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Information Literacy and WiFi/WiMax Killing Trees

The MSM (mainstream media) and more are picking up this story about all of our trees dying due to WiFi/WiMax signals in the air. Cue terrifying music and cute baby squirrels looking sad and homeless in leafless branches.

Without commenting on the substance of the report this is what my wife calls a “teachable moment”.

So, have your folks check out the various reports. Just Google “wifi killing trees” and you’ll get the drift (today I get 1.6 million hits roughly).

Here’s a sample:

Wi-Fi Makes Trees Sick, Study Says
City trees are becoming sick from wireless radiation from local area networks and mobile phones, according to a European study.

by René Schoemaker , IDG News Nov 19, 2010 4:09 pm

Now mark them on whether they can think critically or challenge the report.

They should note:

1. “Thousands of media sites and blogs picked up the story, adding new details” without references and rarely questioned the bizarre the claim
2. “Only 20 trees were tested in one city”
3. The “researchers were not named”
4. “It wasn’t noted whether or not the study was published or peer reviewed.”
5. Other studies on the same subject were not referenced even though they exist and came to different, opposite, conclusions.
6. A “public statement from the Dutch spectrum regulator (translation). The study took place indoors for three months with a variety of plants exposed to six Wi-Fi devices. Previous studies showed no harm. The work hasn’t yet been published.”

Bonus points is they note that WiFi isn’t microwaves but both wifi and cell phones use low-power, land-based radio – the same radio that Jack Benny used in the 40’s.

More here.

I love it when we can help to teach reporters (and everyone else) to think critically!

And then have a discussion is fear sells ads better than information and balanced facts.


Posted on: November 21, 2010, 12:08 pm Category: Uncategorized

4 Responses

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  1. I really admire’s healthy skepticism towards this story.

    I especially love the summation:
    In conclusion: Wi-Fi signals will make your baby’s arms turn into trees.

  2. As my professor once said in an info literacy session, If your mother says she loves you, ask her what are her sources. (Then go evaluate them)

  3. Rich Wiggins said

    Some years ago a number of parents in East Lansing when a school rented space on their land for a cell phone tower, afraid RF would kill their babies.

    Never mind that these very same children have an RF emitter right next to their craniums. It’s called a cell phone.

    The tower is a threat, right? Whereas the phone is benign?

    This thinking in a college town.

  4. The latest on the breaking story about Wi-Fi killing trees ups the ante! A reputable news source reports that Wi-Fi’s effects are far worse than Dutch researchers originally stated: trees petrify within months of exposure. Wi-Fi also causes forest fires. (Thanks, Weekly World News!
    Gotta love the next story too – “Sarah Palin is a Robot”