an increased risk for gloma and acoustic neuroma after >10 years of mobile phone use.  We conclude that current standard for exposure to microwaves during mobile phone use is not safe for long-term exposure and need to be revised. Hardell, et. al.  (2009)

May, 2010:  HEALTH:  The American Cancer Society recommends that people who are concerned take simple steps to reduce their exposure:

  • Use a speaker phone or other hands-free device.

  • Purchase a cell phone model with lower SAR (specific absorption rate) ratings. SAR is a measure of how much radiofrequency (RF) is absorbed by the body. Cell phones do not emit ionizing radiation, but there is some concern that RF may indirectly affect tumor growth.

  • Parents may wish to limit their children’s use of cell phones.

2010: “Despite years of demonisation, mobile phones might actually do us more good than harm. Regular exposure to an electromagnetic field identical to the ones produced by mobile phones seems to improve memory in mice with symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, DOI: 10.3233/jad-2009-1228

2009: Current scientific evidence doesn’t indicate any adverse health outcomes associated with exposure to radio frequency energy from cell phones,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman Peper Long told last May.  “Although there have been reports of negative health effects from low levels of radio frequency energy, these reports have not been replicated or confirmed.”

2010:  Astonished scientists found that electromagnetic radiation from cell phones not only boosted the memories of young mice, but even reversed Alzheimer’s symptoms in old mice. Their study marks the first to investigate how long-term electromagnetic radiation affects memory function.

Feb 2011: HEALTH: In a preliminary study, researchers found that 50-minute cell phone use was associated with increased brain glucose metabolism (a marker of brain activity) in the region closest to the phone antenna, but the finding is of unknown clinical significance, according to a study in the February 23 issue of JAMA.

Brain Cancer Research:

Ahlbom A.L., Feychting M., Green A., Kheifets L., Savitz D.A., Swerdlow,  A.J. (2009).  Epidemiologic evidence on mobile phones and tumor risk: a review.  Epidemiology 2009; 20 (5): 639 – 652:

Khurana Teo C., Kundi M., Hardell L., Carlberg, M.  (2009): Cell phones and brain tumors: a review. Surg Neurol, 72 (3): 205 – 215.

Han Y.Y., Kano, H., Davis, D.L, Niranjan, A., Lunsford LD  (2009).  Cell phone use and acoustic neuroma: the need for standardized questionnairesSurg Neurol, 72 (3): 216 – 222.
Kohli D.R., Sachdev A., Vats H.S. (2009). Cell phones and tumor: Still in no man’s land. Indian J Cancer. 46 (1): 5 – 12.
Makker K., Varghese A., Desai N.R., Mouradi R., Agarwal A. (2009). Cell phones: modern man’s nemesis?  Reprod Biomed Online. 18 (1): 148 – 15.
Hoskote SS. Kapdi M, Joshi SR (2008).  An epidemiological review of mobile telephones and cancer. J Assoc Physicians India. 56 : 980 – 984
Croft RJ, McKenzie RJ, Inyang I, Benke GP, Anderson V, Abramson MJ  (2008).  Mobile phones and brain tumours: a review of epidemiological research.  Australas Phys Eng Sci Med, 31 (4): 255 – 267.

Bondy ML McKenzie RJ, Inyang I, Benke GP, Anderson V, Abramson MJ (2008) Brain tumor epidemiology: consensus from the Brain Tumor Epidemiology.  Australas Phys Eng Sci Med. 31 (4): 255 – 267.
Abdus-salam A Elumelu T, Adenipekun A.  (2008).  Mobile phone radiation and the risk of cancer; a review.  Afr J Med Med Sci 37 (2): 107 – 118.
Inyang I. Benke G, McKenzie R, Abramson M (2008).  Comparison of measuring instruments for radiofrequency radiation from mobile telephones in epidemiological studies: implications for exposure assessment.  J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 18 (2): 134 – 141

Kundi M Benke G, McKenzie R, Abramson M (2009). The Controversy about a Possible Relationship between Mobile Phone Use and Cancer. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 18 (2): 134 – 141:

