Broader foreign policy Environment News Things We Can Do

No one Should Kill or Die for my Smartphone

Even though I have a fair amount of gadgets (MacBook Pro, G1 smartphone, Lumix camera, Flip, the list goes on…), I have not done a great job tracking the impact of buying and using them. Well, it’s time for me to make sure that my enjoyment of these things doesn’t cost other people their lives.

I just got to see this new video explaining the problem of “conflict minerals” in my electronic devices:

This video is from Raise Hope for Congo, a group working to end the long-running war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. A war whose course is shaped by the ability of armed people to enslave people to extract highly-profitable minerals that Western companies buy and use in our phones and gadgets. There are some great resources to explain the connection, including a recent NY Times editorial and this resource page on the site.

I’ve taken the pledge to stop my purchasing of devices unless I can get them conflict-free.

If my smartphone dies before a new, conflict-free Android phone is out, this should get interesting for me. But as much as I love having fun with my smartphone, no one should be killing or dying for me to have it.

Energy Issues Environment

Reining in Oil Companies

Cleaned up pelican from Gulf of Mexico, courtesy of GreenpeaceI have a complex relationship with oil companies. On the one hand, I purchase their products and use them. I drive my car less than the average, but still do drive, and I ride in planes, and sometimes in busses. But I also despise these corporations’ behavior. I want them to stop despoiling the environment, manipulating people and causing harm to human beings with their product.

Just because I still drive doesn’t mean that I can’t tell them to change their ways. Actually, I’m pretty sure it means I *can* tell them to change their ways, because I’m a long-term customer. So, things I can do this week:

Tell Congress to stop even talking about giving BP a bailout.

Look at the True Cost of Chevron and send the message to Chevron that people want them to clean up their act — while they are in Houston this week for their annual shareholder meeting.

Do the right thing when I am using gas: stop idling, and remind the person pumping my gas to not top off. More about why/how these small changes will mean that I am using slightly less gas and giving gas station workers a break at

The photo of the cleaned-up Gulf Coast pelican above is from the photostream that Greenpeace has up on Flickr. Thanks for all you’re doing over there, Greenpeace!

Actions Environment

Protect Oregon’s Air Quality and Family Farmers

Two groups I work with at my day job created action pages on today.

Oregon Toxics Alliance has an action page to tell DEQ to keep the ban on field burning that the 2009 Legislature passed. Their page explains the problems with field burning pretty well — these folks really know their stuff when it comes to clean air and water.

Back the Ban: Uphold Restrictions on Field Burning in Oregon

Then, just a couple hours later, I got a ping from Oregon Rural Action that they’ve created an action page to support the amendment to the new food safety bill in Congress. The bill is needed, but it’s going to saddle family farmers with crushing fees and regulatory hurdles. The farmers at my local farmers market should *not* be treated the same as DelMonte. So I signed that one too.

Keep Small Farms Safe in the Food Safety Bill

I’ve been blogging so much less, but pondering getting restarted — there’s just so much to say about what people are doing to change the world. I’ll either start posting again in earnest, or sign off for good.