What is the Environmental Impact of our technological desires?

By Tom Stockton 19.12.17

A question, the smartphone or laptop on which you're reading this article, what is it made of? The most likely answer is that you don't know. Without even knowing the materials involved, it's impossible to understand the true cost of technology beyond its price tag. It's this phenomenon that 'Digital Matters: The Earth behind the Screen' at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art on Thomas Street seeks to explore. The exhibition's Chinese framing is of particular relevance due to the country's rapid growth of new technologies in recent decades.


Vistors are challenged by works questioning both the omnipotence of screens in today's world and underlining the environmental and social costs of their production and disposal in the Chinese context. Particularly striking facts underline that the average smartphone uses 8 rare earth materials and creates up to 300g of toxic waste. The sheer scale of these challenges are underlined both environmentally, the UN estimates that 4 million personal computers are disposed of annually in China from all over the world creating a mountain of e-waste, and socially, 90% of the world's circuit boards are handmade by workers who earn as little as £200 a month.


As well as these challenging statistics, the exhibition lays bare the scale of technology through the world and our increasing reliance on the latest advances. Overall showing a different picture behind the screen on which you watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster. 


Digital Matters: The Earth behind the Screen is open for visitors daily at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art on Thomas Street until 4th February 2018.