Innovation is usually seen as the key to solving environmental problems, IoT and AI being at the core of sustainability roadmap. Technological process indeed brings new benefits and conveniences to mankind and helps to track and reduce waste and emissions. Alas, it may be also directly related to environmental pollution, depletion of the bowels of the earth, or even violation of human rights. Let’s dig a little deeper into each of these problems.
Any modern device is not just a set of iron and silicon, it combines a variety of elements from the periodic table. It is difficult to overestimate the environmental harm from the disposal of electronic waste, not to mention the direct danger to people. For example, monitors, boards, connectors, and circuits are rich in arsenic, lead, and mercury.
The body of the equipment is a hard-to-decompose plastic, wires emit chlorine and dioxins during decomposition and combustion, and the toner of cartridges is cyanide particles. Accordingly, waste electronics cannot simply be thrown into a landfill with the rest of the waste. A lot still needs to be done to make tech companies see waste as a resource and assume responsibility for recycling it. Nonetheless, this seems to be the only way to make hi-tech eco-friendly.
A variety of raw materials are required to create the components that make up a computing device. Lack of resources has become one of the key factors that contributed to the outbreak of armed conflicts in the territories of the Middle East, North Africa, and other regions. The struggle for natural resources has a long history: it has long been the cause of conflicts around the world. Changes in the environment raise questions about the availability and control of most resources. The growing scarcity may lead to increased action by different countries to ensure control over key resources, leading to a geopolitical struggle between powers.
Humanity’s awareness of its crowned position and the desire to subjugate nature lay the foundation for both transformative socio-cultural practices and the plundering of the planet’s resources. Resource-starved countries have already started buying large tracts of agricultural land in poor countries in Asia and Africa. Many states exploit the bowels of the African continent. Recently, at the expense of Africa’s resources, the United States satisfied its needs for cobalt by 72%, manganese – by 51%.
Hidden Cost of Data
According to researchers, in 2020, up to 3.5% of carbon dioxide emissions will come from information processing and transmission. The harm of data lies in the huge number of data processing centers (DPCs) that are located around the world. They use so much electricity that efficient communication and storage capabilities are killing the planet.
Emails are a drop in the ocean compared to other types of content that are stored and processed in data centers. Much more storage space is occupied by, for example, photos and videos, which can also be located in the data center. For example, one photo taken with a modern camera is equivalent in storage capacity to several hundred standard text letters.
Analysts also found that 52% of all data on the Internet is not used (dark data). This annually leads to the release of a large number of dangerous substances into the atmosphere.
We use our mobile phones for everything, but we never think about how they are assembled. Unfortunately, the mobile tech companies’ supply chains are often far from being sustainable. For instance, workers at Catcher Technology in China, which makes cases for Apple devices, complained about the harsh working conditions. Employees at the factory (a six-hour drive from Shanghai) say they work 10 hours a day in stuffy rooms with no fresh air. One of the workers told Bloomberg that his hands were bloodless by the end of the working day.
In 2013, the International Labor Organization (ILO) released a report on Sustainable Development, Decent Work and Green Jobs, addressing two of the main challenges of the 21st century – ensuring environmental sustainability and decent work for all. The document emphasizes that both of these problems require an urgent and joint solution, since they are closely related, and the goals of an environmentally sustainable economy cannot be achieved without the active contribution of the world of work.
Tax Gap of Silicon Six
Recently, a report was published citing six largest corporations in Silicon Valley and their tax obligations. It was stated by the Fair Tax Mark that those companies owe a huge sum of money to the USA government. Over $100 billion of taxes weren’t reported in the last 10 years.
The research indicates that the audit of large companies’ tax bills is frequently centered only on tax provisions (and that is not usually the end sum). In addition, there were noticeable cash flows of earnings to Bermuda, Ireland, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, etc.
The harmful influence of man on global ecology is obvious. The most important and most significant changes necessary today are changes in the mindset of people. It is time to take action: adopt sustainable business practices, change the perspective on waste, end storage of useless data, refuse from consumerism, etc. Information technology not only shapes our worldview but also enhances our ability to change the world. We are responsible for using these funds to build a healthy and just future.