Additional Information About Challenging the Chip
Mat Bewig’s Review on Challenging the Chip
“The book identifies three core concerns with the industry. First, electronic products are manufactured using more than a thousand toxic chemicals known to cause cancer, miscarriages, asthma and/or other health problems. Second, the industry’s profit strategy of “planned obsolescence” has caused an explosion in the number of electronics products that are replaced and discarded each year at a rate faster than they can be responsibly recycled. Third, actual product manufacturing has been shifted to low-wage countries with weak labor and environmental laws, which yields bad occupational and public health and continued poverty.” – Mat Bewig
New Wave of Technology
Hightower argues: “A new wave of technology is sweeping the land. It is embodied in the tiny chips (and the computers they power) that are radically and rapidly transforming our world — and, like the automobile, not always for the better.”
Story of the ‘Dark Side of the Chip’
This book narrates the story of how the high-tech industry grew in the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” (before the place got renamed to Silicon Valley) and how Santa Clara Valley fruit-processing workers such as Alida Hernandez got reinvented into “clean room” workers. This “deplorable pattern is still bing replicated around the world”.
Stories of Electronics Workers Suffering Toxic Exposures
This book argues that “far too (words) have been addressed to the downside of the (electronics industry’s) revolution”. Its co-editors, in a signed article titled ‘The Quest for Sustainability and Justice in a High-Tech World’, say: “Although most consumers are eager to enjoy their latest computers, televisions, cellular phones, iPods, and electronic games, few relate the declining prices of these and other electronic technologies to the labor of Third World women, who are paid pennies a day.”
Other issues focussed on by the co-editors include environmental degradation, occupational health hazards, and the “widespread ignorance” of the “health and ecological footprints of the global electronics industry.”
There are problems of contamination by hi-tech manufacturing (of workers, air, land, and water) from all around — Silicon Valley in the US, Silicon Glen in Scotland, Silicon Island in Thailand, and Silicon Paddy in China. It contrasts the reality between the “CEOs and upper management” drawing “multimillion-dollar salaries and ‘golden parachutes’” as against the reality of the production workers living in packed dormitories and often facing sweatshop conditions.
Unsung Heroines and Heroes
Globalization of Electronics, Labor Rights, Product End-of-Life
In terms of global electronics, the book focuses on Silicon Valley (where the US electronics industry’s roots lie, and which has a three-decade history of community and worker dialogue and struggle). It also looks at electronics manufacturing in China, India, Thailand, and Central and Eastern Europe.
In terms of labour rights and “environmental justice”, the book looks at the stories of workers and environmentalists taking up such issues — “work hazards, anti-union hostility, and environmental health perils” — in countries that range from the US, to Mexico, Scotland, and Thailand, among others.
E-waste issues get looked at in the context of trading or dumping from the North to South. “But as nations like India and China increasingly modernize, their own industries and consumers are contributing to the problems as well,” say the editors.
Failed to Keep Pace With Social and Environmental Advances
Downside Not Addressed
Comments on the Book
Jan Mazurek of the University of California at Los Angeles’s Department of Urban Planning and author of Making Microchips says that “contrary to high tech’s clean image, this pioneering work illustrates the industry’s environmental and economic downsides from the birthplace of Silicon Valley to the four corners of the globe to which the industry recently has spread”. Mazurek comments that this book is “told from the compelling and passionate perspective of workers and activists involved in these struggles.”