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The Rules and Regulations that Define Us: A letter to Greta Thunberg

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Radiofrequency radiation disrupts bees' ability to navigate.
Radiofrequency radiation disrupts bees' ability to navigate.
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Letter #11 The Rules and Regulations that Define Us
a letter to Greta Thunberg

by Katie Singer

Throughout civilization, people have made laws to strengthen our abilities to survive and co-exist. Rules can increase awareness of potential harms and limit them. While nobody likes being told what to do, society depends on sane ruleslike children looking both ways before crossing a street.

Historically, rules protected health and nature

Throughout history, rules and regulations have aimed to protect lives, health and the environment.

Hammurabi's Code (1770 B.C.) created liability: If a bridge collapses and injures or kills a person, the builder is responsible. The Hippocratic Oath directs physicians to First, do no harm. The Commandments spell out ten simple rules, including rest every seven days.

Professional Engineering statutes developed about a century ago

require builders of infrastructure (bridges, buildings, power lines, telecommunications, etc.) to evaluate each project with due diligence and certify its safety before using it.

Federal regulations requiring seat belts dramatically decrease the death rate from automobile accidents; others prevent household appliances from causing electrical shocks, short-circuits and fires; yet others

prevent or minimize workers' injuries. The National Environmental Protection Act requires environmental impact studies before drilling for oil or deploying telecom infrastructure.

Contemporary regulations protect technology

Increasingly, rules' emphasis has shifted from protecting the environment and public health to protecting technology:

In 1934, when the U.S. Congress established the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the agency encouraged inventors to market electronics as long as they don't create "harmful interference"anything that interferes with existing radio or TV broadcasts or cell phone or Internet services. At the FCC, "harmful interference" has never included harm to health or the environment (caused by radiation-emitting electronics or infrastructure).

Call this exclusion of nature.

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Katie Singer writes about nature and technology in Letters to Greta. She spoke about the Internet's footprint in 2018, at the United Nations' Forum on Science, Technology & Innovation, and, in 2019, on a panel with the climatologist Dr. (more...)

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