Kundi, M. (2009). The Controversy about a Possible Relationship between Mobile Phone Use and Cancer. Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(3), 316-324. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Kundi, M., Hardell, L., Sage, C., & Sobel, E. (2009b). Electromagnetic Fields and the Precautionary Principle. Environmental Health Perspectives, 117(11), A484-A485. doi:10.1289/ehp.0901111

Kundi, M., Mild, K., Hardell, L., & Mattsson, M. (2004). MOBILE TELEPHONES AND CANCER—A REVIEW OF EPIDEMIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE. Journal of Toxicology & Environmental Health: Part B, 7(5), 351-384. doi:10.1080/10937400490486258

Clapp RW., Jacobs MM., Loechler EL (2008).  Environmental and occupational causes of cancer: new evidence 2005-2007. Rev Environ Health. 23 (1): 1 – 37.
Otto M et al. von Mühlendahl KE.  (2007).  Electromagnetic fields (EMF): Do they play a role in children’s environmental environmental health (CEH)? Int J Hyg Environ Health. 210 (5): 635 – 644
Hardell L , Carlberg M, Söderqvist F, Hansson Mild K, Morgan LL (2007)Long-term use of cellular phones and brain tumours: increased risk associated with use for > or =10 years. Occup Environ Med 2007; 64 (9): 626 – 632.
Auvinen A,  Toivo T, Tokola K (2006)Epidemiological risk assessment of mobile phones and cancer: where can we improve?  Eur J Cancer Prev 15 (6): 516 – 523.
Feychting M, Ahlbom A, Kheifets L (2005). EMF and health. Annu Rev Public Health 26 : 165 – 189.


Elliott P., Toledano MB., Bennett J., Beale L., de Hoogh K., Best N., Briggs D.J.  (2010).  Mobile phone base stations and early childhood cancers: case-control study. BMJ  340 : c3077.

Cooke R Laing S, Swerdlow AJ (2010). A case-control study of risk of leukaemia in relation to mobile phone use.  Br J Cancer. 103 (11): 1729 – 1735.
Hardell L Carlberg M, Hansson Mild K (2009). Epidemiological evidence for an association between use of wireless phones and tumor diseases.  Pathophysiology. 2 16 (2-3): 113 – 122.

Kaufman DW Anderson TE, Issaragrisil S (2009). Risk factors for leukemia in Thailand. Ann Hematol. 88 (11): 1079 – 1088.
Myung SK Ju W, McDonnell DD, Lee YJ, Kazinets G, Cheng CT, Moskowitz JM
: Mobile phone use and risk of tumors: a meta-analysis. J Clin Oncol. 27 (33): 5565 – 5572.
Schüz J Jacobsen R, Olsen J, Boice Jr JD, McLaughlin JK, Johansen C
. Cellular telephone use and cancer risk: update of a nationwide Danish cohort. J Natl Cancer In. 98 (23): 1707 – 1713.
Meyer M Gärtig-Daugs A, Radespiel-Tröger M. (2006).   Mobilfunkbasisstationen und Krebshäufigkeit in Bayern. (Original article published in German) Umweltmed Forsch Prax.; 11 (2): 89 – 97

Linet MS, Taggart T, Severson RK, Cerhan JR, Cozen W, Hartge P, Colt J.  (2006). Cellular telephones and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Int J Cancer. 119 (10): 2382 – 2388.
Hardell L, Eriksson M., Carlberg M., Sundstrom C., Hansson Mild K. (2005) Use of cellular or cordless telephones and the risk for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 78 (8): 625 – 632.
Johansen C., Boice Jr JD, McLaughlin J, Olsen J.  (2001).  Cellular telephones and cancer–a nationwide cohort study in Denmark. J Natl Cancer Inst.93 (3): 203 – 207.
Dreyer NA., Loughlin JE, Rothman KJ (1999): Cause-specific mortality in cellular telephone users. JAMA. 1999; 282 (19): 1814 – 181.

