Bringing Attention to "Blood Phones" and Broken Systems

Often when we're talking to people about the impact of their choices, we bring up the issue of the systems in place that cause us to support destruction, violence and injustice, even though we don't want to support them. Often we use our laptops and cellphones as examples of products that support war, violence, genocide, animal cruelty, environmental destruction and slavery because of the components (such as coltan) used in their creation.

Recently the connections of our electronic gadgets to such atrocities are finding more space in the media. Nicholas Kristof recently wrote a column about "blood phones" and their connection to the barbarity that is the war in the Congo. He says,
"In Congo, I’ve seen women who have been mutilated, children who have been forced to eat their parents’ flesh, girls who have been subjected to rapes that destroyed their insides. Warlords finance their predations in part through the sale of mineral ore containing tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold. For example, tantalum from Congo is used to make electrical capacitors that go into phones, computers and gaming devices.

Electronics manufacturers have tried to hush all this up. They want you to look at a gadget and think 'sleek,' not 'blood.'”
Treehugger and PlanetGreen also recently brought attention to the issue of conflict minerals, and there have been social media campaigns aimed at companies like Intel and Apple to encourage them to go conflict-free.

The Enough Project has created a great new spoof off the I'm a Mac/I'm a PC commercials to bring attention to the conflict minerals that are part of computers. See it here:

Of course, we as citizens can't buy conflict-free gadgets (though we can choose not to buy the gadgets in the first place) until the manufacturers create a system that ensures access to conflict-free minerals. And the manufacturers aren't going to create that system until enough citizens politely insist that they do. And even if/when we have conflict-free electronic gadgets, our gadgets still contain toxins and release pollution during their production, distribution, and disposal; there is still the issue of the sweatshop conditions under which many of our gadgets are products; there is still the issue of the children and other people -- usually in developing countries like India -- who are exposed to all the toxins and pollution as they glean whatever reusable parts remain as part of the "recycling" efforts. There's still the habitat destruction and exploitation and extermination of animals that occurs as part of the mining for minerals. And so on.

Companies who make "consumer products" and those who exploit and oppress are counting on us to find it too hard and time-consuming and inconvenient to insist on systems, practices and products that support and nurture the compassionate, just, sustainable world we want. But we're not going to get that world unless we work for it. And we can start by speaking out for an end to "blood phones" and broken systems.

~ Marsha

Image courtesy of scottpowerz via Creative Commons.

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