Simran Sethi and Sarah Smarsh are writing a series on the impacts of everyday things. They will be posting previews on Green Options before launching the posts on Huffington Post. Want to know how to green your internet porn (or emailing or iTunes) habit? Check out these tips and a post-mortem of where your computers go to die.
Recently, the world computer population surpassed 1 billion. It’s a legion of artificial intelligence that will never die, at least not while humans are around to see it.
The computer species appears to have a high mortality rate (whether due to the rapid progress of technology or an industry conspiracy to ensure that products must be replaced regularly). They “crash” and “die” in droves, their human counterparts literally kicking them to the curb. But there is no heaven, no place in the clouds, for the cold, hard shell once warmed by electrical currents. Once it has left your desk, your computer doesn’t disappear. In a sense, it lives on.
Each year, ten million computers land in the toxic graves that are landfills. Nestled among other CPUs and laptops and monitors, their lifeblood oozes out, leaking hazardous materials such as lead into our earth and water sources. Like many products we discard, defunct computers are dead to us but remain a force with which the earth must reckon.
Despite the eco-warning, we’re not trying to take away anyone’s computer. To paraphrase a line that recently amused us in the 1946 film noir gem The Postman Always Rings Twice , “Stealing a man’s wife, that’s nothing. But stealing his computer, that’s larceny.” (We’re substituting “computer” for “car,” perhaps an apt update on the ultimate symbol of modern freedom and access.)
Read more at the Huffington Post.
Thanks to the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Lacey Johnston for research assistance.