ConsumerismSoil Erosion & ContaminationWater Contaminaton & Loss

The Story of Electronics

Why ‘designed for the dump’ is toxic for people and the planet.


  1. The only “new” laws needed to deal with electronic waste are the ones protecting the property rights of those harmed by such waste. Who’s harmed, who dumped the crap on them? Those are the only two important questions. Consumer preference for greener products is also part of the answer. No need for clumsy laws imposing one-size-fits-all solutions.

  2. Congratulations to Free Range creatives for The Story of Electronics video. This fresh, true treatment has perfect pitch for making the big picture real to young & newly opening minds – while preserving & supporting their sense of practical human choice options for preserving our beautiful, generous biosphere.

    Chris Jordan’s work embodies the same core concepts. This comment/sample is longer than I anticipated, but I think it will be worthwhile as context for The Story of Electronics video. The Midway series is his ongoing work & must be discovered in person.
    Intolerable Beauty:
    Portraits of American Mass Consumption
    (2003 – 2005)
    Cell phones #2, Atlanta 2005 44 x 90″
    Exploring around our country’s shipping ports and industrial yards, where the accumulated detritus of our consumption is exposed to view like eroded layers in the Grand Canyon, I find evidence of a slow-motion apocalypse in progress. I am appalled by these scenes, and yet also drawn into them with awe and fascination. The immense scale of our consumption can appear desolate, macabre, oddly comical and ironic, and even darkly beautiful; for me its consistent feature is a staggering complexity.
    The pervasiveness of our consumerism holds a seductive kind of mob mentality. Collectively we are committing a vast and unsustainable act of taking, but we each are anonymous and no one is in charge or accountable for the consequences. I fear that in this process we are doing irreparable harm to our planet and to our individual spirits.
    As an American consumer myself, I am in no position to finger wag; but I do know that when we reflect on a difficult question in the absence of an answer, our attention can turn inward, and in that space may exist the possibility of some evolution of thought or action. So my hope is that these photographs can serve as portals to a kind of cultural self-inquiry. It may not be the most comfortable terrain, but I have heard it said that in risking self-awareness, at least we know that we are awake.
    ~cj, Seattle, 2005
    Running the Numbers:
    An American Self-Portrait (2006 – 2009)
    Light Bulbs, 2008 72×96″
    Depicts 320,000 light bulbs, equal to the number of kilowatt hours of electricity wasted in the United States every minute from inefficient residential electricity usage (inefficient wiring, computers in sleep mode, etc.).
    Click the image to zoom in.
    Proposed New Corporate Logo For Monsanto Company, 2011 4×9 feet, based on a painting by Josiah Lopez
    Depicts 200,000 heirloom agricultural plant seeds, equal to the number of farmers in India who have committed suicide since 1997, when Monsanto introduced its genetically modified cotton seeds containing terminator technology into that region.
    Click the image to zoom in.

    – I find the morph from suicide to seed a tremendous incentive. EW

    Finding meaning in global mass phenomena can be difficult because the phenomena themselves are invisible, spread across the earth in millions of separate places. There is no Mount Everest of waste that we can make a pilgrimage to and behold the sobering aggregate of our discarded stuff, seeing and feeling it viscerally with our senses.
    Instead, we are stuck with trying to comprehend the gravity of these phenomena through the anaesthetizing and emotionally barren language of statistics. Sociologists tell us that the human mind cannot meaningfully grasp numbers higher than a few thousand; yet every day we read of mass phenomena characterized by numbers in the millions, billions, even trillions.

    Compounding this challenge is our sense of insignificance as individuals in a world of 6.7 billion people. And if we fully open ourselves to the horrors of our times, we also risk becoming overwhelmed, panicked, or emotionally paralyzed.

    I believe it is worth connecting with these issues and allowing them to matter to us personally, despite the complex mixtures of anger, fear, grief, and rage that this process can entail. Perhaps these uncomfortable feelings can become part of what connects us, serving as fuel for courageous individual and collective action as citizens of a new kind of global community. This hope continues to motivate my work.
    ~cj, Seattle, February 2009


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Articles

Back to top button