5G EARTH DAY Countdown: Transportation and Navigation, In What World Is This Sustainable?

By Patricia Burke

According to the official Earth Day website, “EARTHDAY.ORG is honored that the Biden Administration has decided to convene a global climate summit on Earth Day 2021. Many important environmental events have happened on Earth Day since 1970, including the recent signing of the Paris Agreement, as Earth Day continues to be a momentous and unifying day each and every year. We look forward to being a part of this historic climate summit and making active progress to Restore Our Earth.”

Regarding the Biden infrastructure plan, MSN reports, “Eliminating carbon emissions from America’s electricity generation system would be an undertaking of historic magnitude. Compounding the challenge is that, at the same time, the nation will need to electrify its cars, trucks and other vehicles to eliminate carbon emissions from the transportation sector as well. That means even as the US squeezes the carbon from its electricity generation system it will need to generate much more electricity than it does today (to replace the petroleum products that now power its vehicles). Meeting that challenge will be daunting, but it could also ignite enormous economic activity, across a much wider range of states than now benefit from fossil fuel production. The fundamental choice facing the nation in the debate over a clean energy standard, and the broader transition to a zero-carbon future Biden is proposing, is whether to ride that inevitable wave of change or to try to resist it for as long as possible.”[1]

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Let’s Navigate Using Satellites Instead of Developing the Part of the Brain that Reads Maps, or, Let’s Not and Say We Did

Many consumers now enjoy routinely accessing a satellite’s transmission for navigation, and for a possible dip in the lake too?

The Week described “8 drivers who blindly followed their GPS into disaster”[2] including this one:

Many environmental groups equate technological innovation with progress and sustainability. Consumers have embraced the convenience of not having to pay attention to where they are going or how to get there.

Driving a car blindly into a creek, a tree, sand, a house, or the wrong way on the freeway might seem like a humorous downside to the advantages posed by technology.

The true costs of not scrutinizing assumptions about where we are headed, regarding earth day and supposed sustainability initiatives, won’t be solved by calling a tow truck summoned for a wrong-way GPS debacle.

More GPS searches = More satellites.

The problem is compounded by the fact that Space is the new, unregulated, Wild West.

Letters to Greta

In letter #5 of a series of letters addressed to Greta, Katie Singer questions assumptions underlying investment decisions supposedly addressing climate concerns .[3]

Letter #5 Proposing Cradle-to-Grave Evaluations for All Vehicles, why maintaining a gas-guzzler may cause less harm than buying a new e-vehicle By Katie Singer

“Dear Greta,

You know how manufacturers promote electric vehicles (EVs) because they have “zero-emissions?” I wonder if this is really true.

Evaluations of any vehicle’s ecological impacts usually don’t reach from cradle to grave. They focus on the car’s energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions while it operates.[1] Most evaluations do not include embodied energy or emissions—what’s used and emitted during manufacturing. They do not count GHGs or toxins emitted while extracting and smelting ores, producing the vehicle’s electronics, lubricants, brake fluid, solvents, body and tires. Evaluations do not count what is emitted while designing, forming, cutting and bending metals and plastics…and transporting materials between stations. They don’t count miners’ or assembly workers hazards. They don’t count the ecological and public health impacts of vehicle maintenance, repair, disposal or recycling.

After a vehicle’s design, ores and petroleum are extracted for the body, batteries, computers and motor.[3] In 2019, scientists from UK’s Natural History Museum reported that “replacing all UK-based vehicles with electric vehicles…would take 207,900 tonnes cobalt, 264,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate, at least 7,200 tonnes of neodymium and dysprosium, and 2,362,500 tonnes of copper.”[4]

Extracting ores endangers miners. Child-miners have been maimed and buried alive while mining for cobalt (used in EV batteries).[5] While manufacturers aim to replace cobalt with magnesium chloride (road salt), like any new technology, it should receive appropriately thorough evaluation before it’s used.

Special report : Inside the Congo cobalt mines that exploit children

“In the Democratic Republic of Congo, mining for coltan (also used for batteries) has led to more murders than any other single event since WWII.[6]”

There is a whole lot more not to like about where we are headed, including EMR emissions.  (Footnoted references and more, at link.)

Kate also wrote:

“P.S. Just before Wall Street International went to press with this letter, I learned that French civil engineer Jean-Marc Jancovici (co-founder of the SHIFT Project) reports that if all French cars were replaced by EVs, keeping them charged at night would require doubling the country’s guaranteed electric power. To produce this much electricity with low-carbon emissions, new nuclear plants would virtually be the only option.[33] (Solar nor wind provide guaranteed power; nuclear, gas, coal and hydro can.) There’s more to say here. Janovici also writes about the significant CO2 emitted by manufacturing EVs and their batteries. U.S. cars weigh significantly more than European cars (and therefore embody more energy and consume more electricity to keep charged). Indeed, before we enact more policies based on the assumption that EVs will reduce our GHG emissions, we need to review cradle-to-grave evaluations.”

Getting High on Higher Precision GPS  – Let’s Use 2 Satellites?

As reported in a recent post about High Precision GPS in the blog Pots and Pans, “Applications like using GPS for driving directions use a single frequency with the GPS device (smartphone or car) connecting to a single GPS satellite. The GPS satellites operated by the government can theoretically provide greater accuracy within 2.3 feet. But accuracy is reduced by local factors such as atmospheric conditions, signal blockage, the quality of the receiver, and the position of the satellite in relation to the user. All of these factors contribute to the lessened accuracy for the normal cellphone or car GPS unit.

High-precision GPS has been around for a while. But the current generation of high-precision technology has not been suitable for applications like driving. High-precision GPS devices work by using multiple frequencies and connecting to two GPS satellites. The technology uses complex mathematics models to calculate precise locations. This would normally require three signals (triangulation), but the devices do a good job at determining position based upon two signals. High-precision devices are also expensive to operate, with an annual subscription as high as $1,000 per device.

The new generation of GPS devices will overcome several of the major shortfalls. The new devices do away with the need for two frequencies. That limitation meant that high-precision devices still won’t work while moving in a car – the needed mathematical calculations cannot keep up in a receiver that’s moving.

The new devices instead are using a clever solution. Each device can create a real-time model of the environment that incorporates all of the known factors in the region that affect GPS accuracy. In essence, a single cellphone is preloaded with a simulation of the GPS environment, and the cellphone can then correct for expected distortions in the GPS measurement – meaning much higher accuracy in locations. These regional models are updated during the day to account for changes in temperature and weather and are beamed to any device trying to use GPS.”[4]

Do emergency responders need certain capabilities in order to do their job well? Yes. Does that mean that humanity has an unlimited environmental “budget” for transmitting data? No. Does that mean that wireless is necessary or even desirable in all scenarios? No. Is the move to electrify transportation the only option or the best option? No. And autonomous vehicles? No.

We plow ahead with the foot on the accelerator, not paying attention to where we are headed, or recognize that it is time to hit the brakes. Scrutiny is required.


[1] https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/infrastructure-plan-how-biden-s-zero-carbon-revolution-would-broaden-the-energy-map/ar-BB1fkZ5q?ocid=BingNewsSearch

[2] https://theweek.com/articles/464674/8-drivers-who-blindly-followed-gps-into-disaster

[3] https://www.ourwebofinconvenienttruths.com/letter-5/

[4] https://potsandpansbyccg.com/2021/03/24/high-precision-gps/

Patricia Burke works with activists across the country and internationally calling for new biologically-based microwave radio frequency exposure limits. She is based in Massachusetts and can be reached at [email protected].

See Patricia Burke’s article archive for the rest of this 5G Earth Day series.

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