Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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4/20/2006
06:45 PM
Valerie Potter
Valerie Potter
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Is Your PC EC?

Technology is what makes it possible for us to study the environment and discover what helps and hurts our ecosystems. Computers and telecommunications help us analyze and spread that knowledge. In many ways, computers are helping us save the planet.

Is your PC environmentally correct? At first glance, the answer is a resounding no. Computers, cell phones, iPods, and other high-tech toys are basically cocktails of hazardous substances, including lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium, hexavalent chromium, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, and brominated flame retardants. Once they've entered our air, water, and soil via landfills and incineration, these toxins can cause cancer and damage our lungs, kidneys, bones, brains, reproductive systems, and more.

We blithely throw away our two-year-old cell phones and laptops, never thinking about where they'll end up or who they'll poison. The California Resource Recovery Association estimates that U.S. landfills receive 300,000 tons of this E-waste annually, and much more than that is shipped overseas for poorer countries like China, India, and Pakistan to disassemble and dispose of, according to the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.It seems, then, that computers and technology have been conclusively harmful to the earth. But take a step back and think for a minute. Technology is what makes it possible for us to study the environment and discover what helps and hurts our ecosystems. Computers and telecommunications help us analyze and spread that knowledge. The ability to telecommute keeps us from burning fossil fuels. In many ways, computers are helping us save the planet.

The arguments on both sides of the issue are compelling--and worth learning more about. Tomorrow is Earth Day, and in honor of the event we set two reporters to grapple over the question of whether computers and technology do more to help or harm the environment. Read their arguments, then head on over to our reader poll and vote on who's got it right.

Our special report also includes a page of tips on how you can embrace technology and be friendly to the environment at the same time. If you've got your own tips to share or would like to weigh in on the debate, please submit a comment below.Technology is what makes it possible for us to study the environment and discover what helps and hurts our ecosystems. Computers and telecommunications help us analyze and spread that knowledge. In many ways, computers are helping us save the planet.

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