In two key areas (computing and transportation) the comprehensive level of technical and engineering expertise required is far beyond the majority of individuals to cope. Most people are not even aware of the environmental damage being done by computers and vehicles. Silicon ICs require vast amounts of pure water, as well as large quantities of heavy and rare earth metals. Electric vehicles – touted as “the future” – require large quantities of neodymium (for the magnets), copper (for the motors) and lithium (for the batteries). Neodymium is found only in deposits that are surrounded by radioactive isotopes, and requires a THOUSAND litres of boiling sulphuric acid to purify just one kilogram of neodymium.
To see just a small glimpse into the damage being done by our modern way of life, use phrases “lake baotao china” and “neodymium acid refinery” to find pictures and reports online. Four countries in recent months have announced their intention to “Go Electric“. They have no idea what they’re doing, nor the harm that their ignorantly-informed decisions will unleash.
It’s not enough however to just point out that there’s a problem: the responsible thing to do is to actually come up with solutions. Kevin from Divergent Microfactories points out that 80% of the environmental damage of a vehicle is done even before it rolls of the sales lot, thanks to the manufacturing technique of putting 1.5 to 2.5 tonnes of steel into a single vehicle. By using 3D printing of aluminum in combination with off-the-shelf carbon fibre tubes he has designed a 750HP hypercar that is far more environmentally friendly than the “greenest” production car ever made! Additional people such as OSVehicle, Team Wikispeed and LocalMotors are all working towards a completely different paradigm that reduces the damage done by our incessant desire for personal transportation. I am also working on vehicle designs, as well as putting together a type of ultra-high-efficiency multi-fuel engine and am running a Facebook page on Ultra-Efficient Vehicles.
With computers: again, we are spoon-fed mass-volume products that are designed around the principle of “less for less”. Our very desire to pressurise companies to make products for less money forces all of
them to give us less: they’re forced to cut corners and entrap you with a “Designed for Obsolescence” cycle, without which they would not exist next year. But this cycle is so incredibly irresponsible.
Screen broken? get another one on the next contract. I’ve visited Shenzhen and seen people sit there on the street with wire cutters, just breaking up hundreds of phones into pieces, to get at the parts
that they can sell. The rest goes in the nearest bin.
The solution here: we can’t escape the fact that we need them, but what if our computers were upgradeable literally at the press of a button? Instead of a “Memory Card” we could have a credit-card-sized “Computer Card” costing $50 for an upgrade instead of $500 to throw out a perfectly good battery, keyboard, case and screen. The old card can be re-purposed and thus kept out of landfill indefinitely. A Computer Card that was in today’s tablet can be tomorrow’s home office
router or server.
This strategy is one that I have been focussing on for the past five years. The original crowdfunding campaign was successful a few months ago, yet it is just the beginning of a decade-long plan that needs your help to make it a success. My area of expertise is in solving the ultra-hard parts: the design and manufacture of eco-conscious computing devices. It would be helpful if more purchasers of computing and transportation products realized there are better ways to do more with less while avoiding the great harm that our existing industrial paradigm — not held accountable for true costs — is poisoning the entire Earth, not just an occasional lake.