Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What a(n) (E-)Waste!


At the risk of sounding old school – or perhaps just old – 60 Minutes has been one of my favorite television programs for years. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in September, the venerable CBS News magazine is the most successful broadcast in television history.

And this week’s edition – once again – demonstrates why.

Correspondent Scott Pelley presented a brilliant, yet disquieting expose titled, “The Wasteland.” The story follows the “e-waste” journey, which originates in the United States to a destination Mr. Pelley refers to as “a sort of Chernobyl of electronic waste” – the town of Guiyu, China.

Kudos to InformationWeek Editor At Large David Berlind, who blogged about the investigative report Monday. Helping make my job much easier, and thus, this post significantly shorter, he provides an excellent synopsis, including a bulleted list of notable excerpts – particularly the health and human atrocities occurring in southern China…

  • ...a town in China where you can't breathe the air or drink the water, a town where the blood of the children is laced with lead.
  • With the highest levels of cancer-causing dioxins in the world and pregnancies that are six times more likely to end in miscarriage...
  • The recyclers are peasant farmers who couldn't make a living on the land. Destitute, they've come by the thousands to get $8 a day.
...as well as some striking e-waste statistics:
  • it is the fastest-growing component of the municipal waste stream worldwide.
  • ...we throw out about 130,000 computers every day in the United States.
  • ...over 100 million cell phones are thrown out annually.

Unquestionably, Pelley’s piece was a sobering commentary on American consumerism. Especially with the holidays approaching, it makes you pause and ask: “Do I really need that [fill in the name of the latest/greatest high-tech gadget], or can I make do with what I have just a little longer?”

And I agree with Berlind, who noted that the story should win an award for investigative journalism. For me, it seemed to truly capture the essence of the think globally, act locally credo.

If you haven’t viewed the segment yet, it’s definitely worth watching, which is the reason the video is embedded here. The transcript can also be read here.


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