Monday, June 5, 2017

The Dirty Secret of Our Digital Addiction

Death by Design is a new documentary about the electronics industry which once damaged the health of thousands of Americans but is now the dark side of China's economic miracle.

Consumers love – and live on – their smartphones, tablets and laptops. A cascade of new devices pours endlessly into the market, promising even better communication, non-stop entertainment and instant information. The numbers are staggering. By 2020, four billion people will have a personal computer. Five billion will own a mobile phone.

But this revolution has a dark side, hidden from most consumers. In an investigation that spans the globe, filmmaker Sue Williams investigates the underbelly of the electronics industry and reveals how even the smallest devices have deadly environmental and health costs. From the intensely secretive factories in China, to a ravaged New York community and the high tech corridors of Silicon Valley, the film tells a story of environmental degradation, of health tragedies, and the fast approaching tipping point between consumerism and sustainability. 


Death by Design” introduces us to a nation that has made a devil’s bargain with its population. In exchange for a rising standard of living, it asks its wage slaves to endure the same carcinogens that the people of Endicott and Silicon Valley would not put up with. But unlike the American toxic sites, the Chinese suffer double jeopardy. Not only do they have to put up with solvents leeching into their rivers and lakes, they suffer deadly air pollution that is the result of the unregulated elimination of the smart phones, tablets and laptops that you replace so frequently as the consequence of planned obsolescence. Apple is particularly cagey about the way it forces “great” new versions of the iPhone on you. It uses non-standard screws on the casing so unless you have a special screwdriver, you are practically forced to buy a new model, which Apple deviously designed to have a life-span about the same as the battery.

China is now the “e-waste” capital of the world. While some of the discarded electronics sent to China is recycled, much of it goes up in smoke. Since this is China, there are no regulations about incineration procedures. The film shows men and women tossing circuit boards into a bonfire without any regard to what the ashes might do to them or people living nearby—or for that matter the rest of the planet Earth. Since the metals, including lead, that go into an electronic device cannot be destroyed (they are elements, after all), all you can do is transform them into tiny air-born particulates that can not only seep into China’s waters but ascend into the sky and travel across the Pacific floating in a cloud. The film shows a California biologist in a plane filled with electronic instruments that can determine the make-up of a cumulus cloud. She tells us that the clouds amount to fluffy, picturesque bundles of carcinogens.


Kaivey said...

I have this tiny little HTC 8X windows 8.1 phone. I've had it three years. It's okay, has a reasonable camera, and I'm writing this on it. But it has bugs, like it needs a forward button as well as a backwards one. Also, writing in this little rectangular window on Mike Norman's blog is tricky because going back to alter words is difficult. All it needs is an update, but it's never going to get one, because MS has given up on it. They have even given up on Windows 10 mobile.

The phone does the internet, word processing, contacts, facebook, links to One Drive, has a superb screen, and is truly marvellous. I've always loved it, but it needs to have the bugs ironed out. I don't need a new phone. To beat this one I would have pay a lot of money, like £200 to £300. Oh well, I guess hardly anyone has these phones now so its not worth MS making new software for it.

I put out the posts on Mike Norman's blog using my tablet.

Kaivey said...

I have this musical keyboard that I use with my PC to play keyboards, piano. When I got the free upgrade to Windows 10 I managed to get drivers for all my peripherals except the keyboard. Roland said it was old so they weren't going to make a new driver for it, but it wasn't that old, they just had a newer version out. So it looked like I was going to need a new keyboard. Anyway, I looked up online and found out how to alter the driver so my keyboard would work with Windows 10. All I had to do was alter a couple of numbers in the driver. It took seconds. Roland could have done it in a jiffy and put it out online, but they're in the business of selling keyboards.

Bob said...

I'm not addicted to mobile devices. My cell phone is just a cell phone.