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Forum 4

Page history last edited by Luciana Caldeira 10 years, 6 months ago

Hi everyone


We've been talking about inventions and technologies and now we're starting a new topic through our book Top Notch. I got to the following article, which was written by Ken Wilson, a great teacher I have the pleasure to have in my PLN (Persona Learning Environment) and I've been learning a lot with him. This is the link to his blog where you can have very interesting articles about learning and teaching English, education and other relevant topics. Visit it and don't forget to leave a comment.


Well, I thought we could have a little discussion after reading his latest article:


So read it and post your first impressions.


The Human Cost of Being Connected




Does the name Foxconn ring any bells?

It’s the name of a company based in China that assembles iPads, iPhones and other electronic equipment. In fact, it’s the world’s largest manufacturer of computer components, producing items for Apple, Sony and Nokia and is the largest private employer in mainland China.

The owner is a man called Terry Gou, who started producing plastic parts for TV sets in a factory in Taiwan in 1974. At that time, the company employed ten workers. Mr Gou now employs nearly a million people and he’s in the top 150 world rich list, with a personal wealth of US$5.5 billion.

The Macbook Pro I’m working on may have come from a Foxconn factory. The iPhone4 that I bought a couple of weeks ago almost certainly did. If I succomb to the temptation of buying an iPad, chances are again, at least part of it will have been assembled by Foxconn in China.

About half of Foxconn’s Chinese workforce are based at its main facility in Shenzhen, a vast factory that is more than a square mile in size (2.59 square kilometres).

Is the name ringing any bells yet? It should do. The Shenzhen factory came to international attention in 2010. Here’s an extract from an article from the French news agency AFP explaining why:

At least thirteen Foxconn employees died in apparent suicides last year (2010), which labour rights activists blamed on tough working conditions in a case that highlighted the challenges faced by millions of Chinese factory workers.

The group Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) … said many Foxconn employees worked 80 to 100 hours of OVERTIME a month on top of their regular 174 hours, which the report said was more than three times China’s legal limit.

“Most of the workers want more overtime work because the basic salary is not enough for survival,” said SACOM, which said the workers earn about $200 a month, including overtime.

Foxconn’s reaction to the suicides? They put safety nets between the different factory buildings.

The nets between the buildings at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen

In an article on wired.com/magazine in February 2011, Joel Johnson described a visit to the Shenzhen factory.

It’s hard not to look at the nets. Every building is skirted in them. They drape every precipice, steel poles jutting out twenty feet above the sidewalk, loosely tangled like volleyball nets in winter.

The nets went up in May, after the eleventh jumper in less than a year died here. They carried a message: You can throw yourself off any building you like, as long as it isn’t one of these. And they seem to have worked. Since they were installed, the suicide rate has slowed to a trickle.

However, the report adds a rather gruesome note:

When one jumper left a note explaining that he committed suicide to provide for his family, the program of remuneration for the families of suicide victims was canceled.

While you’re mulling over the implications of all that, here’s another question: do you know what coltan is? Until last week, I’d never heard of it, now I wish I didn’t know…

Coltan is the industrial name for columbite-tantalite, a black metallic mineral from which the elements niobium and tantalum are extracted. Tantalum is used to manufacture electronic capacitors, used in consumer electronics products such as –you’ve guessed it – computers and cell phones (also DVD players and video games systems).

Coltan is only found in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in a small region of Tanzania. It doesn’t exist anywhere else.

Child workers at a coltan mine

According to the stopchildslavery.com website, an estimated two million Congolese children are forced to work in underground mines, digging coltan by hand. It’s also possible that the export of coltan from DR Congo to European and American markets is helping to finance the civil war there.

I know, I know, there are scary stories about everything we consume, whether it’s food, electronics or clothing. But sometimes a story, two stories in this case, make you want to pause and reflect on stuff you buy.

You’re all reading this on computers, so we’re all part of the problem. Any suggestions how we can live a more guilt-free life and still be connected?

Many thanks to Sara Hannam for reminding me of the Foxconn story, and to Sue Lyon-Jones for bringing the coltan story to my attention.

Comments (27)

Ana Isabel Mansur said

at 8:37 pm on May 26, 2011

It's really shocking that in 21st century we still have such this kind of slavery and humiliation. Where are we going to stop? Money is not everything!

Matheus said

at 10:14 am on May 27, 2011

I can't stand this billionaire people that obtain so much profit by the expense of poor people that survive with almost any money, suffering starvation, with no time to their family and did'nt feel any guilt. In my opinion they sould be more human and offer to these people more dignity in teir work. It won't be a great coast for them(the rich ones) but certainly will be a great favor for these poor people.

Luciana Caldeira said

at 3:44 pm on Jun 3, 2011

Hi Matheus,

Just some details.

I can't stand this billionaire people that obtain so much profit by the expense of poor people that survive with almost any (no) money, suffering starvation, with no time to their family (families) and did'nt (never feeling) feel any guilt (guilty). In my opinion they sould (should) be more human and offer to these people more dignity in teir (their) work. It won't be a great coast for them(the rich ones) but certainly will be a great favor for these poor people.


