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The Camera Industry & The Environment
Old 10-28-2019   #1
Brian Atherton
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The Camera Industry & The Environment

I will keep this as short as possible…

Fuji’s new X-Pro3 with its resource and energy hungry, difficult to manufacture, titanium top and bottom body plates got me thinking.

Judging by their publicity, with the notable exception of recyclable packaging materials and online only manuals, camera manufacturers, compared to, say, mobile phone manufacturers, appear to pay scant regard to the environment - in fact the trend is the opposite (exotic glass formulations, electronic circuits in lenses becoming the norm, batteries, titanium and advanced coatings). A sweeping statement but I trust you get my drift.

I am guessing that the vast majority of photographers - me included - don’t put environmental issues at the top of their list of considerations when choosing a new camera or lens (deliberately I’m taking the used market out of the equation).

So…

Shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t we make this a higher priority?
Am I being hard (and wrong) with my opinion about the camera industry?
If not, shouldn’t we be more demanding and more openly critical of the camera industry and its environmental impact?

Discuss.
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Old 10-28-2019   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Atherton View Post
Judging by their publicity, with the notable exception of recyclable packaging materials and online only manuals, camera manufacturers, compared to, say, mobile phone manufacturers, appear to pay scant regard to the environment...
Well, looking beyond the CSR blather for something more concrete, there's this:

https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/p...ycling-program

https://eridirect.com/sony/

http://www.panasonic.com/environment...electronic.asp
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Old 10-28-2019   #3
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To answer your questions in the order you have asked them.........

Shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t we make this a higher priority?
Maybe.
But it all comes down to proportionality. Is real damage being done by using a few grams of titanium per camera? I somehow seriously doubt it. With the power of social media giving voice to every tin pot "activist" in the land, people tend to get carried away with fads. One such fad for example is global climate change where zealots are conflating the fact that climate does change (and some of this is anthropogenic) to argue that we must essentially overturn and destroy the civilizations built over the past 2,000 years or we will "all be dead in the next 10 years." Even while giving a pass to other countries that are doing much more damage objectively - presumably for politically correct reasons. In today's climate where people are constantly having a new moral panic about something that 5 minutes ago no one had ever even heard of or thought of, this stuff happens all the time. A new day - a new panic. And us "chicken littles" (the parable about the sky falling") are expected to just fall into line or be told we are "deniers". Never the less we are told we must take on the new cause (whatever it might be) without any real evidence - just because its the "moral thing to do". Sorry but I am calling B.S. on that!

Am I being hard (and wrong) with my opinion about the camera industry?

My answer is simple. Show me the evidence that camera companies are causing significant environmental problems. If they are I have never heard of it. So - show me the evidence. Don't sit in an ivory tower (not you specifically but us generally) and complain that they are not being 'environmental enough" in the absence of real evidence of real damage. It is not enough to be ideological or doctrinaire and argue that they "should be" better just....... "because". And it is not good enough to go looking for a fight with them just because this is a hobby horse that you buy into and you therefore think everyone else should too.

If not, shouldn’t we be more demanding and more openly critical of the camera industry and its environmental impact?

In the absence of that evidence I say we should not be. We live in a free world (theoretically though thanks to cranks and activists it's becoming less free by the second) and in a free world people and firms should be able to do their business without busybodies telling them how to do it and what to do absent any evidence of damage. In Australia we have the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act which I happen to know something about. It is predicated on the idea that firms should be free to carry out their business unless evidence can be shown of significant environmental damage that cannot be ameliorated or compensated for. In other words firms should not be constantly hectored about not being 'woke" enough environmentally though they might be stopped doing something specific that does cause significant environmental damage as the Act defines it.
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Old 10-28-2019   #4
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I'm not into this stuff, but aren't lithium batteries (processing, mining, shipping, and disposal) the worst for the environment? A camera battery is nothing compared to a Tesla battery.

