At What Price?

27 9 12

It began in 2018---my investigation into computers and phones as a health risk.

I began tracking the activities of a boy in India, where the informal recycling trade was expanding at the exorbitant rate of 25% per year.

"Informal" just means not done by the companies who made the computers and phones---instead, done by children as young as Labdha, just eight years old.

At that age he was only carrying the electronic junk from the seashore to his father's shack, so his exposure to the toxic chemicals and metals was what some might call "minimal".

By the time he was ten, the electronics manufacturers had, sickeningly and "naturally", increased the dumping of their waste on the Indian shore, and other shores around the world---all official parties complicit in the crime.

Also by ten, Labdha had graduated to working in his father's shack---stripping out components and treating them with toxic chemicals to separate the rare metals from the substrates---chemically peeling off the money-making substances---incurring grave harm to his body...

The harm hid for a few years while Labdha prepared to replace his father as owner of their contaminated business, because his father was near a very young death.

I must pull back from my tale to indicate the innocence of Labdha and the guilt of local, regional, national, and international officials and companies---Labdha, and those like him, were just attempting to make a meager living---the officials and companies were making a killing, monetarily and literally...

I must also indicate the relative "innocence" of the consumers of electronic goods, many of whom consume more than they truly "need", unless need is defined widely to include mindless games, activities, and conversations...

If the manufacturers of the computers and phones would just recycle the junk their creations become---creations built to be replaced for the next, newer, better device---if they would just do it themselves, at their own cost, in ways much safer; but, hey, we're talking about profit here---to hell with people and the earth...

And, those over-consumers---they're just trying to numb their existence so they don't notice the slow death machine created by all the other corporations that ignore humanity and worship profit.

So, Labdha and other youth like him continued to create toxic environments in their little workplaces---shops that were proliferating to meet the glut of wasted bounty delivered as trash to their countries.

The little toxic hotspots spread their deadliness because of the good graces of Earth's water cycle---eventually spreading death sentences to the countries where the massive global electronic firms lived...

In 2032, Labdha was twenty-three and teetering on the edge of life.

He wasn't aware that moves were being made to enforce a proposal of one of the smaller electronics firms, which publicly admitted the harm the big companies were unleashing on the Earth; naturally, in league with the other companies raping the Earth in many other ways...

A few other upstart companies teamed up with the first brave folks and made a Real Issue of the whole mess, which brought an army of activists up out of their exhaustion and enlivened a movement that, eventually, created the political will to alter the full cycle of life of the most used tools on the planet---computers and phones---to make them the little, artificially intelligent friends of Earth.

Naturally... Labdha and thousands of his peers were long dead...


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