Is your big new flat-screen TV killing the planet?

It's Monday morning, so it's only fair that I post something disturbing and/or depressing. This piece from ClimateCheck's Pablo Päster definitely hits both those notes nicely:

What you are referring to is the use of nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) in manufacturing LCD televisions. Back in 1992, NF3 was seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to the ozone-damaging perfluorocarbons that the semiconductor industry used in the plasma etching of silicon wafers. While this change undoubtedly had an impact on the success of the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, the international agreement to plug the ozone hole, it is now being blamed for contributing to climate change. NF3 may not damage the ozone layer, but it has been shown to be 17,200 times worse for the climate than the main climate change culprit, carbon dioxide.

Great. While I was unaware of this particular pollutant, in general it's only realistic to assume that electronics manufacturing is still a very nasty and environmentally damaging process. That shiny new cellphone or portable music player that is giving off that lovely smell of new electronics was brewed in a toxic soup of solvents, chemical washes, and etching solutions. The people involved in it's manufacture have taken on an elevated risk of disease related to increased exposure to these compounds. The area of their making has probably been polluted - 'Silicon Valley' is one of the most polluted places in America.

What struck me more than anything else in the piece was the data on an increase of average size in televisions. To anyone who's read 'Fahrenheit 451', this kind of behavior will seem awfully familiar. "Honey, why can't we have a fourth television wall? Our neighbors have had one for ages."

Given the opportunity for more inches at the same cost, humans will opt for the bigger set every time. We now have upgraded signals and pipes to deliver the pixels for all that viewing area, and anyone who thinks that HDTVs current maximum (at 3840×2160, it's a lot of data) is the end of resolution upgrades to the TV signal deserves to be poked gently in the eye with a pointed stick. Don't be silly. There's no logical end to this particular path.

Still, I'm not going to beat myself up while watching movies in HD on my 37 Toshiba. It's just too nice an experience for that.


alex said...

Yeah, but Dancing With The Stars can only get so good...

-unabomber out

deprogram said...

Dancing with the Stars can never be anything but awful. I don't know what's wrong with people.