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Computers and Society David A. Sonnenfeld Soc 430 WSU Tri-Cities November 1, 2006.

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Presentation on theme: "Computers and Society David A. Sonnenfeld Soc 430 WSU Tri-Cities November 1, 2006."— Presentation transcript:

1 Computers and Society David A. Sonnenfeld Soc 430 WSU Tri-Cities November 1, 2006

2 2 Overarching Question How can citizens participate in governance of complex technologies and systems? From critical theory of technology (cf. Habermas 1976; Feenberg 1991, 1999; Sclove 1995)

3 3 Global Electronics Clean, ultramodern industrial image Complex technologies, toxic materials Short product life, rapid change (Moore’s law) Rapidly growing hazardous wastes Closed, competitive, proprietary Powerful and “footloose” Governance/ regulatory challenge

4 4 Research Methodology Global research network Scholars and activists Analysis and participant observation Collaboration, discussion & debate Peer-reviewed

5 5 Research Approaches Political economy Global commodity chains Life-cycle analysis Participatory action research

6 6 Electronics’ Toxic Lifecycle Extraction/ processing of raw materials –Mining –Precious, heavy metals Manufacturing/ assembly –Intensive resource use (esp. water) –Lead, other heavy metals –Chemicals: solvents, dopants, etc. –Hazardous waste, by-products

7 7 Electronics’ Toxic Lifecycle Marketing/ packaging/ distribution –Heavy hype, latest, greatest gizmos Use/ reuse/ maintenance –Rapid obsolescence, disposal Recycling/ disposal –Hazardous waste in landfills –Air and water pollution –Health hazards

8 8 Resource Use, Waste Generation Production of a single, 8-inch wafer:  4,267 cubic feet of bulk gases  29 cubic feet of hazardous gases  3,023 gallons of de-ionized water  27 pounds of chemicals  3,787 gallons of waste water  9 pounds of hazardous waste SVTC (2004)

9 9 Resource Use, Waste Generation Annual est. at a single Intel wafer fab in NM:  832 million cu. feet of bulk gases  6 million cu. feet of hazardous gases  591 million gals. of de-ionized water  5 million lbs. of chemicals  738 million gals. of waste water  2 million lbs. of hazardous waste SVTC (1999)

10 10 High-Tech Toxics Approx. 700 compounds used to make one workstation, incl.: Circuit boards: lead, cadmium CRTs: lead oxide, barium Flat screens and switches: mercury Electrical cables and casing: brominated flame retardants Printers: carbon black SVTC (2004), BAN (2002)

11 11

12 12 Occupational* Health Issues Anecdotal research findings –Reproductive impacts (miscarriages, birth defects) –Cancer (breast, uterine, cervical, testicular, gastro- intestinal, brain) –Need for further research LaDou (1994) –Worker exposure to toxics higher in electronics than in chemical industry, even pesticide mfg. * and community

13 13 Occupational Health Issues Source: LaDou (2004), using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

14 14 Labor Rights Issues Right to safe and healthy workplaces, communities Right to know: hazardous materials, medical records Right to protective devices, ergonomic environments Right to good, independent medical care, and to compensation for work-related illness and injury Right to refuse dangerous work Right to organize, collective bargaining, due process

15 15 Electronic Waste Who is responsible? Manufacturer Brand owner Consumer Local governments National environmental agencies Supranational bodies

16 16 Electronic Waste (e-Waste) Where does it go? In the USA, –More than 12 million obsolete computers per year –More than 300,000 tons of electronic junk per year –Only 3% refurbished, reused EPA ban on landfill dumping Worldwide ban on transnational shipment of hazardous waste (Basel Convention) Genuine and bogus "recycling"

17 17 (c) 2002 Basel Action Network

18 18 (c) 2002 Basel Action Network

19 19 (c) 2002 Basel Action Network

20 20 (c) 2002 Basel Action Network

21 21 Environmental Justice Issues Unequal distribution of environmental impacts –Double indemnity: in the workplace & at home –Women, ethnic minorities, immigrants, poor –Intergenerational (born & unborn children) Access to health care Access to power, institutions Intensification of social inequality

22 22 Regulatory Challenges Technologies change faster than agencies' capacity Materials used are proprietary Firms resist making research findings public Regulation difficult in advanced industrial democracies Even more difficult in newly industrializing countries Firms capable of relocating relatively quickly

23 23 Citizen Action Sick and injured workers Health professionals Labor advocates Community organizations Transnational advocacy networks Academics

24 24 Source: SVTC, Photo by Ching-Po Kao

25 25 Source: Hazards Magazine (2001)

