Since the “Apple” exactly 12 years ago allowed the sale of the first iPhones, they had sold more than two billion. They did a lot of good for its owners, but the planet they seem to have caused only harm. To make such a number of devices have a lot of metal, plastic, glass and other materials. Some of them, including cobalt, are produced manually, and sometimes such work in the poorest countries are children, for example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Other materials, including rare earth metals, is quite small. European chemical society in the framework of the project concluded that for a century on Earth can end many of these elements, and this is a very serious threat. All these phones need a lot of electricity and produce it mostly by burning fossil fuels. One estimate is that a costly smartphone can consume as much electricity as a refrigerator. “The digital economy”, an integral part of which were iPhones and similar devices, uses 10 percent of the total electricity on the planet. Steve jobs advised us to “make a small dent in the Universe”, but there is a feeling that the devices his company and other manufacturers made a dent, just very small, and even affected the General health of the Earth. But some important measures belie this gloomy point of view. For example, the total volume consumed in the U.S. electricity remains essentially unchanged for almost 10 years. For several decades up to the Great recession, the consumption of plastic in the United States grew 50 percent faster than the economy, but since 2009 the situation has changed dramatically, and now the growing consumption of plastic, almost 15 percent less than the rate of economic growth. With respect to most other natural resources, the growth rate of consumption is not just slowed down. Began to decline, the absolute volume of consumption. From year to year the United States uses less steel, copper, gold, fertilizers, water, arable land, timber, paper, and other constituent elements of the economy. And signs of the impending shortage very little. Prices for rare earth elements, for example, remain far below recent peak. These changes occurred not because of globalization and not because of the transfer of production to other countries. The United States remains a powerful industrial locomotive, since they account for about 25 percent of the world economy. So what happens? Why this country changed course and learned to tread softer on the planet? “Writer, historian and the retired radio host” Steve Sichon (Steve Cichon) started to realize this in 2014 bought for three dollars a pile of old Newspapers “Buffalo news” (Buffalo News). On the last page of rooms for February 16, 1991 was an advertisement for the electronics store “Radiology”. Sichon noticed in this advertisement something amazing: “this page has 15 of the electronic gadgets… 13 of the 15 are now permanently in your pocket”. These gadgets out of his pocket Sicona that had been hidden in the iPhone, was: calculator, camera, clock radio, mobile phone and a tape recorder. In advertising, nothing was said about the compass, camera, barometer, altimeter, accelerometer and GPS system, but they, too, are now hiding in the iPhone and other smart phones. Opening Sichone says that when we are talking about the impact of iPhones on the planet, it makes no sense to talk separately about the production of two billion of these devices. We must think comprehensively. That I would have had to do in our world over the last 12 years, don’t be it smartphones? The answer is very clear: a lot of things, would be made much more equipment, much more media devices. In recent years sharply reduced sales of cameras, camcorders, films and videotapes. But it’s not that we stopped to take photos and videos. The fact that a device called the smartphone has allowed us to make consumption of these things is immaterial. Dematerialization is the idea, which appeared in 1920-ies (it is appropriate to recall the “epimerization” Richard Buckminster fuller (R. Buckminster Fuller). And the United States and other rich countries show that this idea has finally come. Why now? There are two reasons and the first of them is technical progress. More powerful and popular the iPhone has become the personification of this progress, however, technologies of dematerialization there was a great variety. Computer design allows you to make thinner walls of aluminum cans, building lighter and more economical engines. The sensors and machine learning to allow more efficient use of energy-intensive production. Precision agriculture enables farmers to increase yields with less land, water and fertilizers. These technologies combine to require a lot of electricity, but save it they are also very important. That’s why electricity consumption in the U.S. is growing slower, and the total power consumption is slightly more than before the recession. Energy and natural resources cost money which companies don’t want to spend, especially if they have to fight with harsh competition. Thus, the second reason for dematerialization after the technical progress of capitalism, intense competition for the supply of goods and services. But endless capitalist greed means that capitalism devastates the planet, isn’t it? No more, and this is proved by the facts of resource consumption and energy use.
But how is this possible? In a nutshell, companies don’t want to spend more than is absolutely necessary — because the money is like the expense. But technological progress now offers many ways to meet all our needs with less resources. As a result, we begin to understand how the growth of the economy and population to have a less negative impact on our planet. We finally becomes clear how to get more by spending less. In the example carton. Although after the advent of the Internet grows and e-trade, the total supply of paperboard in the U.S. in 2015 was less than in 1995. Yes, Amazon and its competitors bring us home a lot more cardboard boxes. But because of the competition all trying to save money on cardboard, and therefore always engage in inventing something new in the field of packaging and logistics. As a result, these innovations have led to a reduction in demand for cardboard and many other materials. Despite his strength and power, capitalism and technical progress will not solve all our environmental problems. They do not automatically cope with environmental pollution (where the greatest damage is done by greenhouse gases) will not protect endangered species and vulnerable communities. Therefore, it is necessary that people insisted on the implementation of wise policy (including nature conservation and proper environmental management, quotas on pollution, the prevention of exploitation of children, and taxes on carbon emissions) and demanded that the authorities promptly reacted by taking these measures. We can also require that manufacturers of electronic devices like Apple increased the service life of its products and provide its repair, so we rarely threw them away.
But we should not worry about iPhones and their digital twins will devastate the planet or even leave her a big dent. No, they do the opposite. They lead us to the second age of Enlightenment, and this time is education of the physical, not intellectual. I predict that in the twenty-first century, this enlightenment will spread to the US and other rich countries, and then move into other parts of our world with lower incomes. And then finally we will establish a sustainable and healthy relationship with all the Land.
Read more •••