Exploring the origins, ethics and future of changemaking

Electromagnetic ethical thinking

In Environment, Personal Reflections on November 12, 2012 at 10:02 pm

Over the past ten years, I have become increasingly aware of and sensitive to Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR). I notice a strong contrast between how I feel and behave in cities as compared to rural areas. I recently returned to Sydney after two months of mostly being in largely rural and non-built up areas, and the contrast was astounding. For me, electromagnetic fields can cause poor sleep, agitation, scattered thinking, impulsiveness and anxiety. I first notice it physiologically as tension and vibration of my cells, and later as impacts on my overall state.

Electromagnetic radiation is not commonly talked about, despite its prevalence in our lives. For anyone who lives or works in cities, this is especially something to pay attention to. The impacts I noted above are not just mine, and others report headaches, sleeplessness, depression and more.

In my last job, I found that at least once per week I needed to work from home. This was about more than just having some quiet and non-distraction time. Some days I found the electromagnetic energy of the office so overwhelming, that it was impairing my thinking and judgement. I would respond impulsively to situations in ways that I wouldn’t in a more neutral or healthy environment. In hindsight, working from home was about needing to escape the unrelenting energy that exists in offices that are filled with computers, mobile phones and wireless internet. It was at home that I could think clearly and make more effective decisions.

I also wonder now about how ethical it was of me as a manager to encourage or provide a workplace that has such a high level of electromagnetic radiation.

Large corporations are often thought of as one of the main bastions of unethical behaviour. As I have discussed throughout this blog, I personally don’t buy into the notion that people who work in the private sector are unethical in their intentions or nature. I wonder how healthy it is for anyone to work for 8-20 hours a day in highrise towers (further away from the earth), with high levels of EMR and no provision for ways to protect yourself. My sense is that these environments are not setting anyone up for success, let alone ethical behaviour.

While there is increasing and compelling evidence to suggest that cell phone radiation can have very negative affects on physical and mental health, my theory that this kind of radiation could also affect ethical thinking and behaviour may seem like a bit of a stretch to some. General research to date on EMR is worth investigating, but I have not found evidence to back up my theory on its impacts on ethical behaviours. I am interested in how others out there have experienced high EMR environments such as co-working spaces and modern day corporate offices.

Some may say that I am just more sensitive to these impacts than most people are, and they may well be correct. But I sense that it is also that I have also become more aware of how the environment around me impacts me. Self-awareness is talked about a lot in leadership circles, but environmental awareness of how it impacts on self is an equally crucial skill. I encourage you to pay attention to how different environments make you feel. To contrast, go to the beach or nature to see the difference.  I might see you there.

As a side note, here are some things that I am doing to reduce the level of electromagnetic radiation in my work environment (I largely work from home):

  1. Switch off my wifi when I am not using it, and always at night while I sleep.
  2. Switch off my phone at night, or at least put it on airplane mode
  3. Switch to airplane mode when carrying in my pocket, or during meetings – I tend to now limit the times in which I am prepared to accept incoming calls.
  4. Use a handfree cable for my mobile phone – not blue tooth.
  5. Use a monitor with my laptop where I can to keep a greater distance between me and my laptop.
  6. and other more way-out methods that I am trialing as a way of creating a healthier life.

If you are interested in learning more about EMR and cell phones specifically, check out this fascinating book by Dr. Devra Davis – Disconnect: The Truth About Cell Phone Radiation, What the Industry Has Done to Hide It, and How to Protect Your Family, Dutton Adult, 2010; paperback 2011, Plume.
Top image from www.b4tea.com, and nature image from National Geographic at www.fanpop.com. Can you notice any difference in the way the two images make you feel?

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