Western civilization depends too much upon technology

In March of this year, China passed a law which encourages governmental funding for improving safe facilities and puts responsibility on manufacturers, recycling companies, and retailers for electronic waste disposal. Although this is a turn in the right direction, there needs to be direct international cooperation among countries such as China and the U.S., as well as multi-national corporations which have contributed to the problem; punitive measures should be made clear and enforced regularly for companies/nations who do not comply.

The current lifestyle of Western civilization indisputably depends upon technology to function. There are twice as many computers as people in the U.S. alone (Cunningham and Cunningham, 2009). The rapidly increasing use and disposal of electronic devices is resulting in significant implications for the environment and the health of the Third World. This innovation is fundamentally accepted as progress in its purest form- the advancement of technology and knowledge. However, it is the concrete, palpable repercussions of this convenient and invisible transfer of data that is amassing within “recycling sites” throughout Southeast China- it is the most rapidly growing waste problem in the world (Xing et al., 2009). The dumping of e-Waste has revealed a crucial flaw in the First World idea of “Out with the old and in with the new”; the effects of which have had a disastrous impact on the human population and the quality of the air, soil, and water in Southeast China.

The U.S. adds considerably to the estimated 20-50 million tons of e-waste transported globally. This incredible rate of disposal is expected to increase by 3-5% per annum (Xing et al., 2009). This activity needs to be regulated by an international body. 43 U.S. exporting firms have been found to be illegally transporting electronic waste (Walsh, 2009). Regulations are needed to bring to an end to the ability to transport such toxic materials which are being released into the environment, and into human populations. More efficient, precise legislation would holds corporations and exporting countries accountable for the ways that e-waste is handled.

Before the rapid onslaught of the Information Age, the human race did not rely on electronics in any way. This revolution of lifestyle in the modern world has transformed both the way that humans live in the world, and the ways that humans interact with it. E-waste disposal is one of the ways that humans interact directly with the environment and with one another; it is a perfect example of how imprudent human interaction affects both the world and its population in staggering and immediate ways. Further regulatory actions need to be taken by governments, corporations, and advocacy groups to form international cooperation and enforceable international laws. This is the only way that this pertinent issue can be properly addressed and ameliorated.

Alexandra Benzon

junior in LAS