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(slow, deliberate music)
- Today, I'm digging through an iPhone,
looking for a very particular material.
We've talked a bunch on the channel
about how different types of minerals and metals
can end up in electronics like this one,
and where they come from in the world.
So there's gold, which conducts electricity really well.
Lots of gold is mined in Nevada, Colombia, and China.
Lithium of course, is found in a lot of batteries,
and lots of lithium comes from South America.
But the material we're looking for is actually here.
This is a tantalum capacitor.
Or at least we think it's a tantalum capacitor.
Apple makes it really hard to identify parts
in our motherboard.
But we found some schematics that pointed us
in this general area.
Looks like it's right here.
It's a component that stores electrical charges.
Tantalum is an element that's derived from an ore
called columbite-tantalite, or coltan.
Tantalum is highly sought after because it's got
a very high melting point and it resists corrosion.
We wanted to get our eyes on this capacitor
because the tiny scrap of metal inside
has some huge implications.
It's a piece of a complex web we've all woven
between humans, nature, and resources.
And now, in the middle of COVID-19,
this web takes on an extra resonance
because it could cause the next pandemic.
(slow, deliberate music)
That's a big claim, so let's break it down.
A lot of coltan can be traced back
to The Democratic Republic of Congo.
Some comes from large industrial open pit mines.
The kind of mine we're used to seeing images of.
But most coltan actually comes from much smaller operations.
This is often called artisanal or subsistence mining.
It's often just people digging holes with shovels and picks
to make a living.
Subsistence mining means humans cutting their way
through really remote areas.
By clearing land to make way for mining,
people interact with wildlife in ways
they wouldn't otherwise.
And that's where things can get messy.
- Yeah, what we're talking about is spillover.
- Our environment reporter Justine has been looking into
all of this and she'll take it from here.
- So basically when humans intermingle with wildlife,
chances increase for something called a spillover event.
This is when a virus jumps from one species to another.
It's how most new infectious diseases emerge,
including COVID-19.
When one species bites, eats, gets pooped on by another,
viruses from one species might infect the other.
Artisanal mining offers up a lot of opportunities
for spillover between animals and humans.
To get some specifics, I called up Michael Nest.
- Can you hear me okay?
Can you see me okay?
- [Justine] He wrote an entire book about coltan
and he walked me through the details of how exactly
one spillover event could happen.
- You might not have much of a perimeter at all
between a pit where somebody is mining
and the forest itself.
So people might go into the bush,
or rely on people who live the forest to bring them food.
- [Justine] In this case, food is bushmeat,
wild animals hunted, killed, and eaten.
In the DRC, bushmeat can mean a porcupine, rat--
- [Michael] A bush pig, or part of a gorilla.
- It's a viable way for animal viruses to meet
their first human host.
And it happens pretty often.
One study of miners working in the eastern DRC
found that a majority of them relied regularly on bushmeat.
They had no alternative.
- If you are a poor mine worker and you get the opportunity
to kill a gorilla and eat it because it's free meat,
you're very likely to do that,
if you think you can get away with doing that.
- And it's not just about bushmeat.
Some animals might get drawn in closer by mining.
Bats, for example, might take up residence in mines.
That ups the odds of a miner getting scratched or bitten
or exposed to waste.
Other wildlife might get displaced.
They might run into new groups of animals
and those interactions mean more chances for spillover.
- So it's not just the access to bush food,
but it's also the very close proximity to forest
with very little attention paid to health infrastructure
or public health.
- So far there hasn't been a major viral outbreak
that we can trace back to coltan mining.
But all the ingredients for spillover are there.
It's a recipe for another pandemic.
And it has happened around other mines.
An outbreak of Marburg killed 128 people in the DRC
between 1998 and 2000.
Marburg is a viral hemorrhagic fever, similar to Ebola.
Most of those who died were gold miners
who probably picked up the virus from bats
or other critters in mines,
and then spread it to their families.
And in 1994,
31 people died from outbreaks of Ebola
in gold mining villages in Gabon.
Scientists suspect that the virus could have jumped
from chimpanzees to humans.
And if you take the widest possible view,
you see that there are hotspots all over the world
where new infectious diseases are emerging.
In many of those cases,
it's happening where people are clearing land
for things like mining, logging, and agriculture.
(high pitched musical note)
Because of COVID-19,
there's been a lot of talk about China's wet markets,
where researchers initially thought the virus made the jump
from animals to humans.
But the journey of this phone's minerals
shows that the threat of spillover is so much bigger
than just one scenario.
- Everybody's talking about the wet market (indistinct).
But those just really literally
is the tip of the iceberg really.
- [Justine] Carlos Zambrana-Torrelio is a scientist
at EcoHealth Alliance,
a nonprofit that works to spot animal viruses
before they spill over into humans.
He says we need to think about the connection between
our demand for electronics, the destruction of habitats,
and the consequences.
- Pretty much every year there's a new iPhone.
We should remember that it's coming from somewhere
in the world.
And then there's a whole chain that it's been affecting.
- [Justine] Since 2009, EcoHealth Alliance,
in partnership with USAID, found 1200 viruses in animals,
including more than 140 new Corona viruses
that could one day pose another global threat.
They'll continue to study the virus's behavior,
but virus behavior depends a lot on human behavior.
There's no getting around it.
- So we need to start thinking about the future as a whole,
as humanity, as a planet,
how we want to deal with this problem.
Do we want another pandemic 10 years from now?
Next year?
In the 50 years from now?
- [Justine] The next pandemic will almost certainly
come from some spillover in a viral hotspot.
And that really shouldn't come as a surprise.
- Usually humans, we see ourselves outside the system.
But we are really part of the system.
The reason that we share most of the diseases with animals
is because we are animals.
We are part of the animal kingdom.
(slow, deliberate music)
- Thanks so much for watching.
If you wanna see more of our COVID-19 coverage,
check out theverge.com and don't forget to subscribe.
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你的手機可能造成另一波流感

19 分類 收藏
dnwsaa58 發佈於 2020 年 8 月 9 日
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