“What do they talk about these days at Parent Teacher Association meetings?” — Question asked by one of the author’s home schooled youngsters.

Cobalt is such a health hazard that it has a respiratory disease named after it – cobalt lung, a form of pneumonia which causes coughing and leads to permanent incapacity and even death.

Even simply eating vegetables grown in local soil can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, thyroid damage and fatal lung diseases, while birds and fish cannot survive in any area where cobalt is mined, No one knows quite how many children have died mining cobalt in the Katanga region in the south-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but the UN estimates 80 a year.

Many more deaths go unregistered, of course. Many. There are the bodies buried in the rubble of collapsed tunnels which account for a great deal of death and immiseration, and those who survive their work days are plagued — more often than not — with chronic diseases which destroy their young lives. Girls as young as ten in the mines are subjected to sexual attacks and many become pregnant. [Not that you’ll hear much about that from the circles currently enraged over sexual abuses in Hollywood and on Capitol Hill.]

This is a horror of horrors which is slated to increase courtesy of our addiction to high tech gadgetry and new developments designed to “save the planet.” Tesla, to cite one example from the hordes of whores raping the earth who advertise themselves as Green Solutions to our abominable momentum, says that the cobalt that it needs in the future will sourced exclusively in North America, but the math doesn’t seem to add up.

Approximately 97% of the world’s supply of cobalt comes as a by-product of nickel or copper out of Africa, for the most part. And there’s a scarcity issue on the horizon. The ever-reliable Sebastien Gandon has delineated some of the nuts and bolts involved if anyone’s interested in exploring additional dynamics, but the bottom line for my article is that the immeasurable suffering among exploited souls will proliferate unless leadership — somewhere — begins to help one and all to self-educate about the relationship between our high tech addictions and naivete respecting progress and abominations abroad.

Trump’s military plans play no small part in what I’m concerned with here, but — clearly — we cannot afford to point fingers at corporations or anyone if we’re not owning up to our part in the spread of misery. Unconscionable suffering that’s the equal to what was generated by the worst atrocities committed in the 20th Century. The “80 a year” cited above, of course, looks away from the 8 million or more who have been killed in Congo wars over cobalt for decades. Sins of omission about that… and more.

I am not asking the reader to stop using high tech gadgets. Nor do I expect anyone to change jobs because I’ve jumped onto a Moral High Road here. Rather, I’m asking for something like baby steps to be taken. Perhaps local educators you know can begin to be honest with their charges, covering the cobalt dynamic at some point during the school day; maybe you can sway teachers to cover such matters, not cover up our monstrous complicity routinely. The kids will know what to do next. Maybe, but that seems to be our only hope.

Regardless, if we want those youngsters to inherit a world worth living in, we must begin to be clear about what’s going on, what we’re enabling, not just have classrooms continue underscoring the atrocities of the past exclusively.

Richard Martin Oxman has been an educator and activist for over half-a-century. He’s written about this subject before, and he can be reached at


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One Comment

  1. Marianne van Heerden says:

    Surely it is time for Africans to change their attitudes. Honoring their own lives? I live in Africa!

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