Thais said

at 9:25 am on May 30, 2011

Sometimes people can be so proudless. I think they only think about themselves. Seems that as much money they get more they want.

Luciana Caldeira said

at 3:40 pm on Jun 3, 2011

Hi Thais,
Just a detail.

Sometimes people can be so proudless. I think they only think about themselves. Seems that as much money they get more they want.(It's better to say: The more money they have, the more they want)


Thais said

at 7:29 pm on Jun 24, 2011



at 6:08 pm on Jun 3, 2011

It´s hard to see things like that! At first I feel like to stop buying that stufs, but it will not solve that problem! That rich entrepreneurs have much money and they can buy everyone to keep exploring poor people. So, what should we (normal people, who have no influence) have to do? Perhaps sending e-mails about that newspaper article ro friend; maybe talking about that with parents and family. Disseminating slowly. Maybe this can become a big movement agaist these especific exploration! I´m realy shocked no authority knows about that. But an authorities who are envolved with human hights could see that and do something that realy solves!!!


at 6:17 pm on Jun 3, 2011

-These rich businessman
-to friends

Raianne LC said

at 8:28 pm on Jun 13, 2011

When we stop to think about our life and what we consume, we get crazy.

That's why I prefer living with my blessed ignorance.

Julia da Silva said

at 4:18 pm on Jun 20, 2011

Well, it reminded me a saturday that we are discussing about some words like money, beauty and society. Of course society had a great improovement, it's impossible, comparing nowadays with centuries ago, say that we are at the same way. But, at the same time, every day we discover that we are far from a happy society. It's sad, see that in some aspects we don't change so much.The author wrote about one aspect: communication. But we have to think that it happens with all, or almost all, the things that we consume. Probably, some of our clothes, shoes or jewelry were made with the work of children or even adults, that are living with nothing, that never will have those things that they are dying to do. But the problem is not having these things, the problem is HOW MANY OF THESE THINGS I NEED? We are sad and shocked by this information, but we will think before our next shopping? I bought a new cell phone a few weeks ago, but I am not felling bad, just because I used my last cell phone for six years before I bougt another one. How many people do this today? How many people buy things when they need them and not when they want them? People are explored in the world because the businessmen know that there are people stupid enough to buy anything absolutely unnecessary just because it is the newest model. We have to stop thinking and begin acting.

wandrieli said

at 4:56 pm on Jun 21, 2011

It is really sad how can exist people living without food or important things while there are others with so many and always want more. How many people have died because of these stuff things? I think a lot of people, so why we continue buying things that we don't need? If we buy just important things maybe we can help some of these people, but I know we will continue buying all new technology and all new stuff things, because It is fashion or just for to buy!

Davi Ângelo do Rêgo Negreiros said

at 7:42 pm on Jun 21, 2011

Oh God I really feel guilty now for all this situation, I just stopped now to think about it, this pc that I’m touching right now maybe have killed lots of kids in Africa and helped lots of Chinese people to commit suicide, that’s the capitalism problem, the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, thing about it

Heloísa Ravena said

at 12:25 am on Jun 22, 2011

unhappyly this happens in many places, and many of these still are unknown. nowadays, we all need the time technologies and are dependents of it. We don't have much what to do because we are minority, but we need to have the conscience of that everything what we use having a price beyond the money. we always see people who want more money that they need, so they put their lifes at risk and the lives of another people. the money still moves the world.
I agree with everybory here. And as Ana Isabel sad: "money is not everything!"

Lucas Rodrigues Silva said

at 12:57 am on Jun 22, 2011

If they do this to sell, it's because there's people enough to buy. In my opinion, it's is impossible just to say 'hey, let's burn all the eletronics at our houses' and the world would be beatiful again. Actually, the problem goes further. I'm not saying that just for having all of these apparatus is causing this. I'm saying that it would be solved if the consume wasn't in the scale it is. But to change the actual situation would be necessary heavy publicity and advertisement telling people not to buy more eletronics than they really need. Unfortunatelly, that's not how the world goes, bro ...

Rebecca said

at 10:48 am on Jun 22, 2011

Many people are being rich with the slave labor. These people are wrong, cause' they know that this kind of work doesn't contribute to the lives of workers, especially for the children's lives. But, who buys products produced by slave labor, is more worng, cause' is contributing to this continuing.

Nathália Melo said

at 3:30 pm on Jun 24, 2011

I agree with Rebecca..But we need to say that when we buy a product most of us don't know how this product is made..So that is a problem that involves all society into something that is archaic and that is still happening because there are archaic people in the world.


at 6:34 pm on Jun 22, 2011

I totaly agree with Lucas, it´s impossible, nowadays, just tell to people to stop buying eletronics! We need all that stuffs and it´s hypocrisy say we´ll stop buying! Actually it´s an capitalism problem like Davi said, but it´s just a problem because in the capitalism people normally are worry about their problems and do anything to solve others problems. Of course there are lovelly people who do things to help others, but they are minority and can´t solve all world´s concerns! And like I said before, I think we can do something: send e-mails and show to people what´s happening...maybe some authority can see and do something... We have to believe in that!!!
Ok, so, teacher, do you have an portuguese version of these article? I´m not able to translate... But I want to send e-mails...