26 26 2002 Computer Report Card (selected results) (c) 2003 Computer TakeBack Campaign * out of 68

27 27 Dude, take back everyone's old Dell !! The computer you're using contains lead, mercury, cadmium, flame retardants and other toxic materials and is considered hazardous waste, when it's thrown away. There are between 300 million and 600 million used computers in the U.S. and no good system for safely handling them. Keeping computers and all kinds of consumer electronics out of landfills and incinerators is imperative to protecting our public health and the environment. Even recycling them is difficult because they’re full of toxic materials. The Computer TakeBack Campaign has formed to bring about a solution to America electronics junkpile – e-waste. Join us in making computer producers responsible for the safe design, manufacturing and recycling of their equipment. We're calling on Dell Computer Corporation to lead its industry to a solution. Take a minute and tell Michael Dell to take it back, make it clean and recycle responsibly. SIGN THE PETITION... (

28 28 (c) 2003 Computer TakeBack Campaign

29 29 Industry Response Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) promising for 10+ years to conduct health studies Individual firms aggressively defensive Some technical improvements, e.g. movement away from use of lead solder Some brand owners (e.g. Dell, HP/ Compaq) responding to pressure for end-of-life takeback Occupational health and other social improvements are being made even more slowly

30 30 Industry Response Some adoption and certification of environmental and occupational management systems (ISO/ BSE) Little to no disclosure of health effects, medical data Low wages remain critical to corporate success Global electronics remains closed, competitive, and powerful, all towards maximizing profits

31 31 Regulatory Successes EU's Waste from Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) Initiative EPA ban on landfill dumping of e-waste Basel Convention ban on transnational shipment of hazardous waste State and local governmental regulation of underground storage tanks Local emergency response teams (e.g. firefighters) play leading role in establishing community right-to-know laws

32 32 Conclusions 1. In this age of globalization, what is required to enable citizen oversight of complex technologies? Rule of law: framework of basic rights for the protection of those encountering and addressing problems Cooperation between those on the front-lines, supporting professionals, advocacy groups, and academic researchers Scientific data: self-generated, corporate, or public International legal frameworks (WEEE Initiative, Basel Agreement, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Framework Agreements)

33 33 Conclusions 2. Additional things which, unfortunately, have proved necessary to catalyze industry change: Human sacrifice Unnatural disasters Tireless advocacy Relentless litigation Media coverage Market instruments

34 34 Conclusions 3.The global electronics industry is capable of improving social and environmental practices, e.g.: Adoption of environmental product design practices Elimination of CFCs Adoption of ISO 14000 environmental management systems Development of lead-free soldering, components, products Adoption of occupational health and safety systems Recognition of trade unions

35 35 Conclusions 4. Nevertheless, the industry has a long way to go to achieve sustainable product design, manufacturing, use, and end-of-life management. 5. Good-faith corporate social and environmental auditing, reporting, and other responsible practices are critical to achieve these ends. 6. Broad recognition of labor rights and environmental justice as essential ingredients of sustainable industrial development. 7. Citizens, workers, and environmental policy advocates have an irreplaceable role to play in working with industry and regulatory agencies to achieve these ends.

36 36 References Castells, Manuel (1996, 2000) The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. NY: Blackwell Evans, Peter (1995) Embedded Autonomy: States and Industrial Transformation. Princeton: Princeton University Press Feenberg, Andrew (1991) Critical Theory of Technology. NY: Oxford University Press Feenberg, Andrew (1999) Questioning Technology. NY: Routledge Habermas, Jürgen (1970) Towards a Rational Society: Student Protest, Science and Politics. Boston: Beacon Press Mazurek, Jan (1999) Making Microchips: Policy, Globalization and Economic Restructuring in the Semiconductor Industry. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press Sclove, Richard (1995) Democracy and Technology. NY: Guilford Press Smith, Ted, et al., eds. (2006) Challenging the Chip: Labor Rights and Environmental Justice in the Global Electronics Industry. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

37 37 Online Resources Asia Monitor Resource Center (AMRC) Asian Network for the Rights of Occupational Accident Victims (ANROAV) Basel Action Network (BAN) Computer TakeBack Campaign (CTBC) Electronic Waste Guide (Switzerland) Environmental Health Coalition (EHC) Greenpeace Greenpeace International ~ Hi-Tech Toxics Hazards Magazine International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (IJOEH) Maquiladora Health and Safety Support Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition (SVTC) SOMO ~ Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (NL) Taiwan Assn. for Victims of Occupational Injuries (TAVOI) Taiwan Environmental Action Network (TEAN) Texas Campaign for the Environment (TCE) Thai Labour Toxics Link (India)

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