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A History of Electricity and Life

by Arthur Firstenberg
paperback $24.95 available from Chelsea Green Publishing

“I found it to be a mystery unfolding and could not put it down. This book is very, very important.

– Sandy Ross, Ph.D.
President, Health and Habitat, Inc.

“As a medical doctor I found it hard to put down.”

– Bradley Johnson, M.D.
Amen Center, San Francisco

“Just as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring warned the mid-twentieth century about the dangers of indiscriminate chemical and pesticide use, Arthur Firstenberg’s Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life provides a comprehensive analysis of the perils of electricity’s proliferation and exposure to its electromagnetic radiation.”

– Kate Showers, Ph.D., University of Sussex

Electricity is at once the spark of life and the undoing of it. To what extent is our present environmental crisis a result of this contradiction? Where, exactly, did the modern epidemics of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease come from, and why are they out of control? Just how dangerous are computers and cell phones? This groundbreaking book supplies the answers to these and other questions. It is a must-read that begins in the year 1746 and explains what has gone wrong and what must change if we are to survive. A breaker of taboos and an antidote to two centuries of denial, this book is uplifting. An entertaining tale and a resource for researchers, it is a road map to how we came to be where we are, and a window to a possible, necessary, more alive future.



Cellular Phone Task Force Logo


The Cellular Phone Task Force is dedicated to halting the expansion of wireless technology because it cannot be made safe. We provide:
  • education to the public concerning electromagnetic pollution (electrosmog)
  • advocacy for an electromagnetically cleaner environment
  • support for individuals disabled by radiation from wireless technology and other sources.






“Just a little rain falling all around

The grass lifts its head to the heavenly sound

Just a little rain, just a little rain

What have they done to the rain?”

– Malvina Reynolds

On September 23, 1998, 66 satellites, launched into low orbit by the Iridium Corporation, commenced broadcasting to the first ever satellite telephones. Those phones would work equally as well in mid-ocean, and in Antarctica, as in the middle of Los Angeles—a remarkable achievement.

But telephone interviews revealed that on that day exactly, people all over the world experienced stabbing pains in their chest, knife-like sensations in their head, nosebleeds, asthma attacks, and other signs of severe electrical illness. Statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control reveal that the national death rate rose 4 to 5 percent during the following two weeks. Thousands of homing pigeons lost their way during those two weeks, all over the United States.

150 companies and governments are now competing to provide not just cell phone service, but Wi-Fi and the equivalent of 5G, to every square inch of the earth from satellites in space in low earth orbit. They are planning not 66 satellites, but hundreds of thousands of satellites. There isn’t much time to prevent a global ecological catastrophe.

The companies planning the biggest constellations are:

Amazon: 7,774 satellites
Astra Space: 13,620 satellites
Boeing: 5,936 satellites
Galaxy Space (China): 1,000 satellites
Guowang (China): 12,992 satellites
Hanwha Systems (South Korea): 2,000 satelliltes
Hughes Network: 1,440 satellites
Kepler (Canada): 712 satellites
Lynk (Hong Kong): 5,000 satellites
OneWeb (UK): 7,088 satellites
Roscosmos (Russia): 904 satellites
Rwanda Space Agency: 327,320 satellites
SatRevolution (Poland): 1,500 satellites
SN Space Systems (UK): 1,190 satellites
SpaceX: 42,000 satellites
Telesat (Canada): 1,671 satellites

Press image from OneWeb’s website

Press image from OneWeb’s website

In addition to microwaving the Earth, these plans have the potential to destroy the Earth’s ozone layer and add to global warming.

The New York Times (May 14, 1991, p. 4) quoted Aleksandr Dunayev of the Russian Space Agency saying “About 300 launches of the space shuttle each year would be a catastrophe and the ozone layer would be completely destroyed.”

At that time, the world averaged only 12 rocket launches per year. Maintaining a fleet of 42,000 disposable satellites, such as SpaceX is proposing to do, each with an planned lifespan of 5 years, will likely involve enough yearly rocket launches to be an environmental catastrophe.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX, together with the other satellite schemes, would require the launch of almost daily kerosene-burning rockets forever into the future.

It is a misconception that liquid fuels, such as kerosene, are environmentally friendly and destroy no ozone. This was analyzed in 2009 by scientists at the Aerospace Corporation in a paper titled “Limits on the Space Launch Market Related to Stratospheric Ozone Depletion.” They found that although liquid fuels do not contain chlorine, they still produce significant amounts of nitrogen and hydrogen oxides, as well as water vapor and soot when burned, all of which destroy ozone. “The assumption that liquid rocket engines are green as far as ozone is concerned is not correct,” they wrote. Even if liquid fuels optimistically destroyed only 2% as much ozone as solid fuels, a 50-fold increase in the rate of rocket launches, which is about to happen unless the world wakes up, would destroy just as much ozone. And the authors state that their 2% figure is little better than a guess because of “the nearly complete lack of data and models.”

Martin Ross of the Aerospace Corporation was also the lead author of a paper published in 2010 titled “Potential climate impact of black carbon emitted by rockets.” The authors developed a computer model to predict what would happen in different parts of the planet if the number of launches burning kerosene (then 25 annually) increased by a factor of 10. Their model predicts as much as a 4% loss of ozone over the tropics and subtropics, as much as a 3-degree Celsius summertime increase in temperature over the South Pole, more than a 1-degree Celsius overall increase in Antarctic temperature, and a decrease in Antarctic sea ice by 5% or more.

In a 2011 article titled “Rocket Soot Emissions and Climate Change,” Ross stated, “The Aerospace study shows that the radiative forcing of soot from a given hydrocarbon rocket scenario is as much as 100,000 times that of the carbon dioxide from the rockets.” Obviously, the soot or black carbon emissions would be an important factor in accelerating climate change if the planned launches move forward.

Solid state rocket exhaust is no better. It contains ozone-destroying chlorine, water vapor (a greenhouse gas), and aluminum oxide particles, which seed stratospheric clouds. Complete ozone destruction is observed in the exhaust plumes of solid state rockets.

The finding, in 2018 , that stratospheric ozone is still declining despite the Montreal Protocol took everyone by surprise. The unrestrained proliferation of ever-more-powerful rocket launches may be one factor, but nobody is paying attention.