Open Letter to Elon Musk & SpaceX
SUBJECT: Of bees, humans, and satellites
Dear Elon Musk, Kimbal Musk and all SpaceX Board Members, Officers, and Lead Investors,
In 1962, when Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, insects were so thick upon this Earth that you could not drive a car very far, anywhere in the world, without its windshield becoming splattered with their bodies.
Ms. Carson would not recognize the world today: Windshields are clean. Birds are starving. Crops have no pollinators. A solution has been suggested for farmers: robotic bees, which are being developed at Harvard University. But that is not a solution for the world, because as the insects go, so go we.
And the world knows this. Why have millions of people joined environmental organizations? Why did Jeff Bezos just create a $10 billion-dollar environmental fund? Why are wealthy people signing up to go live on Mars and leave the Earth behind? Because our home is being destroyed, and on some level everyone knows this. But they do not know why. Yes, there are climate change, habitat destruction, and insecticides, but those cannot explain the 76 to 82 percent decline in flying insects in 63 nature preserves in Germany. Those cannot explain the 97 to 98 percent decline in crawling insects in a pristine rainforest in Puerto Rico.
If you expose honey bees to an ordinary cell phone for just ten minutes, their metabolism shuts down. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins build up in their blood. They can no longer metabolize their food or utilize the oxygen they breathe. And since the same radiation is bathing us all, to a greater or lesser degree, everywhere on Earth, the same thing is happening to every living thing. It happens faster in bees than in us because bees have a much higher metabolism. The radiation comes from all forms of wireless technology, on Earth and in space, and it is being treated as if it is not there.
We are writing to you at this time because SpaceX is in process of surrounding the Earth with a network of thousands of satellites whose very purpose is to irradiate every square inch of the Earth. SpaceX, like everyone else, is treating the radiation as if it were not there. As if the mitochondria in our cells do not depend on electrons moving undisturbed from the food we digest to the oxygen we breathe. As if our nervous systems and our hearts are not subject to radio frequency interference like any piece of electronic equipment. As if the cancer, diabetes, and heart disease that now afflict a majority of the Earth’s population are not metabolic diseases that result from interference with our cellular machinery. As if insects everywhere, and the birds and animals that eat them, are not starving to death as a result.
We write to you today to ask you to halt the Starlink project because it is so destructive. Although the satellites are a few hundred miles high, even the tiny levels of radiation that will reach the surface of the Earth are higher than levels from solar storms that have been correlated with beachings of whales — whales that live in oceans which until now have hardly been subject to manmade radiation at all. And the satellites are being located in the Earth’s ionosphere, which controls the global electric circuit that we all evolved with, and that travels through the bodies of all living things on its way from sky to Earth, through Earth and oceans, and back up to the sky during thunderstorms. We pollute this circuit with billions of electronic frequencies at our peril.
We ask you to halt this project and sit down and meet with us, and with our scientific colleagues, and with our colleagues from the astronomical community, who have just formed the Safeguarding the Astronomical Sky Foundation (SASF). The sky belongs to everyone. The consequences of filling it with thousands — potentially tens of thousands — of disposable satellites are many:
- visible pollution of the night sky
- interference with astronomy and meteorology
- rocket exhaust, contributing to ozone depletion and climate change
- ground and water pollution from intensive use of increasingly many spaceports
- accumulating space debris
- continual deorbiting and burning up of aging satellites, polluting the atmosphere with toxic dust and smoke
- ever-increasing likelihood of collisions
- increasing risk of the Kessler syndrome
Do we really want to build learning gardens at our schools, that will be pollinated with robotic bees? Do the oceans and Antarctica and all rainforests and wildlife preserves really need the Internet? Do the immutable stars in the unchanging heavens really need competition from ten thousand or more moving lights? We believe in something better. For us. For our children. For insects and for all of life.
We await your response.
Arthur Firstenberg, Scientist & Author, The Invisible Rainbow: A History of Electricity and Life, (2020)