Is Our Need for NEW Ruining Our Sustainability?

Caitlin Petrie

Last week I came across a video entitled: “This is how little kids react these days when you show them a Walkman”. The video was literally seven and a half minutes of kids, ages 4-14, who were completely confounded by what a Walkman was. I used to listen to music with my Walkman, then I graduated to a Diskman, then an iPod, and finally to my iPhone. In my twenty some odd years on this planet, that’s a lot of technology to burn through. When I got these new technologies did I, or my parents, dispose of the old ones in an environmentally friendly manner? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure we did.

This made me think about the larger implications that our rapidly growing technologies have on our environment. The Guardian interviewed Doug Tompkins, the founder of The North Face, about the troublesome effects of technology on our environment and his relationship with the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. Tompkins sees a destructive relationship between technology and the environment: “If you just hold your cell phone for 30 seconds and think backwards through its production you have the entire techno-industrial culture wrapped up there. You can’t have that device without everything that goes with it. You see mining, transportation, manufacturing, computers, high-speed communications, satellite communications, it’s all there, you see and it’s that techno-industrial culture that’s destroying the world.”

Doug Tomkins goes on to reminisce about his friend, Steve Jobs, and the arguments that they would have over technology and the environment. Jobs saw the personal computer as a tool to “save the world”, whereas Tomkins saw the exact “opposite”. Tomkins believed that the environmental damages caused by the production of the PC greatly outweighed it’s potential “save the world”. When he’d tell this to Jobs, Jobs would “get mad” at him. Speaking to Jobs’ anger Tomkins said:”That’s typical of everybody who introduces a new widget into society. They don’t tell you the negative side effects that this introduction of this new invention could provoke.”

In the tech savvy culture of today, it’s hard to imagine that people’s want for new gadgets will decline significantly in the future. I myself am writing this blog post from a computer that’s less than 6 months old. However, we as a society can do simple things to mitigate our negative environmental footprint. According to the Seattle Times only about 10% of cellphones get recycled or reused nationwide. The other 90% inevitably ends up in a landfill.  However, it’s incredibly easy to recycle your old cellphone and small electronics. Staples, Bartell Drugs, Goods for the Planet, and McLendon Hardware will take your old cellphones free of charge. Also, listed are 3 different websites where you can find locations near you that will recycle your small electronics in Washington State.

Production of these different technologies has kind of become a reality of our time. Most, including Tomkins, have a cellphone, PC, MP3 player, or even a Walkman. However, we as individuals can choose to use new technology sparingly, and dispose of it responsibly. Recycling your old cell phones and small electronics is such a simple, and important step that individuals can take to help alleviate the damage that technology is having on our planet.


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