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Thursday, September 14, 2006

Rotten Apples?

When was the last time you received mail, or had to bear a sarcastic comment, because your dreamcar manufacturer, Ferrari, had a small market share? Or because your favourite CD Label had the nasty habit of packing its CDs into a non-biodegradable Jewel Case which, in turn, was placed into a 'bubble pack' twice its size that also contained unnecessary cardboard sheets? Never? Neither have I. But, for us Apple users, this is not an option. From dear friends who send me frequent reminders of the Mac having lost (only to be reminded, themselves, that the GUI which Mac introduced actually won and can now be seen on every computer that uses it's cheap copy)

to the not-so-dear chap who sends me updates on all Apple criticisms in the press, as if I were personally accountable for everything Steve does. So, it came as no surprise that, when Greenpeace charged Apple with environmental irresponsibility, I got an email from a friend who is a very conscious environmentalist. Titled "yr fav slipping?", the mail quoted an article, "How Green Is Your Apple?" - from The Economist, a magazine I find deceitful and obnoxious. (Unfortunately, I am not as forgiving of irresponsible and slanted reporting as many of my more learned friends.) But, I had also come across the charges by Greenpeace in other sections of the press, and had been following the story keenly, not because it involves Apple but because of my own interest in the Environment. Why should Apple (in the final analysis) be expected to be better or worse than any other corporation in its pursuit of money? It has never, to my knowledge, claimed a moral high ground. True, it has not yet fallen foul of the law for the kind of strong-arm tactics and illegalities that Microsoft uses, but that doesn't 'guarantee' it never will. Who knows what goes on inside all these big companies? Corporate greed is a killer disease. Getting back to the Greenpeace charge, they have stated that Apple's performance is very poor in terms of environmental responsibility. According to CNET, Apple disagrees with Greenpeace's assessment, saying that they have strong environmental records and follow worldwide regulations. As an aware citizen, and a devout Mac user, such things are important for me to trace and track. I am, therefore, not entirely new to the slurs and doubts cast by (otherwise well-meaning) organizations on Apple. It's often a mere 'strategy'. After all, any story with the word 'Apple' or the name 'Steve Jobs' will draw more readers and provide publicity for the cause than would news about Michael 'Dull' or his company. In fact, even Michael uses the strategy to bad-mouth Apple so that his stupid pronouncements get press coverage! While I cannot categorically state that Greenpeace - an organization I admire immensely - would stoop to such tactics, it is not entirely inconceivable. Truth, honesty, ethics, all go out the window at the drop of a hat in every instance. Sad, but true. The concept of 'ends justifying the means' has completely obliterated the adage which reminded us that 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions'. Those who think I have gone too far in my pro-Apple stance, by casting aspersions on a great activist organization, would do well to remember that, in 2005, the 'Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition' targeted many Apple events to criticize the company's position on recycling and takeback programs for used computers. The SVTC activists kicked off the campaign at MacWorld during Jobs's annual speech ... cashing in on the kind of photo-ops they could not have had any other way. That their charge-sheet was full of everything from suppression of truth to blatant lies, poor analysis, and false conclusions was of no concern to the many who saw the pictures in the press and read their rants and may have concluded that Apple was at fault. I request those who raise objections - and all who are environmentally conscious - to read the post from which the following extract is quoted to highlight and underscore my point. (For those who live in countries that comprise the Axis of Insanity, where even the delightful tinyurl is banned - amazing, na? - this link may be a better option.)
The UnApple Report issued by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, and their partners, mixed generalized assumptions about Apple Computer, depictions of Apple products, and a spoofed Apple logo, with general facts about the environment and societal ills, and implied a correlation between the two. For example it stated: 50-80% of the e-waste taken to U.S. “recyclers” is actually shipped out to developing countries in violation of international law. In China, India and other countries, dirty electronics recycling has had horrendous consequences—polluting the air, land and water and endangering people’s health. Without an aggressive takeback system, including a commitment to work only with responsible recyclers, Apple is contributing to this growing problem. This suggested that Apple was involved in sending toxic trash to third world countries, which isn't true. SVTC knew that, so they only implied a relationship. Reports of the protest widely linked Apple to “accusations” of third world dumping, so a vague implication was enough to fulfill the coalition’s political agenda. Apple lags far behind Dell and HP in its policies or programs to take back its own obsolete products. This suggested that Dell and HP have actually recycled more of their PCs than Apple has, but that isn't true either. Dell and HP have both produced far more toxic trash than Apple, and continue to generate many times more e-waste than Apple, both in sheer volume and in the degree of toxicity of the new products they ship, as noted below. A disturbing growth trend in e-waste recycling is the use of prison work programs where super-exploited, under-protected captive workers are subject to toxic exposure. Without a system in place to ensure that Apple e-waste does not end up in prisons, Apple is contributing to this growing problem. This similarly implied that Apple was using prison labor for recycling, when SVTC knew that Apple really wasn't. Under a depiction of an iPod being thrown away, the report presented various facts about lead poisoning and the toxicity of burning plastics, but headlined the general statements with: Many manufacturers are addressing the problems associated with electronic waste, or e-waste. Apple, however, is compromising brand value and leadership by placing short-term financial gain over environmental concerns. Apple products include toxics, and need special care. Was the iPod targeted because it is a serious contributor to e-waste, or was SVTC targeting Apple because their brand name and consumer popularity would guarantee it front page press coverage? Would it be better if the iPod used AA batteries, the way many other music players do? That would result in the tens of millions of iPod users each throwing away hundreds of toxic batteries throughout their iPods' lifetime.
Apple's official policy and record, too, is worth a read. A caveat: after all, it is the company's site and, like all content on company sites, must be read with a critical mind. But also worth keeping in mind is that the ex Vice President of the USA, Al Gore, one of the leading environmentalists today, also sits on the board of Apple.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

chahnay wala ho tau aysa ho

21 September, 2006 15:52


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