We have been plagued with wild fires here in California for a couple of years (you all know the reasons; poor management) but many lithium battery cars have been victims of the fires, and yet no concern about proper disposal.
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Old 10-28-2019   #5
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Try researching "life cycle assessment" to learn more about the impacts of photographic product production. I found an article on digital vs. film that finds that there are tradeoffs but neither is obviously safer:

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/bc4...9fd7f5c9f7.pdf
"Life Cycle Assessment of Film and Digital Imaging Product System Scenarios International Conference on Life Cycle Engineering"
Bert Bras, Jay Mathewson, Michael C. Muir

Here's Canon's LCA: https://global.canon/en/environment/lca/index.html

One of the sad things about PR material or advertising that gives you a "factory tour" is that all of the people wearing "protective" garments are usually not very well protected from toxic chemicals. The thing being protected is the part being manufactured.
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Old 10-28-2019   #6
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I hope that camera/lens/equipment manufacturers minimize the pollution that they create.
I also hope that photographers using film are doing something with the chemical waste their activity generates beside dumping it into the public waste stream. Where I live, what you dump into the household drain and toilet ends up in the Pacific Ocean.
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Old 10-29-2019   #7
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Until proven otherwise, I'll assume that camera makers are as bad as any industry. Yes, we should pressure them to do better, but there's little leverage because in choosing such specialized tools, other criteria will always be more important to selecting one. Photography isn't where I'd start worrying about my environmental impact. Very few of us buy cameras by the dozen anyway, so there are other parts of our lives where changes have greater impact.
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Old 10-29-2019   #8
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As far as I know, titanium is one of the better metals to make things out of in terms of re-usability and toxicity.

Plastics would have to be one of the worst.
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Old 10-29-2019   #9
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Excuse me, but with cameras, lenses I’m highest environmentalist.
I’m using cameras, lenses for decades. Same cameras and lenses.
Leica is most environmentally friendly manufacturer I ever know. They support cameras made in fifties.
I also use second hand cameras, not buying every new Fuji just because it is new Fuji.
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Old 10-29-2019   #10
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Well done Ko.Fe. you deserve a medal. This said, during the heyday of film photography -at a time when environmental issues were not on the agenda, the dumping of massive amounts of chemicals must have been a real problem.
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Old 10-29-2019   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ko.Fe. View Post
Leica is most environmentally friendly manufacturer I ever know. They support cameras made in fifties.

I'd only believe that if they didn't currently have a full line of modern digitals, of all sizes and shapes for all kinds of shooters.
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Old 10-29-2019   #12
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Well done Ko.Fe. you deserve a medal. This said, during the heyday of film photography -at a time when environmental issues were not on the agenda, the dumping of massive amounts of chemicals must have been a real problem.
From environmental perspective non-film cameras might be worse than film.
Batteries are not something which is growing on or under trees.

https://www.envirotech-online.com/ne...ironment/46953
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Old 10-29-2019   #13
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Your reference to Leica's environmental durable history remains flawed. Film based photography had massive amounts of harmful chemicals dumped into our eco-systems.
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Old 10-29-2019   #14
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The camera industry is hardly even an industry at this point, barely even breathing. It and photographers have already suffered enough from regulations eliminating actual “exotic glass” formulations.
The world has legitimate environmental concerns, Fuji using titanium instead of magnesium for top plates cannot possibly be considered to be one of them. Wild eyed activists making a nuisance of themselves at camera manufacturer shareholder meetings, bringing “pressure” with ill considered ideas about how to make better cameras cannot possibly “make the world a better place”.