Lucas Rodrigues Silva said

at 2:50 am on Jun 23, 2011

*there're people. sorry (:

Jaime said

at 5:25 pm on Jun 23, 2011

Electronic devices are now indispensable to humanidade.So what can we do to stop these inhuman acts described in the text?!first when shopping electronics devices, find out its origin. Second, did a good supervision and lastly to create laws and stricter punishments for these types of acts. Doing things, this probably would not be such problems. I will use to finish the speech of Ana Manser,"Money is not everything"!

Davi Ângelo do Rêgo Negreiros said

at 8:13 pm on Jun 23, 2011

You are right, but unfortunately not everybody think on this way, if we stop to think about it, everything we are doing now, this English course or our regular classes are preparing us to work and consequently make money and spend money, the solution is blow up everything (just kidding) and hope to the following generation build something better than us.

Davi Ângelo do Rêgo Negreiros said

at 8:18 pm on Jun 23, 2011

And the companies do everything to release a new product faster, just like the iPad: last year the iPad was released, just come the 2º generation few months after and now they are producing the 3º generation so if you are planning to buy an iPad wait a little more.

Laís Gomes said

at 1:11 am on Jun 24, 2011

I can’t stand this situation; it is so unreal and unbelievable. These people dying because of money, nobody can live in this inhuman condition, working more than their body can stand. And selling their lives for a remuneration that the suicide victims’ families receive because of their death. But the real author of these suicides is the business men and not us, the consumers. We buy because we need and we don't know where the products are produced and by who. This is a complicated situation because, sometimes these business men have a great influence in the politics and the society, so the only way to help this people is to find out where the products are produced and don´t buy when is in a irregular way. And another way to solve this is denounce them. We have a lot of old problems that we didn’t resolve in a long time, but we can resolve now, so let’s do this. Whenever we see something irregular, for example children working, we must expose. And this exploration won’t go finish if we don’t do anything. Because for them, what only matters is the money and they don’t care about how it’s going to happen.

Morgana Bennett said

at 1:00 pm on Jun 24, 2011

It's unbelievable something like that happens in the world!! This kind of people jus think about money and this is what the word is, the capitalism is this, the people don't care about the oters, they just want to have a lot of money, be very rich, and don't import how they make this money. It's disgusting!!

Júlia Contaifer said

at 3:08 pm on Jun 24, 2011

It's really shocking how people seem to have completely lost the notion in this capitalist world. How to allow children to work, even more in these conditions, on I work
that requires so much effort? Where are the human rights? Every culture knows the importance of playing in childhood in human development, and there are people that still
wanting to steal it from children. And what about the situation of employees who committed suicide? Even more outrageous is how the company positioned itself after all,
thinking that putting nets around the building would solve the problem, problem which the real cause the company seems to have ignored, the terrible working conditions.
A possible solution for this disgusting situation is to give these workers more dignity, the case may even be to create a section in the company intended to hear the opinion of the
workers about the policies employed, so that way all sides could be attended, and determine the salaries according to the level of the production for a more equal
division of the profits ... Well I think to finish, this part of the song Crazy of Simple Plan fits perfectly here :"Is everybody going crazy? Is anybody gonna save me? Can anybody tell
me what's going on?Tell me what's going on If you open your eyesYou'll see that something is wrong"

Thais said

at 7:35 pm on Jun 24, 2011

I agree with Raiane!
We need to know that things like that happen in the world, but we cannot stop to consume.
Oh, I was wondering about China and their economy that is growing up day by day. Their workers are almost slaves.

Mercaldi said

at 2:23 am on Jun 25, 2011

Ok, this will get a little hypocritical and why not say weird, 'cause I'm typing this text from my Galaxy Tab, and unfortunately it's to hard in these days finding people who don't use any gadget, can be phone, tabs, computers, and I believe the most widespread since our grandparents THE television ...

And since the beginnings of human, always have someone to take advantage of consumers (like me) who would have all the possible gadget in hands ...

Well, I ended up changing the focus of the text, who ends up treating more about slavery than their own consumption ...

Unfortunately there are people that don't care to the another people, but only care about their own personal property, as richness and power ...
He does not want to know if your employees have a family, but how much that family guy can give to him, how many houses he'll leave his product paying his employees as minimum as possible...

So, this forum is another very controversial issue, because unfortunately we are slaves of our own desires for consumption. and situations like this will not stop, maybe reduce, but i guess not stop.

bruna said

at 12:34 am on Jul 1, 2011

This text was chocking at the first time I saw and still being. Its incredible that nowadays we still have people and company that doesn't care to their employees. They don't care about people. They just care about their navels, about their money and their superfluous lives. I think it's worth the digital evolution of the world in the hands of people like that.
The "small" costs that we pay for digital inclusion is certainly not paying the lives lost in this process. No price one pays life, or her suffering.

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