A new report, launched today in Westminster by The Gaia Foundation and allies, exposes the social and ecological atrocities and the toxic legacy of gadgets such as smartphones and laptops. From environmental destruction and contamination caused by extraction, exploitative working conditions during production, to the mountains of e-waste being shipped abroad, the report follows the birth, life and death of everyday gadgets and reveals their true cost to the planet and to future generations.

Download and read the full report here!

Tickets are still available for tonight’s launch event in Hampstead, North London. Find out more and book tickets.


The report, Short Circuit – The Lifecycle of our Electronic Gadgets and the True Cost to Earth, follows the release of the 2012 report Opening Pandora’s Box, which exposed the alarming scale and rate of growth of the extractive industries and the disastrous ecological impact that this is having, whilst also triggering more land-grabbing and community displacement across the world. Short Circuit turns our attention to a key driver of this growth – the surge in consumerism and an increasingly throw-away culture, fuelled by marketing and illusions of necessity, and supported by the built-in obsolescence of our electronic gadgets.

As Liz Hosken, Director of The Gaia Foundation explains: “With the number of mobile-connected devices projected to exceed the number of humans on Earth by the end of 2013, Short Circuit reminds us that these gadgets are made from the body of the Earth – something which their shiny appearance belies. Our increased connectivity through communications masks our total disconnection with the Earth, our one and only life source. No sooner are these minerals and metals mined and processed into gadgets, they are discarded and upgraded in favour of the next ‘generation’. With every new generation of phone or computer we devour and toxify more of the Earth, which has already been destabilized by the impact of industrial society over the last few centuries, triggering both climate change and mass extinction. If we care for the future of our children, we cannot allow this destructive system to continue. Short Circuit shows us there is another way, by establishing a circular economy, which respects our planets boundaries and life processes. This report calls the alert and appeals for us all to respond.”

The Short Circuit report tells the story of a mobile phone’s “birth” (involving land grabs, conflict, toxic wastelands and poor worker conditions); an ever-shorter “life” (fuelled by planned obsolescence and rapid upgrades); to its wasteful “death” (the vast majority of electronic waste ends up in landfill or is shipped to toxic “digital dumps” in the Global South).

Friends of the Earth, who recently launched their Make it Better campaign calling for companies to come clean about their supply chains and impact of production, have collaborated on this report. Julian Kirby, FoE’s resource use campaigner comments, “the Short Circuit Report lays out in stark detail the costs to people and nature of our rampant extraction of primary resources. We should all think about our shopping choices and consumption patterns, but as this report reveals, the legacy of these gadgets was determined when manufacturers decided how to design their products and how to manage those supply chains. It is the governments we elect to regulate to protect our health, rights and homes, who should be most spurred by this report to make real, lasting change to the way these products are made and marketed. And it is for the rest of us to use it as inspiration to help ensure that that change happens.”

The closing section of the report considers the mounting evidence showing that accumulating more ‘stuff’ does not make us happy, and therefore how can we transition our culture into one that is more just, viable and fulfilling. The report brings together a number of initiatives which set out a different path, and explores ways in which we can reduce our consumption and change our production system in order to radically reduce the need to mine the Earth. It calls on us all to make this transition happen.

Read more about the report and where we go from here.

Press Release – Westminster Launch of Short Circuit Report

Book tickets for tonight’s launch event Disconnecting from Consumerism: Embracing a ‘New Materialism’ & Re-imagining our Relationship with I.T.