Monday, October 10, 2011

A Modest Proposal*

If our cell phones are why Congolese are dying, shouldn't we just stop buying them? Or would that be asking too much of Americans? Why is it easier to ask Congolese to forgo their livelihood than to ask Americans to sacrifice their ipods?

*I realized after I published this post that I didn't actually get around to proposing anything. In my defense, there's a proposal embedded in there somewhere--though one probably not as modest as Swift's.

1 comment:

  1. OK, this one is quite easy.

    1. Our cellphones are not "why Congolese are dying" - obviously the link is much more complicated than that, and here is not the place to go into that. Jason Stearns explains why the conflict in the east is about much more than minerals, and taking away the mineral exporting would change dynamics but not necessarily resolve all the conflict (as currently, for example - I'm in South Kivu and I don't see any reduction of violence under the DF embargo). Minerals tracking needs to be part of more comprehensive peace-building initiatives.

    2. Read Coltan by Michael Nest, who actually looks at the real figures rather than believing random numbers without sources, and finds Congo pre-DF supplied at maximum 20% of the world's coltan supply. DRC coltan supply is easily substitutable by other sources, which is why DF has had such an immediate effect.

    3. If indeed our cellphones were why Congolese were dying, Americans reducing their buying electronics would have pretty much zero effect on that - Congolese coltan would be purchased anyway but the overall global demand would be a little lower, both for Congo and for other exporting countries. Which would not really change anything in Congo.