The first world tends to ignore where their things come from, ever since the hard labour and more obviously pollutant industries were moved out of their countries to the places that could hardly protect themselves from this type of imperialism. The best example might be the burgeoning tech industry. Many hail recent developments in technology to be the forerunner to a paperless future. These gadgets seem flashier, faster, and greener than ever before. But what is being ignored is how these things are being made, and where they go after use.
According to the BBC, cell phones are set to outnumber people this year.i Brahima Sanou, director of the ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, says that "the mobile revolution is 'm-powering' people in developing countries by delivering ICT applications in education, health, government, banking, environment and business, it has come to point where people even need to use a reverse phone number lookup to protect their data" (ibid.). It’s just too bad that there are no ICT applications to get rid of the millions of tonnes of e-waste generated by the West, or to mine the coltan the industry needs to thrive as it does. They are also educating people in the consuming of illegal drugs, causes and prevention, learn more here Kansas and Missouri Counties Accuse Drug Makers of Racketeering.
Coltan is a mineral used in nearly every digital device – cell phones, tablets, laptops and PC’s. 80% of the world’s coltan can be found in the Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since a rise in demand for this digital mineral in 2000, “The momentary price hike greatly intensiﬁed the violence in the Eastern Congo and encouraged multiple groups and nation-states to implicate themselves in the conﬂict in the hope of making a killing [...] Invading militias, like the RCD, the Ugandan-backed MLC, and the indigenous Mai Mai militias, used civilian forced labor to acquire as much coltan as they possibly could, expending the money from its Personal & fast sale to ﬁnance the military operations that have exacted spectacular violence on Congolese civilians.” (Smith 18).
Last year Virgin Mobile released an advertisement for their new deal: an iPhone 5 with unlimited minutes and data for $30/month.ii The commercial consists of people finding out about this great special offer, and destroying their not-brand-new-anymore phones in a variety of creative ‘accidental’ ways in order to justify their purchase of the deal. They do it quickly, with very little fuss, and only pretending to be upset. This is the blasé attitude that comes from not knowing where one’s garbage goes. Visite site
Let us imagine, for the sake of argument, that those recently-purchased-recently-destroyed devices find their way, through the e-recycling process, to Agbogbloshie – the largest e-scrap yard in Ghana (though they may also end up in any of the hundreds of similar places in Latin America, Africa or Asia). Where, “for economic reasons, some have to choose between working in poisonous conditions or remain perpetually consigned to poverty” (Agyei-Mensah & Oteng-Ababio 502). Here they will be disassembled by hand, often by children younger than 15, to find the few precious pieces of copper, iron, and aluminium. After this process (which exposes not only the workers, but everyone in their community, to poisonous substances), the plastic casings, lead filaments, and other worthless materials are burnt, or dumped in open dumps or bodies of water, further destroying the environment according to Island Plastics.iii “The situation is exacerbated by the shortening innovation cycles of hardware which is most dramatic in the case of mobile phones. It is leading to an ever higher turnover of devices. The
lifespan of central processing units in computers has dropped from 4–6 years in 1997 to 2 years in 2005 (Babu et al., 2007; Robinson, 2009)”iv (Premalatha et al. 12).
We should all be forced to live in our own garbage. Perhaps then we will take greater care of where, when and how we throw our consumed consumer products away.
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iiiSamuel Agyei-Mensah & Martin Oteng-Ababio (2012) Perceptions of health and
environmental impacts of e-waste management in Ghana, International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 22:6, 500-517.
ivM. Premalatha, Tabassum Abbasi, Tasneem Abbasi & S. A. Abbasi (2013): The generation,
impact, and management of E-waste: State-of-the-art, Critical Reviews in Environmental Science and Technology