Sunday, June 27, 2010

A DAY LEARNING ABOUT CONFLICT MINERALS

It was a beautiful Sunday morning on vacation in Ashland, Oregon. Coffee, the Sunday NY Times, on the front porch of the rented house with my wife and good friends (and their dog, Harry). I always start Sunday morning with Frank Rich and then the rest of the NYT Week in Review section. I know - why ruin a Sunday - but it's what I do, and for some reason I enjoy getting my intellectual juices going this way every Sunday.

Nick Kristof's column today was not a pleasant read, but it was educational. I learned that my smart phone and my laptop might have minerals in them that came from the Congo, and play a role in the brutal horrors there, including rape, disfigurement, and mass murder.

Sunday afternoon we went to the theater to see a production of "Ruined," by Lynn Nottage. This powerful and disturbing play centers around women in Congo who are victims of brutality at the hands of competing military forces and a society where women victims of these brutal acts are outcasts. The topic of conflict minerals is woven through the play (although not the main theme).

So now I'm looking on the web to learn more, including what I can do as a consumer about this. I have learned that Nokia, the maker of our smart phones, has been working since 2001 on being certain that their suppliers don't source these minerals from conflict zones. I'm going to check about Apple, the maker of my laptop. I'm going to send emails to these companies encouraging them not to use conflict minerals. I'll also email my elected reps about this.

I guess the bottom line is that as a consumer, I have a responsibility to understand what I'm buying and make smart choices. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task in this complex global economy.

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