My recent piece called The Unpaid Price of Moore drew a link from my old friends at CMP Media, specifically EE Times.
Rick Martin’s piece focused on dwindling supplies of rare metals used in PC manufacture, metals for which there are no substitutes.
It’s a fair point, one I agree with.
But hasn’t this industry yet figured out recycling? All the rare metals we need to make tomorrow’s PCs are sitting, right now, in landfills, inside old PCs.
It’s true that harvesting these metals is difficult. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. And it doesn’t mean we can’t re-design future systems to make recycling materials easier.
This is just one area in which the supposedly clean electronics industry is, in fact, anything but. As I pointed out in my original piece, the real reason why the chip-making business fled the U.S. wasn’t our high labor costs, but the environmental damage done by chip plants, damage the vendors simply refused to fix.
The excuse was that if they paid the price, then competitors in other markets wouldn’t, and so gain an advantage. This was then the reason why those same companies moved their facilities to those same countries.
Intel, a company I have the greatest respect for, is the leader of this awful trend. They continue to build new plants — in China.
China is getting sick of it. More to the point, Chinese are getting
sick of it. Do you know the chief cause of popular unrest in China
today? It’s environmentalism. Chinese officials can try to hide from
this, denying the press access.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. It’s happening on a host
of issues — air, water, soil, habitat, land use policy. It is threatening to take down the government, and unless it is addressed it will — no matter how repressive that government may be.
"Now the Lord can make you tumble
And the Lord can make you turn
And the Lord can make you overflow
But the Lord can’t make you burn"
What does that sound like in Chinese, I wonder?
This is an issue which must be added to the current crisis. As a
society, we have spent a generation now running away from our real
problems, denying them, suppressing them, hiding them under rugs like
bachelors whose moms are about to come in for a visit.
- Jimmy Carter told us the oil crisis was real in 1979. Kill ’em all, Reagan said, and so we have done.
- Environmentalists told us in 1970 the world’s resources were
finite, and we had to take responsibility for cleaning our planet.
Screw that, we decided, just export the dirty work overseas, where
governments don’t have to listen to the people.
- Labor activists told us in the 1930s that people deserve a living
wage, and decent conditions. Screw that, we decided, just import the
labor, export the jobs.
All these chickens are now coming home to roost. All at once. The War for Iraqi
Oil is being lost. The planet is dieing, at our hands, the whole
planet. Immigration is causing a rising tide of racism, and a rising
tide of reaction in return.
That’s the crisis, right there. You can’t hide from it inside your
iPod, or inside this World Wide Web. We’ve been doing that for a
generation. We’ve been doing it for too long. It is killing us, slowly, with its song.
Time to do something about it. All of it. Now. And screw any politician who says different.