5G mast

This week, the BBC, Guardian and others reported a spike in the number of arson attacks on 5G infrastructure across England. One incident involved a 5G tower relied upon by the new NHS Nightingale hospital in Birmingham, which is being made ready to accept coronavirus patients in need of intensive case. The attacks are believed to be linked to conspiracy theories relating to 5G causing coronavirus.

Conspiracy theories about 5G started around discussions of whether they cause direct human health effects such as headaches and nosebleeds, and hidden agendas from governments and corporations. Similar panic among some parts of the public have previously occurred in near-identical fashion around the advent of radio, microwave ovens, mobile phones, WiFi and 4G. These fears about 5G have recently morphed into people pushing fake news about 5G towers causing coronavirus. You can find a full debunking of these theories here on FullFact.

There has been a worrying prevalence of people in the Green party and wider environmental movement promoting 5G conspiracy theories. People involved in climate activism often like to point to authoritative sources of information regarding climate science and actively disregard misinformation relating to climate science denial, and rightly so.

5G conspiracy theorists are in the same league as climate science denialists, in that they base their theories on either zero or refuted evidence, which should be a powerful signal to those in the environmental movement to treat 5G related conspiracy theories with a healthy dose of scepticism. That means only trusting reliable sources of information, rather than hearsay from random people on the internet and a small number of celebrities.

With other major policies areas which Greens generally take an interest in, such as moving away from fossil fuels, ending austerity and – until recently – stopping Brexit, there have been clear agendas on either side of the debate. The fossil fuel industry has openly been funding climate science denial for decades to protect their profits, Conservatives openly try to dismantle public services because they ideologically wish for a smaller state, and certain members of the business elite hope to see financial gain from removing the UK from the reach of EU regulations on environmental and worker rights.

It is a lot more difficult to point to what sinister agenda could be behind the roll-out of the next generation of telecommunications technology – because there isn’t one. Pointing to ‘the government’ or ‘corporations’ without any detail or evidence of malign intent is not evidence of a sinister agenda.

It is understandable that people will try to find ways to apportion blame and find reason during the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis is highly complex and it is easy to feel overwhelmed by information, but as members of a generally science-driven movement, it is incumbent on Greens and others in the climate movement to gently challenge friends and colleagues when they appear to be buying into 5G conspiracy theories, especially as lives are being put at risk.