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my old device is no longer cool

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The UN Environment Program reports that Western countries produce around 500 million tons of e-waste every year. In Europe, only 25 percent of this type of waste is effectively recycled, in the USA and Canada the percentage is closer to 20.  

Four hundred containers of iPods, smartphones, flat screens, and desktops arrive in African ports every month, supposedly to reduce the digital divide, create jobs, and “help people.”

In reality, the inhabitants of dumps like Ghana’s Agbogbloshie (see photo) survive largely by burning the electronic devices to extract copper and other metals out of the plastic used in their manufacture. An investigation by Green Peace found that the burnt soil in Agbogbloshie contained high concentrations of lead, mercury, thallium, hydrogen cyanide and PVC.

source: German news magazine DER SPIEGEL; image: © 2010 Pieter Hugo, Agbogbloshie Market, Accra, Ghana.


11 responses »

  1. now yer talking my kind of language, peter. I ask myself, why would I want a car, a tv set, a computer (internet, e-mail, skype, and all the rest)? I discover much more personal freedom without these toys than they purportedly give me, even without considering their effects on the physical and social world around me. without them, I walk and can see for myself what the world is like….

    • steve/ but how did you post this reply?

      • dawne, FYI: I talked to steve 2 weeks ago — he’s planning to go off-line soon, no more email.

        his plans aside — we don’t need to forgo computers and cell phones all together. there’s always a middle way of living within certain means, using resources prudently, making do with what we have.

        • Is there a middle way?
          Each device made depletes resources. There is only x amount of each non-renewable resource used for each device. Even with recycling there are losses. Unless 100% renewables are used there is less available for next use. Of course, you could argue that each use is miniscule or that some resources are not scarce and that this use could be considered prudent living. But isn’t that just postponing the inevitable?

          I fear the middle way is only a slowing down of resource consumption and a way to make us feel good/complacent.

          • Inevitable? maybe. maybe not.

            Seeking the ‘middle way’ is about more than wanting to feel good. It calls for moment-by-moment consciousness and ethical decision-making in everything I do or not do.

            The Buddha called it the path of wisdom — moderation between extremes. Neither The sky is falling nor Nothing to do with me.

            p.s. I don’t have to buy — and then discard — a cell phone, iPod, tablet, or whatever else comes along.

            • for me, resourse use or consumption is irrelevant. the question for me is, Do I need this damn thing? How is it going to help me in life? What does it offer me that I do not already have, or can do without? If I were a doctor or a cop, perhaps I would “need” a cell phone. If I lived too far away from a grocery store to walk there, and there were no public transportation, I might need a car. Television offers little information and poor entertainment. However, I’m not a Luddite. I do like roads and electricity….

            • Would the middle way allow everyone who wants/needs a computer to have one? Not considering economic costs or logistic problems – just dividing up resources.

  2. dawne, peter said it for me. at the end of June this medium vanishes for me. It’s all one’s individual choice–I find it more of a burden than a freedom to attend to this machine. It will be a relief to get rid of it and find a good typewriter and write real letters again to those who want to know what I might be up to and who want me to know what they are up to. I am well aware that computers and cars (for example) are useful in some situations, but I am not in any of them….

    [and if you want to start writing real letters again, ask me for my address or offer yours!]

    • i think writing letters is great. emails tend to be short and to the point; but letters are wonderful and they can go on and on…
      good for you steve, for talking out of your life things you dont find meaningful to your life.

  3. ;o) what happened to the pen and paper? or, just looking at someone’s face and having a conversation. i like not knowing what is going on in the world sometimes – until i hear from someone… good post p

  4. I wonder are we really connected with modern technology how often do I pass a table of people were everyone is attending their phone,Ipod or some such thing but not each other…how often do I receive a reply to an email with half my questions not answered….I plan to get rid of my cable and PVR when I move…and I am excited that I will be living within walking distance to the main library


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