How do we make information technology sustainable?

Communications and information technology are widely considered essential to modern society; however, the materials we use in these devices are usually highly-toxic when they come out of the Earth and when they are returned to landfill. E-cycling laws make it illegal to dump electronics in landfills in the US, but even so people everywhere are either unaware or openly flout these important rules to protect our groundwater. Even so, e-waste is the largest growing waste problem in the work, up there with plastic packaging but potentially much more immediately hazardous to human and other forms of life. How do we control the impact of our creation? How do we avoid being consumed ourselves by the waste of an out-of-control industry?

Material culture has also instilled this industry with its values of “buy a new one”, even though the items in question are some of our most precious, costly and hazardous in terms of toxic waste. Out of all the products we have, this of anything should be the category which we waste the least. This is especially true considering most of the issues faced by typical computer users are embedded software inconsistencies which slow them down. Users who don’t understand Laptops full of toxic materials are being discarded more often than they are to fix their computer, or don’t have access to quality IT services away from the store where they got it (who usually wants to sell them a new one), and tend to go with the flow and purchase a brand new PC not knowing that the same software problems may be worse in the new one. This creates problems all the way along, for the Earth, for the customer, for the trained localĀ  repair guy who is left without work, for the factory line worker living in substandard conditions, and for the financial health of the Nation as emergency computer purchases are often put on credit cards.

We hope to slow down if not reverse this trend of endless consumption of these devices, even though the industry seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Most of the time a “dead”, “sick” or “slow” PC can be turned around for less than $100 in skilled local labor.

By employing these skills on EarthStar Foundation, we will have constant connection to the outside world that doesn’t place undue financial burden on any of our community members. It’s our thought that nature and technology can work hand-in-hand, but those who care for nature must learn to repair and maintain technology, and those who are into technology must learn to care for nature. We must learn to understand and repair the technology we are using to reduce financial dependence on the corporations that provide it.