In memory of Neil Cherry
- Murray Horton
CAFCA adds its voice to the innumerable individuals and organisations that have expressed sorrow at the tragically early death of Neil Cherry, earlier this year. Neil was a man with very many strings to his bow, and his life has been the subject of many obituaries in the mainstream media. For example, he was a leading peace activist (and, wearing my other hat of Peace Researcher editor, you can find an excellent obituary by Kate Dewes, focusing on that aspect of his life, in PR 27, August 2003).
Neil was never a CAFCA member and our paths only ever crossed once. Back in 1997, CAFCA was instrumental in organising a seminar called "Telecom Exposed", which brought together people from a whole range of groups, all united in having a beef with Telecom (this seminar led to the creation of SPOT the Society for Publicly Owned Telecommunications which campaigned on Telecom for a couple of years in the late 90s). Neils contribution was to write a paper (presented by somebody else) entitled "Probable And Actual Adverse Effects Of Cell Phone And Cell Site Radiation". For years, right up until his death, he was completely fearless in tackling head on the transnational phone companies on the subject of electromagnetic radiation emitted by both cellphones and cellphone towers. He became a much sought after world expert on the subject and his research played a big part in the struggles waged up and down the country by communities (particularly schools, which were targeted by the phone TNCs as cellphone tower sites, or neighbours of sites). Many of these struggles have been reported in Watchdog over the years.
Until shortly before his death, Neil was a Environment Canterbury Councillor and he pressed that regional government body very hard to take an active stand against the transnationals that he blamed for harmful electromagnetic radiation (which he held responsible for giving him the motor neurone disease which killed him, at 56). This went beyond the phone companies and would have involved ECan (as it is known) in confronting some of the biggest and wealthiest corporations in the world. Not surprisingly, the Council wasnt keen to buy into that fight. But Neil (who garnered both vitriolic abuse and well deserved awards in his final years) was never afraid to tackle the biggest opponents, and had he lived he would have pursued the issue, and those corporations, to the limit. For that alone he deserves the heartfelt gratitude of all of us. His death is a loss to all of New Zealand, and the broader global community.
to Watchdog 103 Index