Resource depletion and pollution, and possibly CO2 generation, are real problems. They won’t be solved, or materially affected in any way by nibbling around the edges. Instead of wasting time hassling irrelevant industries, spend it hassling those concerns at the top of the bad actor list, which in this case means China. Like the protesters in Hong Kong, the Uighers, and the Falun Gong are doing. And how’s that working out? The rest of us, safe at home, fretting about Fuji top plates, are doing nothing but virtue signaling. It’s not helpful to the environment or anything else. Understanding that would be one of the first things necessary if we really wanted to “help”. That’s harder, yes, but going after low hanging and irrelevant fruit like the camera industry does nothing which will materially help “the world” in any measurable, material way.
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Old 10-29-2019   #15
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There was an interesting discussion of "Film vs digital myths" written by Ron Mowrey on p.net and one interesting insight was that digital does have quite a sizeable footprint in the manufacturing as well. Particularly noted was the circuit doping processes and such, not only waste management concerns. Film got a lot of attention due the chemical usage but IIRC the latter days of Kodak it was much more strictly cared for.

Can't find the direct article, since photo.net has changed so much.

Personally my current roster of cameras is all used, an EPL2 I did buy new but is still kicking since 2012 and an EM5 that I bought used in great condition but may have its 6-7 years. The advantage of having reached that point of sufficiency is that the turnaround/upgrading cycle slows down a lot.

I do notice with film the amount of packaging and transportation involved, although cameras have very long lifespans and I do actually like the "obsolete VCR like" prosumer AF SLRs which go for a song nowadays. Sadly the consumer cameras such as most auto P&S aren't resilient and easily become waste when unrepairable.

Our camera club found out a government agency cleaning out their darkroom and we got quite many meters of decade old but very usable Ilford paper that now everyone can use. Likewise every once in a while some old equipment is found, and put to better hands if possible. Sad to see that being wasted.

I've been academically in the area of sustainability for part of this year and it is quite an interesting field.
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Old 10-29-2019   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Atherton View Post
Shouldn’t we? Shouldn’t we make this a higher priority?
Who's "We"?

Change starts with you, OP: How will you change your own behavior?
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Old 10-29-2019   #17
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Actually it is "we". The actions of a few well meaning individuals will do nothing. Humans have to learn that EVERYTHING is connected. This does not come easily to us. Affluent civilization is very good at "away"- meaning the actual cost of things is not apparent in the price, or in the local surroundings, or even on a human time scale. Makes it very difficult to understand the implications of things. Flush your toilet it goes away, the ramifications of cheap goods are away, and so on. Picking and choosing where work needs to be done is a red herring.
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Old 10-29-2019   #18
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Who's "We"?

Change starts with you, OP: How will you change your own behavior?
The collective ‘we’. Shorthand for us; you, me, our photographic community, photographers as consumers of photographic products.

Since you ask, and it’s a valid question, my behaviour with respect to the demands I make on the environment has changed or has been modified over the last seven years or so to consciously make less of an impact as I’ve become more educated and informed, eg I now eat less meat, I source longer lasting clothing from ethical companies, I walk and use public transport more, my home has been insulted to a high level etc and my energy usage has been cut by nearly half what it was five years ago, I have never owned a diesel car. On the negative side I love travel, so fly more than average.

Specifically in the photographic field, my principal hobby, my Leica and Rollei film equipment has all been purchased secondhand; films are processed and scanned, and printed out to a small degree on a jet printer. In the past they would have been wet-printed. For over thirty years I worked in a commercial black and white advertising darkroom and now shudder to think about the thousands of gallons of toxic chemicals quite legally put down the drain.

My X-Pro2 and lenses were purchased new but I am thinking seriously of not buying the new X-Pro3 body as in truth, the X-Pro2 is more than adequate for my needs. My heavily worked X-Pro2 might last another year or two, might not. When it comes to replacing it I may look in the secondhand market, rather than new. It’s a pleasant dilemma to have.

Thank you to everyone who is contributing to this thread; your views and thoughts are much appreciated and give me pause for thought.
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Old 10-29-2019   #19
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... my home has been insulted to a high level etc

Must be some of that wry British humor...
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Old 10-29-2019   #20
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Look at cameras relative to cell phones. 1.4 Billion cell phones made a year. What, 5,000 Fujis will be made? It's like worrying about someone who tossed a cigarette butt on the ground beside a land fill or a the fumes off a can of developer compared to 356,000,000,000 cars in the world spewing exhaust. Proportionality.

You want to worry about a 4" piece of titanium, and 1 gram of electronics in a lens?! Bwahahahah! Knock yourself out.
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Old 10-29-2019   #21
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You and I undoubtedly produce more pollution every year then any camera company. And that only considers those items we toss into our waste receptacles.


A few of us recycle a few things because we want to. But most don't even give it a second thought.


That big plastic dump in the middle of the ocean is caused by all of us and it doesn't look like anyone is in a big hurry to get rid of plastic.


We have become the culture of convenience and "blame the other guy."
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Old 10-29-2019   #22
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Must be some of that wry British humor...

?? Home insulation can save one serious chunk of energy consumption. Of course the environmental impact depends on what is used for insulation.
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Old 10-29-2019   #23
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The camera industry is hardly even an industry at this point, barely even breathing. It and photographers have already suffered enough from regulations eliminating actual “exotic glass” formulations.
The world has legitimate environmental concerns, Fuji using titanium instead of magnesium for top plates cannot possibly be considered to be one of them. Wild eyed activists making a nuisance of themselves at camera manufacturer shareholder meetings, bringing “pressure” with ill considered ideas about how to make better cameras cannot possibly “make the world a better place”.

Resource depletion and pollution, and possibly CO2 generation, are real problems. They won’t be solved, or materially affected in any way by nibbling around the edges. Instead of wasting time hassling irrelevant industries, spend it hassling those concerns at the top of the bad actor list, which in this case means China. Like the protesters in Hong Kong, the Uighers, and the Falun Gong are doing. And how’s that working out? The rest of us, safe at home, fretting about Fuji top plates, are doing nothing but virtue signaling. It’s not helpful to the environment or anything else. Understanding that would be one of the first things necessary if we really wanted to “help”. That’s harder, yes, but going after low hanging and irrelevant fruit like the camera industry does nothing which will materially help “the world” in any measurable, material way.

I quite agree with what you say about the camera industry being hardly relevant. So I'm sorry to single out your post. But I must disagree with the part underlined, that's a very comforting thing to tell ourselves, but as such very counterproductive. In fact "we" (the Western world) buy all those products that are made in China. And even with all this production for export, China isn't doing bad with emissions, per capita, at all compared to the West.

While I think that eventually politics need to get seriously involved, there is much we can do as individuals, and if you don't believe these changes are meaningful in their environmental impact, you should still understand that they would be an important signal to corporations and politics that the voters and consumers care. Things individuals can do don't revolve around photo equipment, but food, transportation and heating/AC are responsible for enormous parts of greenhouse gas emissions and most of us can do at least some initial changes with little cost to our comfort and account balance.
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Old 10-29-2019   #24
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?? Home insulation can save one serious chunk of energy consumption. Of course the environmental impact depends on what is used for insulation.

Its funny because of how he spelled it.
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Old 10-29-2019   #25
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Its funny because of how he spelled it.

I had to read it two more times... I'll get myself a beer from the fridge to loosen up a bit now.
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Old 10-29-2019   #26
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Li batteries are in everything from cars to cameras. It is mined mostly on south America. Procedure is strip mining, i.e. RUINS THE ENVIRONMENT.

It will be worse when we transition to green renewable. Sometimes the wind does not blow or sun does not shine. So now we need batteries.

I have spoken to a few scientists and they have nothing new for future except they are working on it.
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Old 10-29-2019   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retinax View Post
I quite agree with what you say about the camera industry being hardly relevant. So I'm sorry to single out your post. But I must disagree with the part underlined, that's a very comforting thing to tell ourselves, but as such very counterproductive. In fact "we" (the Western world) buy all those products that are made in China. And even with all this production for export, China isn't doing bad with emissions, per capita, at all compared to the West.

While I think that eventually politics need to get seriously involved, there is much we can do as individuals, and if you don't believe these changes are meaningful in their environmental impact, you should still understand that they would be an important signal to corporations and politics that the voters and consumers care. Things individuals can do don't revolve around photo equipment, but food, transportation and heating/AC are responsible for enormous parts of greenhouse gas emissions and most of us can do at least some initial changes with little cost to our comfort and account balance.
I’d basically agree with all of this, with one exception, this bit: “China isn't doing bad with emissions, per capita, at all compared to the West. That’s both undeniably true and completely misleading in this context. When the subject is pollution and gross industrial malfeasance, it’s total tonnage that matters to the environment, not per capita anything. “Per capita” is a dodge, and it’s why even legitimate statistics can be twisted to make a point that can’t honestly be made. China is still the world’s biggest polluter, by a huge margin, in every industry they touch, steady streams of Chinese propaganda notwithstanding. The information is out there if anyone is interested, but China is the worst enemy the world’s environment has ever had. Small example, China gets 70% of its electricity from coal fired plants, is the world’s largest burner of coal, and currently has 300 new coal fired plants in the works, each of which has a projected useful life of 50-60 years.
The industrialized West, on the other hand, is the cleanest and has been for some time, because The West is where the naval gazers live. Of course, as has been mentioned, the West’s contribution to the ugliness is not in what it produces, or how it produces it, but in what it buys, and how much it buys. Much of which is unnecessary. And what it buys comes from China. The West hardly produces anything any longer except sophomoric, world conquering ideas like Facebook.
Hectoring Fuji to stop using (plentiful) titanium won’t heal the world. Western nations boycotting Chinese goods until they cleaned up their act, which the Chinese have the (stolen) technology to to, might go some way to cleaning up the planet, and would be the most meaningful thing that “ the world” could do, but that’s been on the table for a long time and “the world” won’t do it.

All I was saying originally, and I know I seem like a troll, is that, in the whole overall scheme of things, how Fuji makes a few top plates is completely irrelevant, because as far as the environment is concerned it’s only the whole overall scheme of things that matters. And that’s not being addressed by “the world” because everybody is afraid of China, on the one hand, and everybody likes cheap doodads on the other. Living a hair shirt existence is more likely to make us feel better about our inherent righteousness than it is to save the whales. I know all the arguments, “what if everybody recycled their own urine to save water (not making that up), and so on, the world would be saved from imminent catastrophe”. True enough, but they won’t, and you’ll go to your grave as the guy who drank his own urine, rode a bicycle to work, and wore old clothes, while everyone else was at the pub with their mates having a laugh. Perhaps that’s the solution, cannot say it’s not, but I am unconvinced.
I use aluminum foil over and over until it falls apart, and saran wrap as well. I almost never buy an item of new clothing, (ask my wife), and I despise waste of any kind as a moral issue, but I don’t think any of that helps the Earth, personally, though am sympathetic to other viewpoints, having once held them myself.
Thanks for listening to my rant
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Old 10-29-2019   #28
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......<snip> So now we need batteries.

I have spoken to a few scientists and they have nothing new for future except they are working on it.
Batteries, ay, there’s the rub.
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Old 10-29-2019   #29
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Leica is most environmentally friendly manufacturer I ever know. They support cameras made in fifties.
Until you call them and they tell you they no longer support that model, but they will give you a discount on a new digital camera. It happened to me...twice.

Quote:
I also use second hand cameras, not buying every new Fuji just because it is new Fuji.
So, what do you think happens to those Fujis when a new one is bought? They go to the second hand market for people to buy. Let`s also remember that Fuji doesn`t sell as many cameras as Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc. so why single them out like they are doing something wrong?
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Old 10-29-2019   #30
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Our biggest problem on this planet is our level of consumption and discussing a camera manufacturer and how they may be impacting the environment with their process is admirable but pointless. The company that produces that camera is a corporate giant that has it's business interests widely spread.

As for doing our bit ... my philosophy in life is to think globally but act locally because the moment you think your individual input is having little effect you have become part of the problem.
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Old 10-29-2019   #31
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I’d basically agree with all of this, with one exception, this bit: “China isn't doing bad with emissions, per capita, at all compared to the West. That’s both undeniably true and completely misleading in this context. When the subject is pollution and gross industrial malfeasance, it’s total tonnage that matters to the environment, not per capita anything. “Per capita” is a dodge, and it’s why even legitimate statistics can be twisted to make a point that can’t honestly be made. China is still the world’s biggest polluter, by a huge margin, in every industry they touch, steady streams of Chinese propaganda notwithstanding. The information is out there if anyone is interested, but China is the worst enemy the world’s environment has ever had. Small example, China gets 70% of its electricity from coal fired plants, is the world’s largest burner of coal, and currently has 300 new coal fired plants in the works, each of which has a projected useful life of 50-60 years.
The industrialized West, on the other hand, is the cleanest and has been for some time, because The West is where the naval gazers live. Of course, as has been mentioned, the West’s contribution to the ugliness is not in what it produces, or how it produces it, but in what it buys, and how much it buys. Much of which is unnecessary. And what it buys comes from China. The West hardly produces anything any longer except sophomoric, world conquering ideas like Facebook.
Hectoring Fuji to stop using (plentiful) titanium won’t heal the world. Western nations boycotting Chinese goods until they cleaned up their act, which the Chinese have the (stolen) technology to to, might go some way to cleaning up the planet, and would be the most meaningful thing that “ the world” could do, but that’s been on the table for a long time and “the world” won’t do it.

All I was saying originally, and I know I seem like a troll, is that, in the whole overall scheme of things, how Fuji makes a few top plates is completely irrelevant, because as far as the environment is concerned it’s only the whole overall scheme of things that matters. And that’s not being addressed by “the world” because everybody is afraid of China, on the one hand, and everybody likes cheap doodads on the other. Living a hair shirt existence is more likely to make us feel better about our inherent righteousness than it is to save the whales. I know all the arguments, “what if everybody recycled their own urine to save water (not making that up), and so on, the world would be saved from imminent catastrophe”. True enough, but they won’t, and you’ll go to your grave as the guy who drank his own urine, rode a bicycle to work, and wore old clothes, while everyone else was at the pub with their mates having a laugh. Perhaps that’s the solution, cannot say it’s not, but I am unconvinced.
I use aluminum foil over and over until it falls apart, and saran wrap as well. I almost never buy an item of new clothing, (ask my wife), and I despise waste of any kind as a moral issue, but I don’t think any of that helps the Earth, personally, though am sympathetic to other viewpoints, having once held them myself.
Thanks for listening to my rant
I disagree because I have never heard an argument, let alone a convincing one, why nation states should be the bearer of a right to pollute or a duty to keep clean. Should China and Liechtenstein have the same rights to pollute? China and Belgium? China and the US? That's completely arbitrary. Bearer of such rights or duties can only be individual human beings IMHO. Of course nobody wants to assign such a right, but it's the underlying assumption if we point fingers, no?

That does not diminish the huge potential that China has to reduce pollution, and the huge challenge to do so.
Your argument that basically describes the tragedy of the commons is for me on a personal level solved by morals: Isn't it morally imperative to try not to contribute to something that one has realized is a problem? Of course on the collective level it can only be solved by institutions. Academic considerations? Maybe. Do I act accordingly? Not enough. But thinking about principles behind our opinions or intuitions does make for better arguments...
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Old 10-29-2019   #32
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having seen the eastern DRC and CAR on a few occasions, i am happy this topic has come up. the fight over control of the mineral wealth there has been nothing short of an environmental and social catastrophe. millions have died in the past decade of fighting for regional control.

while this isn't entirely the camera industries fault, they have played a major role. oddly the two biggest manufacturers, Nikon and Canon, have been extremely reluctant to take account for their supply chain.
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Old 10-29-2019   #33
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I wonder if the biggest thing We in the USA can do is to rethink what it means to be successful: What if we cared less about powerful automobiles and large houses filled with latest gadgetry and more about eating a really good nectarine picked at peak flavor?

And doesn't success also include good health? Much is determined by choices we make every day.

As for new cameras, I think a less-but-better approach works best for me. Though tempted by the latest iterations of Sony's A7 and RX100, I'm not displeased with my first-generation cameras, and they're still in fine condition too. By skipping a generation or three, I'm improving the odds that I'll be blown away when I do buy a newer camera For better or worse, very likely the changing marketplace has reduced the environmental impact caused by all camera makers not named Samsung, LG and Apple.
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Old 10-29-2019   #34
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....... thinking about principles behind our opinions or intuitions does make for better arguments...
Indeed, it does.
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Old 10-29-2019   #35
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I recall very well showing up to college football and basketball games with a brick of film and a large quantity of AA batteries to feed my motor drives. The drives used 8 AA batteries each, and they were consumed rather quickly, particularly at football games outside in the cold. Now, I would show up with just a few lithium-ion batteries and no film. SD cards are reusable. The batteries are rechargeable. I have discarded relatively few Li-ion batteries in my lifetime. I have likely thrown out thousands of AA batteries. In that aspect, the environmental impact of my photographic activity is much less than it has been. Innovations by camera companies can be thanked for that.

Regarding lithium, it seems that there is some misconception about its sourcing and extraction. The most common source is salt brines. Lithium carbonate is most commonly extracted by solar evaporation from Li-rich brines. The chemistry often used to isolate it is reused, and a well-run plant has practically zero discharge. Could it be done better? Sure, but it doesn’t have nearly the same impact on the environment as the mining of lead, zinc, cadmium and nickel found in other types of traditional batteries. Some lithium is still produced as a by-product in the hard-rock mining of other minerals. This is an economically and environmentally sound thing to do, as the lithium is either going to go out the front door as a product or out the back door into the tailings.

Look around you. Everything that wasn’t grown had to be mined. The mining industry often gets unfairly treated. Yes, there is a history of environmental nightmares where it has gone unregulated, due to greed, accidents or simple ignorance. I have seen it firsthand in West Africa, Central America, the Arctic and the Continental US. But today, in developed nations, it is heavily regulated and constantly monitored for environmental compliance. In developing countries, particularly those run by overtly corrupt governments, there is still ample room to do better.

For example, the tantalum for the capacitors in your electronic devices is produced in several locations. It is likely cheaper to buy tantalum from unregulated mines worked by slaves and run by warlords than it is to get it from a legitimately regulated mining operation in Canada. Marching into the Congolese embassy demanding social and environmental justice won’t achieve anything, however. I would love to see an electronics company demonstrate a genuine commitment to buying only from environmentally responsible sources. Even if it were that simple, the net effect would be that the cost of their raw materials may increase, driving up the price of their product. Would that be offset by an increase in sales from environmentally conscious consumers? I don’t know. I’d like to think it would, but it’s a gamble. It worked to some degree with “conflict” diamonds. An inspiring example can be found with Taylor guitars, and their sustainable forestry initiative in Cameroon where they source ebony. My last guitar purchase was a Taylor. My next one will be also.

I work in the mining industry, operating an analytical laboratory for a mining company. Besides doing daily testing and monitoring of our products, I am also engaged in research to find better ways of doing what we do. When we find a better method, we implement it. In many cases, improving efficiency is both economically and environmentally beneficial. My colleagues in other companies share the same impetus to do better.

I am not a hand-wringing, pearl-clutching environmentalist. I do believe in a responsible stewardship of resources, and a realistic approach to conservationism. I don’t buy into the gloomy future vision so often pushed on us. I see continuing improvement and a hopeful future.
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Old 10-30-2019   #36
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Its funny because of how he spelled it.
Glad to see someone is paying attention. And yes, it was deliberate.
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Old 10-30-2019   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Schuter View Post
I recall very well showing up to college football and basketball games with a brick of film and a large quantity of AA batteries to feed my motor drives. The drives used 8 AA batteries each, and they were consumed rather quickly, particularly at football games outside in the cold. Now, I would show up with just a few lithium-ion batteries and no film. SD cards are reusable. The batteries are rechargeable. I have discarded relatively few Li-ion batteries in my lifetime. I have likely thrown out thousands of AA batteries. In that aspect, the environmental impact of my photographic activity is much less than it has been. Innovations by camera companies can be thanked for that.

Regarding lithium, it seems that there is some misconception about its sourcing and extraction. The most common source is salt brines. Lithium carbonate is most commonly extracted by solar evaporation from Li-rich brines. The chemistry often used to isolate it is reused, and a well-run plant has practically zero discharge. Could it be done better? Sure, but it doesn’t have nearly the same impact on the environment as the mining of lead, zinc, cadmium and nickel found in other types of traditional batteries. Some lithium is still produced as a by-product in the hard-rock mining of other minerals. This is an economically and environmentally sound thing to do, as the lithium is either going to go out the front door as a product or out the back door into the tailings.

Look around you. Everything that wasn’t grown had to be mined. The mining industry often gets unfairly treated. Yes, there is a history of environmental nightmares where it has gone unregulated, due to greed, accidents or simple ignorance. I have seen it firsthand in West Africa, Central America, the Arctic and the Continental US. But today, in developed nations, it is heavily regulated and constantly monitored for environmental compliance. In developing countries, particularly those run by overtly corrupt governments, there is still ample room to do better.

For example, the tantalum for the capacitors in your electronic devices is produced in several locations. It is likely cheaper to buy tantalum from unregulated mines worked by slaves and run by warlords than it is to get it from a legitimately regulated mining operation in Canada. Marching into the Congolese embassy demanding social and environmental justice won’t achieve anything, however. I would love to see an electronics company demonstrate a genuine commitment to buying only from environmentally responsible sources. Even if it were that simple, the net effect would be that the cost of their raw materials may increase, driving up the price of their product. Would that be offset by an increase in sales from environmentally conscious consumers? I don’t know. I’d like to think it would, but it’s a gamble. It worked to some degree with “conflict” diamonds. An inspiring example can be found with Taylor guitars, and their sustainable forestry initiative in Cameroon where they source ebony. My last guitar purchase was a Taylor. My next one will be also.

I work in the mining industry, operating an analytical laboratory for a mining company. Besides doing daily testing and monitoring of our products, I am also engaged in research to find better ways of doing what we do. When we find a better method, we implement it. In many cases, improving efficiency is both economically and environmentally beneficial. My colleagues in other companies share the same impetus to do better.

I am not a hand-wringing, pearl-clutching environmentalist. I do believe in a responsible stewardship of resources, and a realistic approach to conservationism. I don’t buy into the gloomy future vision so often pushed on us. I see continuing improvement and a hopeful future.

Thanks for taking the time and effort to post this.
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Old 10-30-2019   #38
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China's pollution allows for the west to be greener. Huge swaths of many industries that formerly used to operate in the west have relocated to China. All that pollution moved with them. As did their power needs. China's pollution is in many ways the result of this.
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Old 10-30-2019   #39
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It all depends on what you are measuring. Google the relative pollution by country and you'll be amazed.
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Old 10-30-2019   #40
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And another thing...China is becoming far less tolerant of pollution than they used to be. That and the continual increase in wages there means that they are no longer the lowest cost place to do business in. A lot of industries, the dirtiest ones that basically only thrive when there is no pollution controls have moved to other countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and The Philippines.
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