Shrouding The Cloud: The Hidden Cost of Media Consumption

waste

While the images above may look like a charming series of Jackson Pollock paintings, the disturbing truth is that they are a mere snapshot into the reality that is Electronic Waste. E-Waste is made up of the tons of electronic devices we discard and dump each year and yes you read that correctly I said tons; 20 Million per year to be precise. (ifixit.org)

Seeing as electronic fads such as the latest I pod or smart phone last an average of 18 months before becoming damaged or obsolete, it is no surprise we are witnessing the rapid growth of mountainous wastelands within Asia and Africa.

index

“The U.S. throws away around 400 million electronic gadgets each year — more than one per person and only about 20 percent of  that e-waste is collected for recycling; the rest goes to landfills and incinerators.”

What makes the rate of our electronic consumption so devastating is the harmful effect these electronics have on both people and the environment from their creation to their inevitable disintegration. Making all these gadgets takes an enormous environmental and public health toll. Rare earths are essential to the production of modern medias and to the illusive ‘cloud’ we store our lives on. Mining these earths causes irrevocable damage to the lands they are mined from. On top of this these rare earths include Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Beryllium and Arsenic which are credited to ailments such as Cancer, Brain Damage, Chronic Lung Disease, Poisoning and Infertility. Those involved in the manufacturing process of electronic products are constantly being exposed to deadly toxins and that goes without even mentioning the slave labor conditions they are forced to work under. (ewaste.com)

Not only does it cost the environment to create these products, it is just as costly to run them. As the virtual cloud these products operate on expands in terms of storage and processing capability, so to does the amount of hardware needed to run the cloud. This is leading to a growth in the creation of ‘Sever Farms’ where land in cleared to make room for massive electronic infrastructure. Sever Farms are enormous they use up acres upon acres of land and they require copious amounts of energy.

google server farm

Check out these images by Martin Schoeller depicting a Facebook server farm. After we have discarded our old electrical devices the damage does not stop there. Left to decay in landfills they slowly release the toxic chemicals inside of them creating toxic waste that renders soil barren, air polluted and water undrinkable. To make matters worse 80 percent of this stuff is shipped overseas where it is broken apart by workers to extract small bits of valuable metal. These workers (some of them children) are once again being exposed to the deadly toxins.

e-waste-3 images

What really frustrates me is that the rapid cycles of innovation and obscurity that are responsible for the extent of our E-Waste are not something that just happens. It is exactly what large companies such as Apple want to happen and even plan to happen. When they make their products they are not made with sustainability in mind. They are extremely fragile and break quickly and they are designed like this to entice you into continually buying a new ones. Its all about maximizing profits and we so easily buy into it. When the new I Phone comes out the old one suddenly becomes obsolete. Why? because marketing and social conditioning tell us we need the newest gadget to live and fit in; despite the fact the differences between it and the older version are miniscule.

We need to start designing gadgets with the goal of sustainability outweighing the goal of profitability.

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Global Warming and Media Warning

Global Warming you’ve all heard about. With the level of media saturation it gets, there is no escape from the constant reminders of our impending doom. But the question is do you truly believe in it, or is it all just another load of fear mongering hype?

According to some statics I got off of a news report on  television once 90% of scientists believe that climate change is real but still there is 1 in 10 American citizens who believe it isn’t. Why is this? well the answer is simple. The doubt that arises for Global Warmings existence is caused by a little thing called ‘False Balance‘. False Balance relates to the ethical code of journalism in which a journalist, for the sake of un-biased reporting, must always equally represent both sides of an argument. So theoretically for every journal article, newspaper headline or television documentary that exists about global warming there must be one that opposes it. Not that this is actual case might I add, I mean I literally just typed global warming into Google and out of the top 10 results that came up all of them were about the proof that climate change exists. It wasn’t until I moved on to the next page and saw the 11th result that I found an article opposing it.

At the risk of sounding like a nonbeliever worthy of shunning or worse death by climate change, I would like to take a moment to say that I am somewhat skeptical of Global Warming. Before you start attacking me, which believe happens when I say this in public, just let me explain. Our planet has always experienced massive climate adjustments long before people ever got involved.Take the ice age for example. This is just a theory though the fundamental reason for my skepticism is that it is just really hard for me to believe what I see in the media. Simple as that. What I continually read and hear about climate change seems to never be the opinion of experts but rather the rantings of a politician with an underlying political agenda or the sob story of a heartfelt reporter who conveniently cares more about single-handedly saving the environment with their hard hitting journalism, than actually providing real information.

So when it comes to believing I am a little hesitant and am actually supportive of being able to hear both sides of the story. At the same time though I cannot deny that the evidence is there, I mean I was at Soundwave this year for what was the ‘hottest day on record’ and let me tell you… It Was Hot!

I often think to my self that it is crazy to think that the level of pollution we generate globally each day can’t be having an impact on the environment. Anyway I could sit here and debate Global Warming with myself all day long, the point I am trying to make is more along he lines of… Is it a reporters job to follow a code of ethics at the risk of endangering humanity; by simply reporting un-biased facts that outline multiple perspectives or is it their role to (as Bud Ward suggests) ‘give voice to the voiceless’.
If we operate under he assumption that climate change is real, than yes it is the reporters job to spread this information and to stress urgency in order to initiate change; in which case the idea of false balance being used to deny reality is ludicrous and actually putting us in danger. However if we operate under the assumption that it is not than false balance is the only thing protecting us from falling victim to the fear mongering agendas of corrupt politicians and media journalists.