Javier González-de-Eusebio & Fernando Tucho / April 2021
More perhaps than any other ICT gadget, smartphones symbolize the ups and downs of the so-called information society. Surely, smartphones are in their prime: we hardly spend an hour without feeling the urge to check out whether there is any news from our partner, friends, maybe an update from a social network, or in a worst-case scenario – one of those side effects of being constantly available- a message from our boss.
Smartphones play unquestionably a big part in our lives but, what lies beneath this precious gadget? What is it made of? Are smartphones smart or, environmentally speaking, are they actually dumbphones?
In all likelihood, a great deal of the population knows that the manufacture of smartphones does have a dark side. Nonetheless, it is easy to turn a blind eye to these issues when the world´s largest technology companies spend millions on marketing strategies, whose messages sound alluring and reassuring, making a huge effort to obscure any inconvenient information. Therefore, smartphone users can not help but be pulled into an attitude of bored indifference.
However, smartphones and other ICT devices do have an environmental footprint that must be unveiled once and for all: «if we combine emissions from manufacturing and the electricity that powers network and data-storage facilities, smartphones and other so-called terminal platforms produce about 1.4 percent of the world´s total carbon footprint. Most of that happens during manufacturing». (Maxwell & Miller, 2020: 22).
A single smartphone device contains rare-earth minerals, aka «blood minerals», as well as harmful substances like lead. On average, a cutting-edge smartphone contains around 9 grams of copper; 3.81 grams of cobalt; 0.15 grams of silver; 0.025 grams of gold and 0.008 grams of palladium.
Our views – and to a large degree the main aim of this website – coincide completely with Media scholars Toby Miller and Richard Maxwell when they state that: «we´re not interested in shaming users, or returning society to a time prior to mobile communication. We want to explain the environmental risk associated with these devices in a social context, and how they can be reduced. Our aim is to delineate a role for the smartphone (and the whole spectrum of ICT gadgets) in a greener communications system. Understanding the material characteristics of smartphones helps us identify guidelines to make them greener on personal and planetary scales alike» (Maxwell & Miller, 2020:16).
Maxwell, R. & Miller, T. (2020). How green is your smartphone? Cambridge: Polity Press.
Mobile Kommunikation: Umwelt bewusst handeln. Materialien für Lehrkräfte. Link: http://klimamediathek.de/wp-content/uploads/IZMF_Lehrerheft_Umwelt_online2.pdf
López, A. (2021). Ecomedia Literacy: Integrating Ecology into Media Education. New York :Routledge.