Images from ‘The Digital Dump‘ are hard to forget. I had the privilege of watching the 23′ video documentary during a pre-screening for the United Nations Association Film Festival. And was shocked by what I saw. Mountains of old TVs, obsolete computers, unusable stereos, burning up in the midst of Lagos residential neighborhoods, and children watching, as the dark, toxic smoke filled their air. Shot in Lagos, Nigeria, for the Basel Action Network, ‘The Digital Dump‘ serves as an arresting visual metaphor for the environmental crimes of gigantic proportions, that are routinely committed in developing countries such as Africa. Main perpetrators: North America and Europe. From the movie introduction, on the BAN website:
In Lagos, while there is a legitimate robust market and ability to repair and refurbish old electronic equipment including computers, monitors, TVs and cell phones, the local experts complain that of the estimated 500 40-foot containers shipped to Lagos each month, as much as 75% of the imports are “junk” and are not economically repairable or marketable. Consequently, this e-waste, which is legally a hazardous waste is being discarded and routinely burned in what the environmentalists call yet “another “cyber-age nightmare now landing on the shores of developing countries.”
The video was especially relevant to our audience, a gathering of Silicon Valley folks. There is a time, when the BAN investigator, directs the camera to random close ups of the brand names and still identifiable sources for some of the discarded computers. To recognize many of the big names of Silicon Valley, brought gasps in the audience. There is an ugly underside to Silicon Valley success, and it was just exposed, last night, in my friend Christine’s Palo Alto garage. What really happen to the old computers we thought were safely discarded? How can we tell for sure? Where does the responsibility lie? What will it take for Silicon Valley manufacturers to become a part of the solution? The name of Green Citizen came up in the conversation. John Kao is doing some wonderful work, trying to address the problem with his organization.