query: cell phones and organizing

colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu colist-admin at comm-org.utoledo.edu
Wed Nov 7 19:42:00 CST 2001

[ed: Kathleen and Larry broaden the cell phone discussion.]

From: "Staudt, Kathleen" <kstaudt at utep.edu>

Rather than get caught up in the type of telephone technology, I'd 
urge people to answer and return phone calls in a timely way.  It's 
how many people do not bother to return calls, in what seems like a
hierarchical warp or a confused way to right old wrongs.  For people 
taken the step to call and leave messages, an unreturned call is a 
slap of
disrespect and a sure way to undermine relationship- and coalition-
Whatever type of phone you have, please show common courtesy 
and dignity to
the caller who has left a message with a returned call!  Kathy
Kathleen Staudt, Director
Center for Civic Engagement
Professor of Political Science 
University of Texas at El Paso
El Paso, TX  79968
FAX 915-747-5400 


From: Larry Yates <lyates at chej.org>

sorry to come in late on this.

There's another piece to the cell phone discussion -- the impact on 
our health and our communities of the infrastructure used by this 

Of course, organizers are part of society, and we will join in, and 
sometimes benefit from, every social and social-technological 
trend. As a result, there are some great cell phone anecdotes, and I 
appreciated geting them on comm-org. But we should be aware of 
the system behind the tool.  

Cell phones, like computers, are organized in systems in ways thar 
are profitable for the corporations who control the process. We can 
use cell phones, the Web, etc., and at the same time be aware of 
and support efforts to transform these systems so that they do 
much less harm and are accountable to the public interest. (Many 
of us support open source software, while others, like the Silicon 
Valley Toxics Coalition, are opposing the environmental damage 
implicit in computers as we know them.)  

The cell phone industry and related wireless efforts are spending 
enormous sums to stifle discussion of evidence of serious health 
effects, both from personal cell phone use and from electro-
magnetic radiation from cell towers and similar facilities. Perhaps a 
more immediate problem for community organizers, the cell phone 
industry has succeeded in getting federal legislation which makes it 
extraordinarily difficult to stop a cell tower from going in -- a very 
bad precedent for local democracy. (Communities do still beat 
towers, but the deck is stacked against them even more than 

Here at CHEJ we have worked with several communities trying to 
deal with cell towers located or planned in immediate proximity to 
schools. We believe it's pretty serious when communities can't 
decide for themselves what their own children are exposed to. We 
think communities ought to have the right in these matters to follow 
the precautionary principle -- that is, to prevent the building or 
operation of facilities where there is some reasonable evidence of 
harm, rather than wait until there's a body count. (The elementary 
organizing analogy is that you shouldn't need to have a kid killed at 
an intersection before the community can get a stop sign. The big 
difference is that in this case, when the kid gets hit, it can take 
decades for the injury, such as cancer, to show up.)  

There has been little public debate about whether cell phones as 
we know them are the right technology organized in the right way 
for everyone's benefit. Enormous fortunes have been made on the 
current system -- my state, Virginia, just elected a governor whose 
millions came from obscure cell phone related deals. But the 
people have not yet weighed in -- or even been clued in.  

For more on health effects and on organizing and political issues 
related to these matters, the best place I know to go is the Electro-
Magnetic Radiation Network at http://www.emrnetwork.org/  The 
Network operates on a shoestring, but does a great job as a 
clearinghouse and information resource for grassroots activists on 
this issue. I send people to them all the time.  

Larry Yates
Center for Health, Environment & Justice
P.O. Box 6806
Falls Church, VA 22040
(703) 237-2249 ext 20
lyates at chej.org
For information on PCBs, go to 

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice was founded in 
1981 by Lois Marie Gibbs, leader of the Love Canal effort. CHEJ 
assists local people to become empowered to protect their 
communities from environmental threats. We are supported in part 
by our membership. If you are interested in joining or contributing 
to CHEJ, membership dues are $30 per year. You'll receive our 
quarterly magazine, Everyone's Backyard.  

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