Other cancers (e.g. mamma carcinoma, uveal melanoma)

Literature List

Elliott P Toledano MB, Bennett J, Beale L, de Hoogh K, Best N, Briggs DJ (2010): Mobile phone base stations and early childhood cancers: case-control study. BMJ 2010; 340 : c3077.

Myung SK Ju W, McDonnell DD, Lee YJ, Kazinets G, Cheng CT, Moskowitz JM
: Mobile phone use and risk of tumors: a meta-analysis. J Clin Oncol. 27 (33): 5565 – 5572.
Stang Schmidt-Pokrzywniak A, Lash TL, Lommatzsch PK, Taubert G, Bornfeld N, Jöckel KH  (2009): Mobile phone use and risk of uveal melanoma: results of the risk factors for uveal melanoma case-control study. J Natl Cancer Inst.101 (2): 120 – 123.

Eger H Neppe F.  (2009).  Krebsinzidenz von Anwohnern im Umkreis einer Mobilfunksendeanlage in Westfalen – Interview-basierte Piloterhebung und Risikoschätzung (original article in German). Umwelt – Medizin – Gesellschaft. 22 (1): 55 – 60

Sadetzki S Chetrit A, Jarus-Hakak A, Cardis E, Deutch Y, Duvdevani S, Zultan A, Novikov I, Freedman L, Wolf M.  (2008).  Cellular phone use and risk of benign and malignant parotid gland tumors–a nationwide case-control study. Am J Epidemiol. 167 (4): 457 – 467.
Hardell L Carlberg M, Ohlson CG, Westberg H, Eriksson M, Hansson Mild K. (2007): Use of cellular and cordless telephones and risk of testicular cancer. Int J Androl. 30 (2): 115 – 122.
Nelson PD Toledano MB, McConville J, Quinn MJ, Cooper N, Elliott P. (2006).  Trends in acoustic neuroma and cellular phones: is there a link? Neurology. 2006; 66 (2): 284 – 285.
Schüz J Jacobsen R, Olsen J, Boice Jr JD, McLaughlin JK, Johansen C. (2006). Cellular telephone use and cancer risk: update of a nationwide Danish cohort. J Natl Cancer Inst. 98 (23): 1707 – 1713.
Meyer M Gärtig-Daugs A, Radespiel-Tröger M. (2006).  Mobilfunkbasisstationen und Krebshäufigkeit in Bayern. Umweltmed Forsch Prax 2006; 11 (2): 89 – 97.


Lönn S., Ahlbom A, Christensen HC, Johansen C, Schüz J, Edstrom S, Henriksson G, Lundgren J, Wennerberg J, Feychting M. (2006).  Mobile phone use and risk of parotid gland tumor. Am J Epidemiol. 164 (7): 637 – 643.


Hardell L A, Hansson Mild K, Carlberg M, Gertzen H, Schildt EB, Dahlqvist A.  (2004): No association between the use of cellular or cordless telephones and salivary gland tumours Hallquist.  Occup Environ Med. 61 (8): 675 – 679.

Eger ., Hagen KU, Lucas B, Vogel P, Voit H. (2004): Einfluss der räumlichen Nähe von Mobilfunksendeanlagen auf die Krebsinzidenz (original article in German). E Umwelt – Medizin – Gesellschaft 2004; 17 (4): 326 – 332.

Warren HG Prevatt AA, Daly KA, Antonelli PJ. (2003): Cellular telephone use and risk of intratemporal facial nerve tumor. Laryngoscope. 113 (4): 663 – 667.

Johansen C Boice Jr JD, McLaughlin JK, Christensen HC, Olsen J. (2002). Mobile phones and malignant melanoma of the eye. Br J Cancer. 86 (3): 348 – 349.
Auvinen A., Hietanen M, Luukkonen R, Koskela RS (2002). Brain tumors and salivary gland cancers among cellular telephone users. Epidemiology. 13 (3): 356 – 359.
Stang A., Anastassiou G, Ahrens W, Bromen K, Bornfeld N, Jöckel KH. (2001): The possible role of radiofrequency radiation in in the development of uveal melanoma. Epidemiology. 2001; 12 (1): 7 – 12.
Johansen C., Boice Jr JD, McLaughlin J, Olsen J.  (2001).  Cellular telephones and cancer–a nationwide cohort study in Denmark. J Natl Cancer Inst. 93 (3): 203 – 207.

