Sunday, June 27, 2010

Blood and violence on your electronic gadgets

Have you ever thought that the shiny phone or MP3 player or PDA in your hands  has blood and violence preceding its production ?
Have you seen the movie "Blood Diamonds" - the movie title refers to blood diamonds , which are diamonds mined in African war zones and sold to finance conflicts, and thereby profit warlords and diamond companies across the world. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards. If you have, you will have an idea of what i meant by blood and violence.

I was never aware about this until I came across this article written by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times:
Much of the violence in the Congo is due to warlords trying to control the mining and distribution of minerals that go into our shiny gadgets. Specifically these minerals include tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold, and they are called by those seeking to stop the violence “conflict minerals.” Nicholas Kristof says “Blood diamonds” have faded away, but we may now be carrying “blood phones....Electronics manufacturers have tried to hush all this up. They want you to look at a gadget and think “sleek,” not “blood.” The war in Congo had claimed 5.4 million deaths as of April 2007, with the toll mounting by 45,000 a month, according to a study by the International Rescue Committee. 

Excerpts from his article :

- An ugly paradox of the 21st century is that some of our elegant symbols of modernity — smartphones, laptops and digital cameras — are built from minerals that seem to be fueling mass slaughter and rape in Congo.
- I’ve never reported on a war more barbaric than Congo’s, and it haunts me....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.
- Protesters demonstrated outside the grand opening of Apple’s new store in Washington, demanding that the company commit to using only clean minerals. Last month, activists blanketed Intel’s Facebook page with calls to support tough legislation to curb trade in conflict minerals. For a time, Intel disabled comments — creating a stink that called more attention to blood minerals than human rights campaigners ever could.
- Yet now there’s a grass-roots movement pressuring companies to keep these “conflict minerals” out of high-tech supply chains. Using Facebook and YouTube, activists are harassing companies like Apple, Intel and Research in Motion (which makes the BlackBerry) to get them to lean on their suppliers and ensure the use of, say, Australian tantalum rather than tantalum peddled by a Congolese militia.

Given this scenario, are we in any position to change ??

A humorous new video taunting Apple and PC computers alike goes online this weekend on YouTube. Put together by a group of Hollywood actors, it’s a spoof on the famous “I’m a Mac”/”I’m a PC” ad and suggests that both are sometimes built from conflict minerals.
“Guess we have some things in common after all,” Mac admits.

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