Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Consider the Source

photo: Julien Harneis via Wikimedia Commons
 Cell phones for teenagers are like gills for fish at this point, with nearly 90% of 14- to 17-year-olds now owning a mobile phone. But what percentage of those frantically texting teens know their phones -- and TVs, computers, game consoles & other gadgets -- could be connected to the systematic killing, orphaning, mutilation and exploitation of their peers in Congo?

My 15-year-old didn't, until he was asked to research "conflict minerals" (tungsten, tin, and tantalum) found in Congo and used in all types of electronic devices. Smuggled minerals, it turns out, have been funding one of the bloodiest conflicts since WWII, with brutal militia continuing to rape and kill their way through parts of the Congo and neighboring countries. Disturbed to find that our home (and pockets) contained several e-devices made by companies that haven't done much to avoid conflict minerals, my son created a "Blood Gadgets" page to push for corporate responsibility & consumer advocacy. Imagine how many (essentially enslaved) Congolese child soldiers and child mineral miners -- not to mention their parents -- could be saved if every tech-addicted teen demanded a certification system for conflict-free gadgets, so that buying a conflict-free phone would be as simple as fair-trade coffee or an organic apple.

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