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Editorial: Technology addiction poisons planet

Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012

Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 01:09


This week, Bloomberg News reports that analysts predict the iPhone 5 will be the best-selling smartphone. As pre-sales open Friday and the phone is released Sept. 21, this prediction reflects a major problem forming in our society: addiction. 

The last iPhone came out less than a year ago, and the need to update technology in that short amount of time is worrying.

Consumerism in America has created an actual dependence on trending technology. It is an addiction to the newest toys, phones, tablets — anything on the cutting edge of electronics. When people line up to buy the new phone, despite having a working device in their pockets, it marks a transition in ownership. We no longer own the technology — it owns us.

That is the other part of the definition of addiction: not just dependence on a substance, but with the result of severe trauma. Besides this addiction being nonsensical and wasteful, it is also harmful to the planet. 

The trauma being done by  frequently changing phones is subtly hidden beneath the newest retina display.  According to the Washington Post, electronic screens made of glass can contain up to 27 percent lead, and the circuit board beneath that can
contain 30 times to 100 times the lead concentration deemed hazardous by the EPA.

This lead concentration, along with the other harmful metals and chemicals contained in any electronic device, is poisoning the planet we live on. The Washington Post also reported that in 2006, the United Nations estimated that the planet threw away 20 million to 50 million tons of this e-waste — and in the last five years, that waste has more than tripled.

This poison so casually thrown away seeps into the ground, leeching into both plant roots eaten by various animals and precious
groundwater that is vital to life. Often it ends up in developing countries, where the devices are disassembled for parts.

Clearly, the addiction is a major problem.  There is hope however, despite the forecast of the best-selling phones. In the past few months prior to the iPhone 5 release, stocks in smartphones have dropped, and consumers seem to be hesitant to buy the newest iPhone. 

The delay in buying the phone is a potential light at the end of the tunnel of addiction. People may finally realize their addiction to
technology, and hopefully many will be hesitant to buy the next piece of e-waste that will eventually end up rotting away on our planet.

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