HAARP - An Arctic Circle Virtual Classroom Case Study


[High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program]

A Case Study in Ultra-Modern Warfare


Recent advances in geophysical research, communication, and computerization have led to substantial technological changes in military weaponry. Under the rubric of national security, the U.S, military is utilizing this technology to strengthen control over its spheres of influence. Included in this endeavor is a proposed "revolution in military affairs" driven by a belief that while conventional armed warfare is still a necessary component of military strategy, a compelling new priority is how to quell insurgencies, terrorist attacks, and social unrest overseas and at home.

One example of this new technology is the U.S. Air Force and Navy's development of HAARP, a 'High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program' under construction in Gakona, Alaska. The major component of HAARP is a radio wave transmitter utilizing powerful high frequency (HF) transmissions and a variety of associated observational instruments "...to investigate naturally occurring and artifically induced ionospheric processes that support, enhance, or degrade the propagation of radio waves." Scheduled to b e completed in approximately five years, HAARP is presently running at about ten percent of projected power levels.

In a 1993 Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] addressing possible environmental impacts of HAARP, the Air Force indicated that the study of the ionosphere was being initiated "...to better understand and use it to enhance communications and surveilla nce systems for both civil and defense purposes."

The Problem

Opposition to the project was immediate. Initial fear raised by ham operators and airline pilots over possible disruption of radio communication, was followed by environmentalists concerned over unforeseen radio frequency [RF] effects on animals and huma n beings. Soon, individuals and groups ranging from university scientists to followers of the paranormal, voiced their criticisms - a few even suggesting that this military technology would not only destroy communications, but might actually manipulate global weather systems and influence ways in which people think and behave. Still, given the esoteric nature of the topic, public expression of this criticism was largely limited to the Internet and letters to the editor of Alaska newspapers.

In 1994, a series of articles appearing in the environmental publication Earth Island Journal bought wider attention. Shortly thereafter, HAARP was selected as an important chapter in the book The Ten Top Censored Stories of 1994. In response, the Air Force placed its own HAARP Home Page on the world wide web, explaining the project's scientific goals and addressing criticisms raised in opposition to it. As public consciousness was heightened, more articles appeared in the press; ra dio talk show hosts invited guests to present opposing sides of the issue; TV networks devoted segments to it; and in Alaska, the legislature held hearings to learn more about HAARP and its potential environmental impact.

Then in 1996, the litigation director of Trustees for Alaska - representing the interests of major environmental organizations including Greenpeace, National Audubon Society, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, and others - submitte d a detailed memorandum to the Air Force urging it to prepare a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] for public review and response.

The stated reasons for this request included the following:

  • That substantial changes have been made over the course of HAARP's development;

  • That extensive questions remain over the military's current intended uses for the project;

  • That additional scientific evidence raises new questions about its possible effects;

  • That under such circumstances, the regulations and spirit of the National Environmental Policy Act [NEPA] call for a supplemental EIS.

    Examples of significant changes occurring in the description of HAARP research included a newly described emphasis on earth-penetrating tomography permitting the detection of tunnels, underground shelters and other forms of 'counterproliferation;' along with increased government funding allocated to HAARP based on a new budgetary designation listing it as an "advanced military weapon."

    Responding to these and similar criticisms, the Air Force reiterated that although HAARP is managed by the Air Force and Navy, "it is purely a scientific research facility posing no threat to potential adversaries and has no value as a military target."

    The Assignment


    Like other case studies in our continuing series on ' Social Equity and Environmental Justice,' this one raises important questions about the impact of social institutions on the natural environment - more specifically, the role of the military.

    Over the past half century, the Arctic, the Pacific, and similar isolated regions have served as proving grounds for the testing of the world's most powerful nuclear weapons. Fortunately, the signing of international test ban treaties significantly redu ced the threat of nuclear warfare. Now, space weaponry has become a new issue of contention. As stated by retiring NORAD General Joseph Ashy:

    "It's politically sensitive, but it's going to happen. Some people don't want to hear this, and it sure isn't in vogue...but absolutely, we're going to fight in space. We're going to fight from space and we're going to fight into space..." [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 5 August 1996]

    Criticism of statements by the military regarding the use of advanced weaponry is not new. Indeed, one of its sharpest challengers was Albert Einstein, who warned Americans in 1949:

    "We should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems, and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have the right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society."

