January 27, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Cell phones vs. Gorillas

It took me years before I finally started using a cellular telephone on a regular basis, and I still think they hinder effective interpersonal communication as much as they enhance it. As with most such technological advances, there are some collateral environmental issues to think about. It happens that cell phone circuit boards rely upon a particular rare metal alloy called Coltan, which stands for Columbite-Tantalite, which is composed of the elements Niobium (atomic number 41) and Tantalum (atomic number 73, in the same valence column, the next row down in the Periodic Table). Most Coltan is mined in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (ex-Zaire), which is where one of the few remaining populations of Mountain Gorillas live. Unless someone can figure out how to allocate some of the vast revenues earned by the cell phone industry to protect that precious wildlife habitat, Mountain Gorillas may become extinct. See cellular-news.com; hat tip to Connie.