5G: LEAP FOR MANKIND – OR LEAP IN THE DARK?
The advanced fifth-generation wireless data system known as 5G has the potential to revolutionise communication technology, but the implications for wellbeing are more difficult to gauge.
Huawei, China’s largest phone maker, claims to be way ahead of the competition in the 5G race, with an architecture that is significantly cheaper to run. But the potential involvement of China’s technology flagship in developing national networks has sparked concern in the US, Europe, and other western democracies about the security risks. This week the UK approved the participation of Huawei in some non-core parts of Britain’s 5G data network, but the company will be banned from the more sensitive, core parts of the project.
On a separate front, 180 scientists and doctors from 36 countries have issued a warning to the European Union that 5G will inevitably lead to involuntary exposure to harmful electromagnetic radiation. They are urging the EU to follow Resolution 1815 of the Council of Europe and for an independent task force to assess the health effects:
“We, the undersigned scientists, recommend a moratorium on the roll-out of the fifth generation, 5G, for telecommunication until potential hazards for human health and the environment have been fully investigated by scientists independent from industry. 5G will substantially increase exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF) on top of the 2G, 3G, 4G, WiFi etc. for telecommunications already in place. RF-EMF has been proven to be harmful for humans and the environment.”
“In parts of the world, 5G is already reality, but we still don’t know what the true health or security risk implications are.”
In parallel, the first end-to-end 5G hotel will be showcased at the InterContinental Shenzhen, through a partnership with Huawei. Services will include 5G hotel applications through smartphones, 5G welcome robots, 5G cloud computing terminals, 5G cloud games and 5G virtual reality (VR) rowing machines.
In parts of the world, 5G is already reality, but we still don’t know what the true health or security risk implications are. Wellbeing is a simple approach in so many ways, but this is a prime example of how complicated it can get – morally, ethically and economically.
Anni Hood, Chief Executive, Well Intelligence
FLYING TO NOWHERE
Britain’s biggest money manager, Legal & General (managing £1trillion of UK pension fund investments) has proclaimed that the world is facing a climate catastrophe, and says it now places climate change at the top of its list of global governance concerns. L&G’s watershed statement came as London protests by Extinction Rebellion, the socio-political movement demanding the declaration of a climate emergency, entered their second week.
In Sweden, Flygskam, the fly shaming movement, continues to gather momentum. Swedes are among the world’s most frequent flyers, taking seven times as many flights as the European average; around 61% of the country’s CO2 emissions are caused by travel. Journalist and environmental campaigner George Monbiot, meanwhile, has identified giving up flying as one of two key steps that will have greatest impact in halting further climate breakdown. (The other is switching to a plant based diet.)
“Achieving tangible impact in countering climate change will mean a fundamental shift in how life is lived.”
All these developments are taking place against a backdrop where over-tourism exerts growing pressure in many places around the world: Venice, Barcelona, parts of Philippines and Machu Picchu to name but a few.
The point is this: achieving tangible impact in countering climate change will mean a fundamental shift in how life is lived – especially in business travel. It’s estimated that 70% of all flights are taken by just 15% of the population (New Economics Foundation), meaning the frequent flyer levies already discussed for years are more likely to become a reality. Ask yourself how the movement against flying in Sweden will be reflected elsewhere. Are we heading into a significant contraction within the air travel industry? Business as usual will no longer be an option.
Steve Dunne, Chairman, Well Intelligence
CAUSE AND EFFECT
Mental health is spiralling downwards globally, with income inequality, pollution and – in the UK – Brexit, all cited among the causes.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), almost 25% of the US population has suffered from mental stress; in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the proportion is 20%; in Japan, Germany, Spain and Italy, it is under 10%.
In a new book, The Inner Level, epidemiologists Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have developed their earlier work on income inequality to map how more equal societies reduce stress and improve wellbeing. They highlight the correlation between national patterns of income inequality and key causes of mental health issues such as addiction.
A study from Kings College London, meanwhile, is the first to examine the relationship between teenage mental health and air pollution. The research found that teenagers exposed to the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide and nitric oxide were 70% more likely to have psychotic experiences.
“Global factors, from climate change and technology to geopolitical challenges and economic concerns, all compound the issues causing mental health at a national level.”
#BrexitStress is a phenomenon specific to the UK. Work by Middlesex University suggests that uncertainty and societal division are contributing to symptoms of anxiety, mood swings and loss of hope. Data from the NHS shows an almost doubling (to 70.9 million) of prescriptions for anti-depressants in 2018.
Global factors, from climate change and technology to geopolitical challenges and economic concerns, all compound the issues causing mental health at a national level. On the positive side, part of the response is a growing focus on wellbeing and a healthy lifestyle. The overriding priority must be to retain equality in access.