It was late autumn 2002 and I was loafing around on a friend’s rooftop in San Francisco. In a ridiculously clear blue sky the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron, the “Thunderbirds“, zipped overhead whilst missing each other by mere feet, all whilst mentally I scoffed, “well, they’re not quite as good as the Red Arrows“. Under the weakening autumn sun, and fuelled by day-time mimosa drinking, I wondered aloud to my American hosts whether genetically modified foods were a big issue locally. The non-plussed responses indicated that clearly there was no awareness whatsoever of “Frankenstein Foods” and their ilk.
A few years later, whilst I wandered around western Canada, I was confronted with the shouted statement cum question, “the chem trails are pretty strong today, eh?” I had no idea what was being asked of me but I followed the imaginary line of the questioner’s index finger towards the sky which indicated some rapidly dispersing vapour trails emanating from an aeroplane. After some discussion I was enlightened of the fact that vapour trails from commercial airliners were not what they appeared to be; they were in fact chemicals, of unknown provenance and purpose, being distributed by the government and, possibly, third-party agencies, in pursuit of an unknown agenda.
What I’ve since realised is that one society’s pre-occupations are not necessarily those of another’s.
Fast-forward ten years or so, and in North America a large section of society is concerned about the impact of smart meters upon society and the environment. Smart meters, I’ve been informed, are the latest plot to enslave home-owners and renters into a) allowing utility companies the opportunity to monitor customers’ electricity and gas usage (100% likely), b) giving up privacy to the utility company and sundry third parties’ benefit (very possible) and c) having electro-magnetic waves frazzle the minds of utility companies’ customers for an unknown purpose (the jury’s out on that one as killing customers did seem a pretty unlikely business model until the tobacco industry was exposed for the lying, cancer-peddling, murderous cartel that it actually is).
There’s a raft of concerns that the introduction of smart meters touches upon: privacy, health, conspiracy, energy resilience, to name but a few. But compare the North American smart meter concerns with those in Europe, which amounts to pretty much nothing.
Hugh Phemism: he always calls a spade, a “you know what”
At the moment there’s no genuine scientific evidence to prove that smart meters are any more benign than a wireless router, a cell phone or a poorly insulated microwave oven (or even the enormous, barely shielded fusion reactor in the sky). Rather, it would appear that smart meters in North America are acting as a lighting rod, or perhaps a euphemism, for concerns about modern technology and its implications, whether they be privacy, health or corporatism. The pity is that the debate distracts attention from issues of genuine concern such as climate change and genetically-modified organisms.