GreenActionNews is pleased to welcome Shan Kelly as a Contributing Writer.
We asked a few questions to help introduce you to Shan.
How and when did you become aware of environmental issues? Probably in the 1990s, when local councils began promoting recycling.
I was thrilled when we were given green bins for household paper and later on told that we could now put our cans and bottles in them. Before that, I annoyed some of my flatmates by insisting we collect all our empties so I could lug them to the recycling depot. Some of them never forgave me.
What environmental concerns are most important to you and why are those important to you? Having enough clean and safe water is hugely important for everyone, but especially so for people with health conditions and to food producers and businesses that depend on water supply. Civilisation gets halted quite quickly without water. I’m still shocked at how many people know little or nothing about the history of water fluoridation globally. There are equally as many people who believe that water fluoridation is not a very important issue. I pay close attention and I can see that scientific evidence against the practice is mounting steadily.
In 2012, after failing to interest mainstream publications in publishing news on the campaign against fluoride, I began working as a moderator on the Freedom From Fluoride Facebook group, which was set up in Ireland. It now has almost 5000 members. Through that group, I have made contact with activists across Ireland and the USA, as well as groups in New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and the UK.
3. What is your background in writing/journalism? I’ve been writing news since I was in my teens. I started on local papers and moved into business. From 1993 to 2001 I was a news reporter for UK technology titles. I became mum to my daughter Grace in 2005 and in 2006 I returned to work as editor of an environmental business magazine.
Not long after that, I was diagnosed with a thyroid illness which I was told could be life threatening. I had to take beta blockers and steroids and my eyes swelled up alarmingly. Soon my illness was affecting every aspect of my life. I gained so much weight that walking became difficult and old friends were shocked by my changed appearance.
I had to do something, so I used the Internet to research my illness. Then I bought lots of books about my condition and I even contacted some authors for more detailed advice on how I could get well. I worked with my doctors and endocrinologists and I used lots of supplements. I made efforts to eat better and I began exercising a lot more. I was able to gradually wean myself off medication. It took me about four years and two eye surgeries to regain thyroid balance, but now I’m in remission.
4. What kinds of environmental activities and/or community organizations have you been involved in? I got involved with my local park when I became a Friend of Peckham Rye Park, when I lived in south London. I also set up a Campaign to improve access to our local doctor’s surgery, which was backed by the local paper. We held a public meeting in a local church which was attended by a few town councillors and a representative of our local health authority. As a result of our campaign, increased resources were made available to four of our closest doctor’s surgeries, so people who had not been able to register for healthcare locally were able to see a local doctor again. People had been travelling for miles outside London because all our local surgeries were too full to take on new patients.
I studied web design and in 2010 I set up a website providing information for thyroid patients living in Ireland. In 2012 another thyroid patient contacted me asking me to publish an article explaining how water fluoridation was linked to thyroid illness. That was how I became aware of the Fluoride Action Network and the many local and national campaigns worldwide against putting fluoride compounds into public water.Three years later most of my friends are tired of hearing me go on about how much scientific evidence exists that shows links between places that fluoridate water and higher rates of thyroid and other serious illnesses.
5. What are the most critical challenges you feel the environmental movement faces? Global warming is fuelling migration, causing land grabs, famine, wars and massive water shortages. And it is also wiping out so many species. I’m very worried about bees and polar bears. Changing weather patterns are also increasing freak events and making flooding far more common, so we are being asked to spend more on emergency responses to crises through organisations like DEC.
6. What’s the most challenging thing for you about being an environmental journalist? It can be really hard not to take sides but journalists are trained to ensure that we report all sides of the story in as even handed a manner as we can. I don’t like to see scientific evidence being twisted to hide facts or details being blown up disproportionately.I don’t like people using abusive and insulting language to bring others’ arguments down. It’s hard to keep your head above the fray and still keep the juicy bits in, but I love nothing if not a challenge.
I really hope that ending mandatory water fluoridation is an issue in Ireland’s upcoming general election, which looks likely to be called this Autumn, because we are the last country in the world to mandate inclusion of risky fluoride compounds in public water supplies and children growing up in twenty first century Ireland deserve the very best chance that public policies can give them. A lot has changed in Ireland in recent years – most people are thrilled we now have marriage equality here – but for 50 years people here have been fighting against mandatory inclusion of toxins in our water, and people who ought to know better have managed to downplay the health risks and overstate the benefits of a costly policy that was never properly tested to begin with. The Mandatory water fluoridation policy in Ireland may well have contributed to my Dad’s early death from kidney disease, aged just 45. I will never know whether my Dad’s brown teeth were a form of fluorosis caused because he was especially susceptible to fluorides in public water. Fluorides were first added to water in 1964, when my Dad was 21, and he was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease seven years later. He was sick all through my childhood, but he worked really hard to provide for his family, although he was in a lot of pain and he took lots of medication so he could work as much as possible. My Dad was a very clever engineer who really believed in science and working things out for yourself. He taught us to always ask questions and to stand up for what we believed in. I know he would be furious if he had access to half the evidence that we have now about how fluorides in water affect health.
Thanks to Elise Bassin‘s PHd Research, we now know that boys who drink fluoridated water are eight times more likely to get bone cancer than those who don’t consume fluorides. The same is likely true for kidney disease, thyroid illness, Alzheimers and cancer, we just need more research to find out for sure.We already know that fluorides in water are lethal for people with advanced kidney disease and are also very likely to cause osteosarcoma, cancer and Alzheimers.
For me environmental activism is about everyone listening to the evidence and weighing it up honestly and public policy makers using it wisely to make less damaging decisions, while protecting the most vulnerable. I hope we can make that happen more in Ireland.
5. Tell us about yourself I love the outdoors, travel, art, science and books. I was born in Dublin and I studied journalism here in my teens, before moving to the UK where I worked on local newspapers near London. In 1988 I wentto the London School of Economics to study social science. I was lucky enough to get a job there in the Industrial Relations department. After graduating with a 2.1 degree, I travelled to Australia and New Zealand, which was amazing.
Dublin was a great city to grow up in and I’ve been back here for the last seven years. I’m pleased to see Ireland is doing lots of good things in terms of green industries, films, arts and digital media.
6. What honors/awards have you received? I won a silver medal when I was awarded the Irish Farmer’s Monthly Young Agricultural Journalist of the Year in 1984 for an article I wrote on beekeeping. I managed to include the word Ayatollah in my intro, which pleased me greatly.
7. What’s next? I’m now working with other thyroid patient activists to improve access to thyroid treatments in Ireland and the UK. We are hoping to hold the first Thyroid Support Ireland patient conference next summer. You will find more information on thyroid illness here: www.mythyroidireland.webs.com