Blood gadgets

Many consumers don’t ask, and presumably often don’t care, how their newly purchased products came to be. Certain products have drawn attention, such as “blood diamonds” (accompanied by a preachy Hollywood film by the same name) or Nike shoes made by sweatshop laborers.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof draws attention to another set of consumer goods: high-tech gadgets including cell phones. These devices often include hard to obtain minerals, such as tantalum which is found in Congo. There are some activists who are planning to bring attention to this by taking their argument to tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Intel:

A humorous new video taunting Apple and PC computers alike goes online this weekend on YouTube, with hopes that it will go viral. Put together by a group of Hollywood actors, it’s a spoof on the famous “I’m a Mac”/”I’m a PC” ad and suggests that both are sometimes built from conflict minerals.

“Guess we have some things in common after all,” Mac admits.

Stay tuned. A strong-enough consumer/activist push will likely lead to these companies pledging to use responsible materials.

Also: one wonders how this decades-long situation in mineral-rich Congo might inform decision-making regarding recent finds of vast amounts of valuable minerals in Afghanistan.