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New cell phones danger to gorillas

A three-fold letter in the mailbox had me fooled the other day.
Advertising mail doesn’t make it into the house; rather, it is routinely consigned to a patio-stationed receptacle.
Yet, a deceiving, “official-looking” format of this piece, resembling notices the IRS might send, made it avoid the waste-paper bin that day.
It made a special offer for “Two phones and wireless service from AT&T,” each phone valued at $209.99, but free for the asking if request were made, via a toll-free number, by some specified date next month.
The unsought and unwanted offer raised a bunch of issues, one of which has to do with gorillas.
Their numbers in the African Congo region where they live have been plummeting for years.
As they are in danger of extinction–most of them critically so–the year 2009 was declared “The Year of the Gorilla” by the United Nations.
Unfortunately for the gorillas, they occupy a region rich in various minerals, tin, diamonds, gold and coltan among them, as the New Scientist reported in July 2009.
The last is a “rare mineral from which tantalum is extracted to make capacitors for cell phones,” the magazine noted.
A national park in the Congo Democratic Republic, among a few strongholds and sanctuaries for the gorilla, contains one of the world’s largest deposits of this ore.
When its market price rocketed in 2001, the park was invaded by thousands of illegal miners.
Its native animals, gorillas in particular, are paying with their lives for the uncounted millions of cell phones which entertainment and communications and advertising businesses are hawking to us, incessantly.
Then there’s the matter of trees lost, along with their water, climate, wildlife and other, non-wood benefits, for the pervasive, daily onslaught of catalogs and other junk mail.
The World Watch Institute estimated 41.5 billion pieces of junk mail were produced and distributed, just in the United States, during the year 2005.
The more than 100 million trees that were required to be cut down amount to forest loss larger than the entire Cherokee National Forest.
Much of this type of mail may find its way into recycling bins, but a large proportion ends up clogging landfills.
And the often ridiculous products being peddled may be but short-lived and wasteful, part of consumptive habits that fuel the environmental woes of the planet.
Who needs an $800 treadmill for one’s dog, though it may be “programmable for time and distance [and helpful in] curbing destructive behavior?”
A request to the Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association can significantly reduce the volume of unwanted mail.
As for cell phones and the gorillas they wipe out, “Think before buying a new cell phone,” New Scientist urges.
“If you must have a new one, recycle the old one to reduce demand for the mineral coltan.”
Eco-Sell, a United States company located in Edmond, Okla., recycles and provides cash for cell phones sent in to them.
The shipping is being prepaid by the company.