Dreyer Loughlin JE, Rothman KJ  (1999). Cause-specific mortality in cellular telephone users. JAMA. 282 (19): 1814 – 1816.

Others (e.g. mortality, cardiovascular diseases)

Breckenkamp J. Blettner M, Kowall B, Schüz J, Schlehofer B, Schmiedel S, Bornkessel C, Reis U, Potthoff P, Berg-Beckhoff G (2010): Ergebnisse einer Querschnittsstudie zum Zusammenhang von elektromagnetischen Feldern von Mobilfunksendeanlagen und unspezifischen gesundheitlichen Beschwerden (original article in German).  Umweltmed Forsch Prax 2010; 15 (3): 159 – 166

Hardell L., Söderqvist F, Carlberg M, Zetterberg H, Hansson Mild K  (2010).  Exposure to wireless phone emissions and serum beta-trace protein.  Int J Mol Med. 26 (2): 301 – 306 (journal not peer reviewed)

Vrijheid M., Martinez D., Forns J., Guxens M., Julvez J., Ferrer M., Sunyer J.  (2010). Prenatal exposure to cell phone use and neurodevelopment at 14 months. Epidemiology. 2010; 21 (2): 259 – 262.

Thomas S, Heinrich S, von Kries R, Radon K.  (2010): Exposure to radio-frequency electromagnetic fields and behavioural problems in Bavarian children and adolescents. Eur J Epidemiol.  25 (2): 135 – 141.
Divan HA Kheifets L, Obel C, Olsen J  (2010): Cell phone use and behavioural problems in young children. J Epidemiol Community Health doi:10.1136/jech.2010.115402
Panda NK Jain R, Bakshi J, Munjal S.  (2010): Audiologic disturbances in long-term mobile phone users. J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 39 (1): 5 – 11.
Thomas S., Benke G, Dimitriadis C, Inyang I, Sim MR, Wolfe R, Croft RJ, Abramson MJ.  (2010): Use of mobile phones and changes in cognitive function in adolescents. Occup Environ Med.  67 (12): 861 – 866.
Söderqvist F., Carlberg M., Hardell L.,  (2009). Mobile and cordless telephones, serum transthyretin and the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier: a cross-sectional study.  Environ Health.  8 : 19.

Augner C., Hacker, GW. (2009). Are people living next to mobile phone base stations more strained? Relationship of health concerns, self-estimated distance to base station, and psychological parameters. epidemiol. Indian J Occup Environ Med. 13 (3): 141 – 145.
Abramson MJ Benke GP, Dimitriadis C, Inyang IO, Sim MR, Wolfe RS, Croft RJ. (2009). Mobile telephone use is associated with changes in cognitive function in young adolescents. Bioelectromagnetics. 30 (8): 678 – 686.
Söderqvist F Carlberg M, Hardell L (2009): Use of wireless telephones and serum S100B levels: a descriptive cross-sectional study among healthy Swedish adults aged 18-65 years.  Sci Total Environ.  407 (2): 798 – 805.
Schüz J Waldemar G, Olsen J, Johansen C.  (2009): Risks for central nervous system diseases among mobile phone subscribers: a Danish retrospective cohort study.  PLoS ONE. 4 (2): e4389.

Berg G, Blettner M, Kowall B, Breckenkamp J, Schlehofer B, Schmiedel S, Bornkessel C, Reis U, Potthoff P, Schüz J (2009).  Mobile phone base stations and adverse health effects: phase 2 of a cross-sectional study with measured radio frequency electromagnetic fields. Occup Environ Med. 66 (2): 124 – 130.
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Khan MM (2008): Adverse effects of excessive mobile phone use.
Kucer N (2008): Some ocular symptoms experienced by users of mobile phones.
Hallberg Ö (2007): Adverse health indicators correlating with sparsely populated areas in Sweden.
Arns M et al. (2007): Electroencephalographic, personality, and executive function measures…
Hallberg O et al. (2005): Alzheimer mortality – why does it increase so fast in sparsely populated areas?
Bergamaschi A et al. (2004): Are thyroid dysfunctions related to stress or microwave exposure (900 MHz)?
Hallberg O et al. (2004): Mobile Handset Output Power and Health.
Chia SE et al. (2000): Prevalence of headache among handheld cellular telephone users in Singapore: a…
Dreyer NA et al. (1999): Cause-specific mortality in cellular telephone users.

