Today we release Wake Up Call, a short animation unpacking the lifecycle of electronics, the system that drives this, and the impact that our grave modern addiction is having on Earth. Award-winning animator Steve Cutts, who rose to fame last year with the release of acclaimed animation, MAN, has designed the animation.

Wake Up Call uses comic absurdity and a fanciful nightmare scene to lead the viewer to the stark realisation that we all urgently need to wake up call and challenge this destructive system.

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The animation offers audiences a funny, fast-paced and frantic exploration of the social and ecological atrocities and the toxic legacy of gadgets such as Smartphone’s and laptops. From environmental destruction and contamination caused by extraction and exploitative working conditions during production, to the mountains of e-waste being shipped abroad, the animation follows the birth, life and death of everyday gadgets, revealing their true cost to the planet and to future generations.

Liz Hosken, Director of The Gaia Foundation says, “There are now more mobile phones on the planet than there are humans, and when we look around at our addiction and behaviour, we cannot deny the absurdity of it all. Wake up Call uses humor to make us look at ourselves, but also to highlight the real devastation caused at every stage of the production and use of these gadgets. Key drivers of this growth are the surge in consumerism and an increasingly throwaway culture, fuelled by marketing and delusions of necessity; and encouraged by the built-in obsolescence of our electronic gadgets.”

The animation follows the release of two reports – Short Circuit (2013) and Opening Pandora’s Box (2012) – by The Gaia Foundation and allies, both of which explore the impact of mining, how mining is a major driver of land grabbing globally, and the costs of this technology on a finite planet.

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“The animation reminds us that these gadgets are made from the body of the Earth, from minerals and metals evolved over millions of years; something which their shiny appearance belies. Our increased connectivity through communications masks our total disconnection with the Earth, our one and only source of life,” adds Hosken.

Online materials accompanying the animation help unpack the story with alarming statistics, as well as provide campaigns and initiatives which are supporting the active resistance of this destructive system. These materials provide audiences with ways in which they can engage in a new movement for fairer technology and reduced consumption.

Short Circuit Report

Short Circuit – The Lifecycle of our Electronic Gadgets and the True Cost to Earth (2013), the report which inspired the animation, is available here.

Pandora’s Box Report

Opening Pandora’s Box – The New Wave of Land Grabbing by the Extractive Industries and the Devastating Impact on Earth (2012),is available here.

Endorsements for the Short Circuit report, which inspired Wake Up Call:

“This report will touch the consciences of all who read it. It is vital, therefore, that it has the widest possible distribution because it relates to areas of our daily lives that are growing out of all proportion. It has become an assumed and unquestioned necessity for which we crave impatiently – the latest electronic gadget, the 4G upgrade we apparently can’t do without. The need for speed. Rarely do we consider the extractive processes that have had to be engaged, the energy consumed, the e-waste created. The ‘instant’ as well as ‘the medium’ has now become ‘the message’. It is a virtual reality which has to be unmasked.”

Michael Mansfield QC

“The Short Circuit report highlights a great irony relating to our modern phones and gadgets – the more connected we appear to be, the greater our disconnect with the planet. It shows us that we live in an alienating society, disconnected from the lifecycles of the Earth’s gifts which we consume as mass produced, commoditized and quickly obsolete consumer products. Can these compensate for our lost connection to nature and community? Let us rediscover our gratitude for the gifts of Earth and life, so that we can live more richly even as we consume less.”

Charles Eisenstein, author of Sacred Economics.

“Those that have had the sad experience of walking the e-waste dumps of China, Ghana or Nigeria, know well that our once loved e-products have made a vile toxic pile on another’s doorstep. The fact that this techno-trash graveyard is out of sight for the vast majority of us consumers, is no justification for it to be out of our minds. Globalization, and global information must no longer be an engine and excuse for a digital global dump. I commend the Short Circuit report for shedding much-needed light on the entire life-cycle of our electronic hardware addiction and boldly proposing new design paradigms and consumer habits to remake the electronics industry.”

Jim Puckett, Executive Director Basel Action Network.

“The Short Circuit report reminds us just how short sighted we’re all being. Our insatiable desire to consume, our obsession with owning ‘stuff’, our need to look the same as one another, like some sort of social identikit with the latest smart-phone, all these things are driving us to acts of madness as we devour the very planet we need for our survival. Future generations will look back at our behaviour in disbelief, I’m certain. Be proud to dress differently, choose to buy something which is quality and will last, think about whether or not you really ‘need’ it in the first place. Join the climate revolution and say no to the system which promotes this lifestyle and forces it upon us.

Dame Vivienne Westwood

“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.” 

Julian Kirkby, Friends of the Earth’s Resource Use Campaigner