August 18th, 2012

On Monday I had an excellent lunch with Cavana Faithwalker and his daughter at the Barroco Gill on Madison. The food was amazing (you have to try this place) but the conversation was more so.

One of the topics we discussed involved a story Cav had sent me earlier involving farmers in India profiting from selling what had been a staple food crop to petroleum companies to extract one of the chemicals used in the fracking process and whether or not we could ask those farmers to not contribute to the process.

The short answer was no, we had no right to make such an outrageous request.

The longer answer was more complicated because a great deal of what we do on a moment-by-moment basis can have detrimental affects upon our family, our community and our environment. Walmart came up and we discussed my Little Walmart Toothpaste Buycott which Cav was taken by and then this morning I read this on CNN:

They’ve been called “blood phones.”

It’s a reference to the fact that some metals used to make smartphones and other electronic gadgets are sourced from war-torn areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Experts say these “conflict minerals” help fuel one of the world’s deadliest conflicts. An estimated 5.4 million people have died there from war-related causes, including disease and malnutrition, since 1998, according to the International Rescue Committee.

But according to a report released Thursday by the Enough Project, an advocacy group, metals from the Congo are getting less bloody.

Less bloody mean improvement, but what does that mean in real numbers? Does it mean that only 10 people die per phone? Enough Project, the people writing the report, don’t know. All they know is that the best company on their list, Intel, is following 60 percent of their recommendations.


The real question, however, is what do I do about this? Do I toss my phone and go back to a land line? Do I go 100 percent online and communicate only by emails?

What would you do?

Here’s my suggestion. Don’t buy a new phone unless your old phone isn’t working anymore. No upgrades. None. You don’t need a new toy.

And when you phone does crap out? Buy a used phone. Down grade. Go retro. Better to buy a used phone than a new one because you won’t be fueling the mining of those minerals.

The idea is far from perfect, and I’d love to hear your better ideas.

We do have to be the change we want to see.


  1. Cavana says:

    A very close to home scenario. My first thought was that I’d definitely not say “no way would I give up my phone.” I have “good reasons” for having a mobil phone and only one of them is nearly worth a human life. In addition, I wonder what kind of concerted effort could be mounted to force the industry to stop its accelerated planned obsolescence which causes a high turn over of phones?
    Are there companies who are using a process that doesn’t involve metal from the Congo that could be supported. Could a company create a market and a micro industry in this area? I’m thinking about a lady in Ohio who business is ethically raised and slaughtered animals and people seek her out to feed their meat fix. I’d pay a little more. Where is a good think tank (like the one we discussed) when ya need one? I will ponder some more.

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