    These two quotes offer up a host of questions far too complex to be addressed in our assignment. That does not mean, however, that they should be completely set aside, for as stated in the Introduction to our Virtual Classroom, the initial step in solvi ng large problems is to break them down into smaller, managable units. Once these elements are grasped more clearly, then the various parts can be rejoined and the whole issue seen with greater understanding.

    Questions to be Addressed

    Taking HAARP as our case in point, we can begin by asking: "Of what might these smaller segments consist?" Numerous possibilities exist. For the purpose of this discusison, two examples will suffice. First, Why has HAARP drawn so much negative a ttention by the press and among the public?

    The References section to follow includes numerous sites on the Internet in which individuals express concern over possible risks to humans and the environment stemming from the use of HAARP's "ionospheric heater." The most extreme commentaries refer t o HAARP as an evil weapon able to alter people's minds and control weather over much of the hemisphere. Others, listing various coverups engaged in by the military in the past, ask whether this same military can be trusted today. Still others, accepting the government's assurances on the larger issues, worry over HAARP's potential hazard to birds and aircraft.

    An entirely different kind of question concerns the role of universities in military research. In World War II, the development of atomic weapons required the active involvement of university scientists, prompting a new relationship between the government and academia. During the Cold War this link expanded dramatically. In 1952, for example, 90 percent of all federal funds for university research in the 'hard sciences' came from either the Defense Department or the Atomic Energy Commission. Obvously, this is no longer the case, Still, the legacy of such funding remains in the form of academic institutes and individual entrepreneurs who tailor their research to meet the expressed needs of the military. Whether such support is helpful or harmful in meeting the educational requirements of today's universities is a question over which there is co ntinuing disagreement.

    The above two examples are illustrative of the broad range of questions that can be addressed regarding HAARP, its objectives and future. Others are of equal or greater importance. There is also the immediate issue whether a new EIS document should be drafted for public review. However, in this exercise, what is essential is not the specific question or questions to be raised, but that their formation and exploration be undertaken by the participants themselves.

    Classroom Participation

    For the assignment, students are urged to work in teams representing the differing positions taken on the issues selected for debate. How many teams are selected will depend on the number of available participants. At minimum, at least three teams should be formed representing the views of: (a) the Military; (b) an Environmental Coalition; and (c), a Review Committee of academically based scientists. Inclusion of a fourth group representing the 'pubic interest' will encourage an even greater expression of opinion.

    After joining specific teams, members should first review, and then analyze the differing perspectives taken on the questions selected. Although a data base is available in the Reference section of this case study, students are encouraged to explore oth er sources we well - including their own searches on the world wide web and in their own libraries. With this material in hand, each team should meet separately to plan their strategies and develop position papers for the forthcoming debate.

    Once the available information has been obtained and position papers written and distributed, the participants should come together in a conference or classroom setting with chairs and tables arranged so as to represent an 'opening hearing.' Following su mmary presentations by the members of each team, further expressions of opinion can be invited from other members of the class, or visitors to the class.

    A brief reminder: the purpose of the assigment is not to make a final judgment as to the 'rights' or 'wrongs' of the HAARP Project. Rather, it is to assist the participants in deepening their understanding of the issues that are involved.

    References on the World Wide Web


    HAARP Main Page


    Washington's New World Order Weapons Have the Ability to Trigger Climate Change - Michael Chossudovsky
    Background on the HAARP Project - Rosalie Bertell
    HAARP Home Page - University of Alaska
    HAARP: Detection and Image of Underground Structures Using ELF/VLF Radio Waves - American Federation of Scientists
    Alaska Conservation Foundation - 1996 [includes reprint of Popular Science article]


    U.S. HAARP Weapon Development Concerns Russian Duma - Interfax News Agency [August 9, 2002]
    HAARP...Knocking on Heaven's Door Popular Science [1995]
    Is HAARP associated with Star Wars - SSIMICRO [Canada}


    Son of Star Wars - The Fort Greely and HAARP Connection
    Holes in Heaven - A Docuumentary
    HAARP Updates
    Weapons of Total Destruction
    HAARP Rumors Fly - Dreamland [2001]

    ArcticCircle Home Page