Rothman KJ et al. (1996): Overall mortality of cellular telephone customers.

Hypersensitivity/well-being/subjective complaints

Literature List

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Breckenkamp J et al. (2010): Ergebnisse einer Querschnittsstudie zum Zusammenhang von elektromagnetischen…
Mohler E et al. (2010): Effects of everyday radiofrequency electromagnetic-field exposure on sleep…
Johansson A et al. (2010): Symptoms, personality traits, and stress in people with mobile phone-related…
Heinrich S et al. (2010): Association between exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields assessed…
Milde-Busch A et al. (2010): The association between use of electronic media and prevalence of headache in…
Hutter HP et al. (2010): Tinnitus and mobile phone use.
Korpinen LH et al. (2009): Self-report of physical symptoms associated with using mobile phones and other…
Augner C et al. (2009): Are people living next to mobile phone base stations more strained?…
Schüz J et al. (2009): Risks for central nervous system diseases among mobile phone subscribers: a…
Berg G et al. (2009): Mobile phone base stations and adverse health effects: phase 2 of a…
Blettner M et al. (2009): Mobile phone base stations and adverse health effects: phase 1 of a…
Thomas S et al. (2008): Personal exposure to mobile phone frequencies and well-being in adults: a…
Khan MM (2008): Adverse effects of excessive mobile phone use.
Söderqvist F et al. (2008): Use of wireless telephones and self-reported health symptoms: a…
Mortazavi SM et al. (2007): Prevalence of subjective poor health symptoms associated with exposure to…
Davidson HC et al. (2007): Survey of mobile phone use and their chronic effects on the hearing of a…
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Balikci K et al. (2005): A survey study on some neurological symptoms and sensations experienced by long…
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Navarro EA et al. (2003): The Microwave Syndrome: A Preliminary Study in Spain.
Wilen J et al. (2003): Subjective symptoms among mobile phone users – A consequence of absorption of…
Santini R et al. (2002): Symptoms experienced by users of digital cellular phones: a study of a French…
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Oftedal G et al. (2000): Symptoms experienced in connection with mobile phone use.
Hocking B (1998): Preliminary report: symptoms associated with mobile phone use.

How to Win Friends and Detain People

The Kubark Interrogation Manual CIA 1963                                         

In 1963, the CIA fielded an Interrogation manual designed to help their agents secure confessions and actionable intelligence from prisoners. It was de-classified in 2004.

From the Kubark Manual:

“The CIA structures its non-coercive interrogations in four main parts, loosely corresponding to each section of Dale Carnegie’s book.  The influence techniques promoted by Dale Carnegie and perfected by the CIA have and upgraded by a wide variety of industries……..

Why did the CIA embrace Dale Carnegie? Simple.  They looked at the contemporary American Industry of 1963 and recognized that professional salesmanship was  incredibly effective.

“… induce disorientation, regression, transference and compliance…Specialists in larger businesses like retailing, marketing, and, perhaps, automobile sales have learned to systematize the tools of the hand-to-hand coercer for more effective use. Today,car salesmen work from prepared scripts that are revised and improved based on our increasing resistance to their methodology.  It amounts to a tactical war between America and its automotive industry.  Douglas Rushkoff Coercion

And it was a war that in 1963 the automotive industry was winning.  But why were car salesmen in particular such powerful closers that the CIA would take notice?

“While traveling salesmen and government operatives depend on their own limited experiences and the insights of psychologists, car dealers are the beneficiaries of corporate sponsored research. It’s a big business one that dwarfs mechanical bed salesmen and counter-espionage agents alike.

