I post the above cartoon not because I find it particularly funny (I don’t), but because it frustrates and depresses me. This office dork need not part with his action figures. He should instead keep his monitor until it stops working. In the background, we see other office employees admiring the newly requisitioned flat-panel monitors. The older, boxy models are carelessly piled on the bottom shelf of the cart.
Similar scenes are all too common in "real world" offices. In fact, it seems as though many offices “update” their computer hardware every few years (at least)! The employees usually love it (new toys!), so it’s good for morale. The hardware manufacturers love it (more money!), so it’s good for the economy. What’s there to lose?
“A Carnegie Mellon University study estimated that in 2002 the United States sent about 10 million computer units to Asia for recycling….As long as computer users and the computer industry refuse to clean up after themselves, people in [Indian villages] will pay the price instead.”Calling this variety of outsourcing “recycling” is misleading. The computer parts are broken down by hand, “picked clean of metal,” and burnt or doused with acids by Indian women and children. For their labors, these “recyclers” are paid $1 a day, a nominal sum even by Indian standards. More troubling still is the host of medical problems these workers develop, the eventual result of working with “leads, dioxins and other pollutants.”
-“Hazards of High Tech,” Mike McPhate, Sierra Magazine
The lifecycle of computer hardware is a fine example of trickle-down economics. Way to go, Gipper. Way to go.
Photo credit: The New Yorker