by Ashley Sullivan: The forest is calling, can you hear it? It’s been a long time since you’ve listened – really listened – to its call…
What is it saying? It’s a faint mummer, but if you try you can still hear it’s message: It’s saying that our endless consumption and reliance on new technology is silencing ecosystems, humans and wildlife. It’s saying that you are the only hope the forests have. The forest is calling, and the power is in your hands to answer the call.
The international technology industry is devastating human and wildlife communities, while destroying vital habitats, particularly in the Congo Basin in Africa. Right now, you can do something about it. JGI is launching ‘The Forest is Calling’, a campaign to inspire action around recycling, reduced consumption and extending the useful life of used electronics. The annual campaign will culminate with Mobile Recycling Day on February 26th, getting JGI’s friends and supporters around the world to help protect chimpanzees, people, other species and their habitats.
WILL YOU ANSWER THE CALL?
Leading up to February 26th, citizens from around the globe can participate in ‘The Forest is Calling’ by pledging to share information about the inherent harm of the consumer technology industry as it exists today, recycle their unwanted mobile devices with one of JGI’s recycling partners, and/or to extend the life of their device by keeping it for longer. Individuals also can contribute to JGI’s community-centered conservation initiatives, which aid in lessening local participation in mining through public education, alternative sustainable livelihood options and other projects.
Sometimes people don’t understand how terribly, terribly important it is to recycle old cell phones. There are hundreds of thousands of old cell phones lying around, they have coltan in them…It’s leading to the destruction of the rainforest, the death of gorillas and chimpanzees, and other animals and immense hardship for the people.
– Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder the Jane Goodall Institute, UN Messenger of Peace
WHY SHOULD WE MOBILIZE?
In this case, what glitters may be gold but that doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. The greatest contributing issue has to do with the resources used to make the technology, as mobile phones and many other electronics contain minerals including gold, tin, tungsten, cobalt, and tantalum (coltan). Substantial proportions of the global supply of these minerals are mined in the Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (EDRC) and are extracted from the area that is both a crucial conservation site for Grauer’s gorillas and home one of the largest remaining intact populations of eastern chimpanzees. Both populations are endangered and at great risk of disappearing within our lifetime.
The methods to extract these minerals are highly destructive, transforming lush and important biodiverse ecosystems to rubble. Compounded by the loss of habitat for endangered great apes and other species, the control of mining sites fuels conflict among human communities and illegal hunting of great apes for bushmeat. Bushmeat hunting associated with the mining of minerals found in mobile technologies has been identified as the number one threat to chimpanzees and gorillas in EDRC. Conflict fueled in part by this mining has resulted in the deaths of millions of people, loss of important resources and the displacement of many thousands of humans and wildlife alike.
DIAL W FOR WASTE
By 2020, it’s estimated there will be almost 3.6 billion smartphones in circulation around the world (IHSMarkit). With an average lifespan of approximately 2 years before upgrade or replacement, the demand for the resources used to produce mobile devices and the number of devices potentially entering the waste stream will continue to grow. According to a 2017 study, e-waste had risen by eight per cent from 2015, with only 20 per cent being recycled (Telegraph). It was estimated that up to 50 million tons of electronic waste—mainly computers and smartphones—was dumped in 2017 alone (UNEP).