The millions of us who have been through the car-buying process serve as the massive experimental sample on which the system is refined. If too many of us learn to resist a particular technique, that method is re-worked and then camouflaged into a new one.”  Douglas Rushkoff Coercion

” How to Win Friends and Influence People “ was one of the most influential books of all time. It not only helped salesmen sell cars, it helped Spooks crack detainees without torture.

But if coercion was necessary…..even that process had an oddly humane regime of psychological manipulation.

Kubark Again:

“One subjective reaction often evoked by coercion is a feeling of guilt. Meltzer ( consulting psychologist?) observes:

“In some lengthy interrogations, the interrogator may, by virtue of his role as sole supplier of satisfaction and punishment, assume the stature and importance of a parental figure in the prisoner’s feeling and thinking. Although there may be intense hate for the interrogator, it is not unusual for warm feelings to develop. The ambivalence is the basis for guilt reactions, and the interrogator nourishes these feelings, the guilt may be strong enough to influence the prisoner’s behavior…..guilt makes compliance more likely.'”

Ah…..1963.  It was a great year for hungry car salesmen, humane CIA guilt-tripping  interrogators,……….and a Golden Horde of consulting psychologists.


The Transition of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

If there’s one thing the Peak Oil community can agree on, it is the perfect utility of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s iconic meme, the “Five Stages of Death”. In a spasm of over-extended metaphor, it seems like we’ve got five stages of everything right now.
In a collapsing world, we see the grieving process everywhere.


Who was Elisabeth Kubler-Ross?                                                                          

One of a trio of daughters born to a middle class Swiss family in 1926, Elizabeth possessed a fierce intellect and excelled in math and languages. After volunteering in hospitals in post-war Europe, Ross returned to Switzerland, earning her medical degree in the late 50’s.
Marriage brought Kübler-Ross to America, and a position with Billings Hospital of the University of Chicago. In 1965, Ross was asked by four students from Chicago’s Theological Seminary to help conduct a research project on the dying.
Ross had easy access to a population of dying patients for interviews, but other physicians at the hospital were uncomfortable with her approach, and she soon found locating suitable interviewees difficult.

But the plucky Elizabeth prevailed, and by 1967, Kübler-Ross was interviewing dying patients behind one-way mirror, followed by a round table discussion with students and attending physicians after the patient had left.
Her seminal best-seller, On Death and Dying, first appeared in 1969. This book developed Kübler-Ross’s now iconic notion of the “Five Stages of Death and Dying”: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.

The “Five Stages of Death” are not merely Ross’s intellectual legacy; they are also, along with her material on “Near Death Experiences”, among the foundational pillars of contemporary New Age thought.

The “To-Do List to Die for”

For the massive post war generation, “The Five Stages of Death and Dying” was a consummate seduction.  Not content to merely define these stages, Elizabeth sought to refine them for us as well. The Five Stages of death and Dying filled a void of medical/psycho-social  neglect, giving birth to an Aesthetic of Transition from Life to Death.

For a deadly earnest baby –boom generation, the Five Stages of Death became a New Age “To Do List to Die For”.  The terror of death was now approachable. There were predictable stages.

The most compelling gift of this aesthetic was the dawning of the Hospice Movement, and a cultural shift of not merely comforting, but engaging emotionally with the terminally ill. The existential, as well as mundane diurnal question “what happens next?”…… had been asked and answered.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross secured her place in American cultural history by the singular accomplishment of changing the folk- ways of how Americans chose to die.

The Gregarious Dead

Ten years later, in the late 70’s,  the paradox of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was in full flower.
Despite her articulation of the “Five Stages of Death and Dying”, she now denied the very reality of Death.
The veil between Life and Death was penetrable.
There were new frontiers of certainty to explore…… encounters with “Afterlife Entities” who offered a vivifying vision of death as a transition to a state of conscious completeness, as well as the wellspring of personal re-birth.
Elizabeth always maintained that her discovery of the Five Stages were the product of rigorous scientific inquiry, but now seances with spirit mediums supplanted the spirit of scientific inquiry.

