Death by Design

73 min. and 57 min. (classroom version). Bullfrog Films. 2017. $360. $95 (rental). ISBN 1941545718.
Gr 9 Up—Viewers may rethink their attachment to their smartphones, laptops, and tablets after watching this powerful documentary about the toxic environmental and human costs of manufacturing this technology. The filmmakers discuss the poisonous materials that go into making computers. They then explore the high rates of illness and death for those who worked in Silicon Valley at the start of the personal computer boom, and they investigate lawsuits filed against IBM because of the high corporate mortality rate. Teens will learn that factory employees at Apple, which manufactures its products in China, killed themselves because of the stress of their jobs. China is also where discarded electronics end up, literally hacked apart and burned, polluting the air, ground, and water. And the pollutants do not stay in China but travel on air currents across the world. All is not bleak, however. The film looks at a small Irish company that builds green, sustainable computers. It also examines cleaner manufacturing in China with a U.S. company that encourages consumers to fix devices themselves instead of buying new. As the end credits roll, person-on-the-street interviews offer sustainable ideas anyone can try, such as upgrading less often and being willing to pay more for environmentally friendly devices.
VERDICT A useful film for environmental science and business classes where students are studying companies' global impact.

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