650: Brian Merchant: your phone’s hidden environmental impact
The more I learn about electronic waste, the more disgusted I feel at how huge the problem is that we are exacerbating, often in the name of increasing efficiency or reducing waste. I’ve watched many documentaries, but here’s a short video showing the problem in just one place in Ghana. Look at the land in the background that was once verdant and lush, now poisonous. Or read The Dark Side of Congo’s Cobalt Rush in the New Yorker.
If your comfort and convenience come at the price of others’ suffering, wouldn’t you rather know than hurt people in ignorance? The way out of that internal conflict is through action. Read Brian Merchant’s The One Device, which tells the story of what goes into our devices, focusing on the iPhone, though it applies to our laptops, Teslas, and so on. In our conversation, he gives his back story to his book.
At the very least, you’ll find reasons to hold on to your phone for a few years longer than you would have otherwise. You’ll save money, but the greater effect will be improving your quality of life, especially your mindset, helping resolve that inner conflict.