Life after Life

In 1976, Elisabeth befriended Jay Barham.  The charismatic Jay was a former Arkansas sharecropper, Medium Extraordinaire, and current Minister of the Church of the Facet of the Divinity (CTFD). Elizabeth was moving in a new social circle which enlivened her research into Transition.
Spiritual truths were now gleaned from four “materialized supernatural spirits.” Their names were Willie, Anka, Salem and…Mario.

Jay made the requisite introductions.

Oh, and by the way, thanks to Jay’s ministry, Elisabeth now recalled her former life as Isabel, A Jewish woman living in the time of Christ.

While Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was descending into a New Age marinade, and accumulating all manner of New Age Mojo, she was also at the pinnacle of academic respectability. She was receiving honorary degrees hand over fist, acquiring more than 80 in her lifetime.

Dancing in the Dark with Dear Departed Husbands

By the early 1980’s, Elisabeth was ensconced in her mountaintop compound “Shanti Nilaya” in Escondido California. She had prevailed upon her reluctant then- husband to acquire the property for the specific purpose of being closer to Jay Barham.

Unfortunately, she became embroiled in a sordid scandal after it was revealed that Medium Extraordinaire Jay Barham was having sex with bereaved widows who believed they were once again coupling with their DDH in the dark.

There are conflicting versions of what happened next.

What is known is that the widows became suspicious when they compared notes.  They discovered that each of their respective DDH’s now mispronounced certain words, just like ” Jay the Medium” ( such as “excape” for “escape”). The kicker was when they realized that they were not only sharing the uniquely rare experience of personal encounters with their ectoplasmic DDH Afterlife Entities,… but an STD as well.
One version is that at the next seance, one of the now suspicious widows arranged for the overhead light to be unexpectedly turned on, (at the precise moment that her allegedly ectoplasmic DDH was as well……………).

As Jay Burnham stood uncomfortably naked before her,…but for a turban…. she discovered that the Medium was the Message.

Another version is that Elisabeth had a close friend, Deanna Edwards, who was deeply concerned about her involvement with Jay Burnham.  She arranged the identical scenario, hoping to shock Kubler-Ross out of it. This version, however requires the physical presence of Kubler-Ross.  Elisabeth always maintained that she was never at any of Jay’s conjugal visit seances.

In both versions, Jay sputtered an explanation of how her DDH had cloned him to facilitate their conjugal encounters, but by this the point, for this particular widow at least, the frontiers of credulity had been crossed-over.

She blinded me with Seance!

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross did what any reasonable Thanatologist would do. She investigated.
The truth was obvious… after all,according to Jay, spirits do use the molecules of mediums to clone humans on a regular basis.

She backed Jay to the Hilt.

“Many attempts have been made to discredit us. To respond to them would be like casting pearls to swine.”

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

After all, wasn’t Jay Barham the “Greatest Healer the World had ever seen?”

For the next year, criss-crossing the United States,  Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was on tour with a Medium- cum- Sexual Predator, rolling out franchise opportunities for Death and Dying Seminars, and for the spiritually adventurous….(and sexually frustrated)…Human-Entity Encounter Experiences!

Kubler- Ross Returns to the Scientific Method

In all fairness to Elisabeth, she eventually snapped out of it.
It seems that all along she was conducting her own secret investigation, reaching an intellectually torturous conclusion.

Since it has already be established beyond all possible doubt that Jay Barham was the World’s Greatest Medium, there had to be some rational explanation for the decline of his powers. No problem. A good scientist always has a grab bag of down-and dirty methodologies for the measurement of variables.
Kubler-Ross arranged for a doctor (a specialist, I’m certain) to” accurately measure” the level of Healing Power still left in old Jay.

Skipping over some of the details, she confidently informed a reporter that the test disclosed that Jay’s powers had indeed fadedJay had lost his Mojo!

This hypothesis also accounts for Jay’s unfortunate behavior with the widows…..chalk it off to Performance Anxiety. If Jay could no longer channel the Horny Dead with vigor….well…somebody had to step up to the plate.

