TV Mine

Your TV is helping to alter the metallic structure of the earth.
New Scientist reports that the planetary supply of “minor metals” – such as ruthenium, bismuth, and indium – is being depleted. Depleted how? By going into cellphones and flat-screen TVs, into resistors and harddrives.

[Image: Like a print by M.C. Escher, it’s a landscape featured on TV – a TV made of the landscape it features. It’s the television as simulated micro-geology, an elemental landscape in miniature].

“To meet demand,” the magazine reports, “tech firms must mine the growing mountains of electronic waste to recover the materials.”
Growing mountains?
So what future geographies of electronic waste might our descendents someday explore? There will be the Plateau of Circuitboards and the Cliff of Printers – the Dot-Matrix Range – each showing up on new maps of distant continents.
Outside magazine will run a series of articles about a man camping in central Africa, in the shadow of 200,000 used photocopiers; their scanning beds still intact, the copiers reflect the man’s stunned face in moonlight as he walks by, notebook in hand…
A day later he crests a ridge, crunching through the gravel of broken office machinery – only to look down into a whispering abyss: uncountable ten millions of discarded radios sit, chattering to themselves between stations with the last traces of power still trapped in their rusting batteries, speaking in tongues.
A thousand years later, a Third Testament will be added to The Bible, and this place – known as the Valley of Voices – will figure prominently.
For it seems that our rugged explorer heard something there… something he’ll never forget… and it soon becomes the stuff of legend. An absent broadcast around which future religions take shape.
Endlessly re-intepreting the missing words that only one person ever heard.

(Note: For a more serious – not to mention practical – look both at recycling electronic goods and at the environmental problem posted by these mountains of waste, click around the site of Earthworks Action; for some cool photographs of discarded mobile phones, meanwhile, check out the work of Chris Jordan).

4 thoughts on “TV Mine”

  1. One of the most evocative images in CRADLE TO CRADLE has to do with exactly this. Has anyone written a decent book on the subject of human agency in geology? So many minerals and metals unearthed, carried here and there, and then re-deposited.

  2. I once spent a whole (stoned) evening pouring over a large print of Chris Jordan’s Cell Phones #2, convinced he had spelled out USA in the phones.

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