June 26, 2010
Death by Gadget
By Nicholas d. kristof
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
I’ve never reported on a war more barbaric than
Electronics manufacturers have tried to hush all this up. They want you to look at a gadget and think “sleek,” not “blood.”
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.
A humorous new video taunting Apple and PC computers alike goes online this weekend on YouTube, with hopes that it will go viral. Put together by a group of
“Guess we have some things in common after all,” Mac admits.
Protesters demonstrated outside the grand opening of Apple’s new store in
Partly as a result, requirements that companies report on their use of conflict minerals were accepted as an amendment to financial reform legislation.
A word of background:
It’s not that American tech companies are responsible for the slaughter, or that eliminating conflict minerals from Americans’ phones will immediately end the war. Even the Enough Project, an anti-genocide organization that has been a leading force in the current campaign, estimates that only one-fifth of the world’s tantalum comes from
“There’s no magic-bullet solution to peace in
The Obama administration also should put more pressure on
Manufacturers previously settled for statements from suppliers that they do not source in eastern
“Apple is claiming that their products don’t contain conflict minerals because their suppliers say so,” said Jonathan Hutson, of the Enough Project. “People are saying that answer is not good enough. That’s why there’s this grass-roots movement, so that we as consumers can choose to buy conflict free.” Some ideas about what consumers can do are at raisehopeforCongo.org — starting with spreading the word.
We may be able to undercut some of the world’s most brutal militias simply by making it clear to electronics manufacturers that we don’t want our beloved gadgets to enrich sadistic gunmen. No phone or tablet computer can be considered “cool” if it may be helping perpetuate one of the most brutal wars on the planet.
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs