Pieter Hugo illustrates how the poor of the third world make a living picking through our e-waste. Makes you think twice before upgrading your laptop.

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Permanent Error

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Title: Permanent Error

Author: Pieter Hugo

ISBN: 3791345206

Publisher: Prestel

Edition: Hardcover

This thought-provoking book adds to the canon that illustrates the gap between the wasteful, consumerist western world and the poor of the third world who are forced to eke a living picking through our rubbish. The subject this time is a vast Agbogbloshie dump in Ghana, one of several final resting places for the 50 million tonnes of e-waste – computers, printers, TVs and other electronics, including digital cameras – discarded by the west each year.

Most of Hugo’s powerful images are portraits of the people who gut this obsolete junk in search of the tiny quantities of copper and other metals which they can recycle – set against a backdrop of smashed monitors, mangled keyboards and floppy discs trodden into the earth as far as the eye can see, or black, toxic smoke as what’s left is burned.

It’s uncomfortable viewing, especially seeing as we’re directly contributing to the junk pile when we upgrade our own PCs and cameras. Surely there must be a better way