In the 19th and 20th centuries, fossil fuels drove the global economy and politics, forming alliances, shaping economies, and inciting wars. However, in the 21st century, other natural resources have become the most valued, revealing the dark side of technology.
For instance, China built an empire around technology, securing a steady supply of minerals used in various electrical components. Such practices have become so common that they have wreaked havoc worldwide.
The Dark Side of Technology
As mentioned a few years ago, Baotou is one of the worst sites on Earth due to Technology. However, it’s not the only one:
Democratic Republic of Congo
Taking a closer look at the Democratic Republic of Congo, it holds half of the world’s cobalt reserves and is responsible for 60% of its production. This metal is used to make lithium-ion batteries found in many portable devices, electric vehicles, airplanes, and more.
According to experts, the impact of cobalt mining in the country is so severe that it will never be erased. This not only involves mining and illegal deforestation but also congenital diseases inherited by generations of people due to working without necessary conditions. This illustrates that the dark side of technology extends far beyond.
The Lithium Triangle
Lithium is another crucial resource today, with over ¾ of the world’s reserves located in only three South American countries known as the Lithium Triangle: Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. The most significant deposits are found in the salt flats of this region, causing extreme aridity and a negative water balance. This has made water a limited resource, leading to irreversible damage to ecosystems.
Illegal mining in Afghanistan
Another massively exploited market leading to significant pollution is in Afghanistan. This country holds not only significant lithium reserves but also other essential resources such as gold, copper, and iron.
Most mines in the nation are exploited through illegal mining, causing substantial harm to the ecosystem and affecting numerous people over the years.
China’s Rare Earths
China itself houses vast reserves of various important minerals such as vanadium, a transition metal used in batteries, electromagnets, and high-strength alloys for airplanes. It is also the largest producer of graphite, which, due to its lightweight and high conductivity, is a crucial component in electrodes, solar panels, and many other industrial applications.
More importantly, China has the planet’s largest reserves of “rare earths“. These earths contain mixes of metals like scandium and yttrium, highly valued for their conductive, luminescent, and magnetic properties.
Resource exploration is not the sole culprit of the dark side of technology. A significant contributor to its pollution is electronic waste.
This poses a risk to poorer countries, where the majority of electronic waste pollution ends up, endangering the environment and the health of its inhabitants.
Ghana: Hardest hit
Tests conducted near an electronic waste dump in Agbogbloshie, on the outskirts of Accra, the capital of Ghana, revealed contamination from lead, cadmium, and other harmful pollutants at levels 50 times higher than the risk-free levels. Nearby, there’s a church, a market, and a football field where children collect various high-tech waste to earn money.
India and its significant pollution
India is currently the world’s third-largest producer of electronic waste, behind China and the United States. According to the 2020 Global-Waste Monitor, the world dumped 53.6 million metric tons of electronic waste in 2019. India alone produced 3.2 million metric tons. Most of these wastes were dumped for dismantling and recycling in Seelampur, on the outskirts of New Delhi, far from any health regulations.
Pakistan and Bangladesh: The issue of informal recycling
Pakistan is another nation severely affected by the dark side of technology. In this country, the practice of informal recycling, mostly carried out by children, is deeply ingrained.
It is estimated that up to 6% of electronic waste is dumped in Pakistan without any regulation.
The same happens in Bangladesh, the eighth most populous country globally. Annually, it receives tons of electronic waste purchased by its waste companies. However, much of this material ends up in illegal landfills, where people collect and sell it informally.
Undoubtedly, while highly beneficial, the dark side of technology affects us, albeit some more than others. The fight against pollution and the preservation of the environment seems insufficient at times.