Monday, April 23, 2012

Digital Artifacts

An interesting article about the environmental impact of digital content distribution in The Wire magazine recently.

Some notable quotes:

"The alarmingly short lifespan of computers also means that more energy is spent in their manufacture than the total electricity they consume when in use; and disposability implies a cumulative pressure on mineral resources. Mining these minerals essential to their circuitry often involves both a resource grab and a land grab, which dispossesses local communities, destroys ecosystems and poisons local soil and water sources. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Western corporations hungry for the coltan used in mobile phones and computers are complicit in a resource conflict in which over five million people are estimated to have died."

"In 2010 the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights likened conditions inside a US-owned high tech factory in China to those of a minimum security prison. Working conditions at these facilities regularly drive people to suicide."

Reminds me of the excellent documentary Manufactured Landscapes-- well worth a look if you've ever wondered just what happens to that techno trash when it gets thrown out.

In the wake of Japan's 2011 nuclear disaster, the world seems to have shrugged collectively and just plain kept on using nuclear power. Maybe I'm wrong about that, and maybe something has actually changed. I hope so. Just as I hope I'm wrong about what I fear will be my ultimate reaction to reading something like the above article, which is to feel bad for a while, and then... just keep on participating. Think different, but do nothing.

The article does, however, end on a hopeful note. And so should I.

I really, really should.