Blue Gold

BLUE GOLD“You will be trained to work in the mobile phone factory,” instructor Mr. Huang tells 15-year old Laiping in Elizabeth Stewart’s BLUE GOLD. “Specifically, you will learn to solder capacitors onto printed circuit boards.” So begins Laiping’s work in a  Chinese  factory producing smart phones and other items of technology. The factory harms Laiping’s cousin’s heath, requires Laiping to work 12-hour shifts to prepare for a product’s  launch, and when her young friend works surreptitiously to organize factory workers he is rounded up with other organizers and arrested. Stewart links the story of Laiping in China with the story of Sylvie in Congo and the story of Fiona in Canada, bound by the raw material that makes up the key component of cell phones, coltan, or blue gold. Colltan is mined in Congo to devastating effect on Sylvie and her family.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, writing in The Guardian, describes coltan like this:  “In the ground, it’s a metallic ore; when refined, it acquires unique heat-resistant characteristics that make it perfect for use in electronic capacitors. As a result, it is present in nearly every electronic device you can name…. And its story reaches back directly to Congo, where the mining industry has been linked with everything from bankrolling civil wars in the region to the destruction of gorilla habitats.”

Sylvie and Laiping are sacrificed to this global production and sale of products with coltan in their electronic capacitors. A term arises  – “confict minerals” – to categorize practices in contemporary mining that lead to  child labor abuses and loss of land and home.

Elizabeth Stewart writes as an advocate for human rights in BLUE GOLD.  She writes, “Many groups and individuals are active internationally trying to instill ethical standards that will help the Sylvies and Laipings of the world lead safer and more secure lives.”   To that end, Stewart invites young readers to ask, “Did anyone suffer during the making of this product?” and offers sites such as www.ethicalconsumer.org to help readers begin to understand.

4 comments for “Blue Gold

  1. June 27, 2014 at 12:33 am

    Thanks for this review. The book sounds great, and like a good fit for my Kid Lit About Politics blog.

  2. June 27, 2014 at 12:42 am

    Lots to talk about with this book, Liz, including the political act of a simple purchase.

    • June 29, 2014 at 7:39 pm

      An important book – thank you, Terry, for the excellent review and bringing it to my attention. I appreciate the extension to readers by giving a website to learn more and do more. Nancy Bo Flood

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