“There are those who might say this has damaged my credibility” she offered.

Kinda …. Liz…….kinda……….

Kubler-Ross……. New Age Doomer?

When interviewed in 1995, for a  magazine, she unexpectedly rolled out this ”Future Map of the United States,” dated from 1998 to 2001.  I imagine her gazing at the contours of the ravaged landscape with a trance-like gaze.
The map displayed large land areas, now submerged by a catastrophic future apocalypse. The puzzled journalist expressed horror at the massive loss of life. The reporter wrote:

”Why should it be horrifying?” she answered serenely. ”Death isn’t the end. They’ll just be somewhere else.”

The Meme That Would Not Die!

I am not suggesting that we summarily abandon the Kubler-Ross model, nor am I holding Elisabeth in scorn for her New Age adventures……..well…. I am …sort of…….

The intellectual implosion of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross seems to bring out the sadism of journalists.  Maybe it’s the tension between her academic stature and her New Age sensibilities. They relentlessly ask and answer the same question: was Elisabeth Kubler-Ross bringing us a New Age Religion of Death?

The ardent longing to commune with the dead is a poignant human trait.
And who among us can say that it is definitively impossible? It is even rumored that the final project of Thomas Edison was to build a device capable of communicating with the dead. The desire to cross over to the “Other Side” has captivated many otherwise powerful minds.

My curiosity is of a different sort. I am fascinated by the vitality, and cultural ubiquity of the“Five Stages” model, and the Aesthetic of Transition in the Peak Oil Community.

And how did Elisabeth slide under the spell of a Sharecropper-Medium-Sexual Predator so utterly, that it shattered her scientific reputation, as well as her marriage of 21 years?

Was it ferocious curiosity that propelled Elisabeth beyond the fringe of the Forer Effect, or emotional dependence on Jay the Medium?

Contradicting the cultural norm she single-handedly inspired…Elisabeth Kubler-Ross died alone.

Is there a faint echo of the Forer Effect in her immortal meme?

Why does it resonate with us so deeply?
What emotional needs does this model satisfy?

The scientific foundation of Elizabeth’s model was several large sample surveys, supposedly conducted with scientific rigor.

What does modern psychological research tell us about the human grieving process?
How accurate is the Kubler-Ross model?
Were they able to replicate her findings?

I’ll explore these questions in an upcoming post.

The Forer Effect

Have you ever amused yourself by visiting a medium, mind reader, astrologer, or Tarot card reader and left amazed by how dead-on accurate they were?

You might have fallen victim to the Forer Effect.

There are particular, descriptive statements that the majority of people feel are accurate descriptions of themselves, even though the statements are broadly applicable.

Many psychological studies are deceptive by design. They pretend to measure one set of data, but what they really want to know is not shared with you.

In 1948, the psychologist Bertram R. Forer wanted to test whether a word salad of personal attributes used by a daily horoscope newspaper column could be deemed to be insightful, personal, character analysis.

Forer pretended to administer a personality test to a group of his students, but he didn’t bother to even look at their answers.

Each student received the identical evaluation:

“You have a need for other people to like and admire you,and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside,you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.”

The students were then asked to assess how accurate the psychological test described them. They were asked to rate their evaluation on a 0 to 5 scale. The higher the number, the more accurate the assessment. 5 was “excellent”, 4 was “good”,etc.

The 1948 class average was 4.26. Academia has been springing this test on college students ever since. This test has been conducted hundreds, if not thousands of times since 1948, and the average score is still 4.2!

Later studies have found the subjects tended to give higher accuracy ratings if the following variables were present:

* the subject believes that the evaluation was personal, applying only to him or her
* the subject believes in the authority of the test administrator
* the analysis lists many positive traits

The “Forer Effect” is also less kindly known as the “Barnum Effect” as in “there’s a sucker born every minute”.
Many extremely intelligent people have fallen victim to the phenomena of ” false personal attribution” demonstrated by the “Forer Effect”, often with tragic results.

I will be talking about a particularly famous example tomorrow.