Green or Greed


This post steers away from my usual postings but that’s probably a good thing.

I had a conversation with someone who argued that thanks to the digital age photography had become much “greener”, more environmentally friendly, thanks to the disappearance of film and the need for chemicals used in developing. I couldn’t agree or argue with his comment because I had not seen any figures to confirm or discredit his claim. I suspect he didn’t have any figures or data either but that’s fairly standard these days; just look at the way journalism is going.

I don’t know how dangerous those dark room chemicals are to the environment or in what quantities they were used in the past but I do find it amusing when such claims are made because it’s often been my impression that while many people like to wax lyrically about the environment few people seem to care enough to change their habits. Let’s face it consumerism seems to have no bounds.

One set of figures I did see some time back was the cost, to the environment, of packaging. I don’t remember the actual numbers but I do recall being amazed and I remember wondering why it was that the so-called greenies were not focusing their efforts to bringing this seemingly shameful situation to light. I’m guessing that suggesting people refrain from buying the latest gadget while their old one still works would be too much of a hard sell. And that’s unfortunate because if I remember rightly the environmental cost of packaging was far greater than all the fossil fuel burning combined.

But I don’t want to get into a socioeconomic debate about the environment and what we should and should not do and all that stuff. To be fair I don’t even know if what I read about packaging was true or some fabrication made up by some self-serving group (like brown-paper-bag manufacturers or whatever). And I don’t mean or want to get all sanctimonious about green issues; I live in the West (well technically I live in the East but you know what I mean) and am in no position to be hypocritical since I am more likely a part of the problem than the solution. Instead I want to ask questions which came to me while listening to my friend’s argument about saving the environment.

Once upon a time the bulk of photographic advancements were made in the areas of film and optics. Where film was concerned, the beauty for photographers was that you could easily partake in the new technological improvements without having to fork out large sums of money. You could buy a roll of the latest Kodak, Fuji, Agfa or Ilford film, try it out and if you liked it you went and bought some more.

Today, camera gimmicks aside, the bulk of the technological advancements tend to relate to the Charge-Coupled Devices (CCD) but unlike the old days it always involves buying a whole new camera in order to experience the new-found benefits. Seems so wasteful. So here are my questions: why can’t we have interchangeable CCD? Are there technical reasons preventing this? And if there are is anyone looking at solving the issues? The only thing I could find on the Internet was some reference back in 1999 of a Nikon camera (the D1) that was to have a rumoured interchangeable CCD. It never happened. So please excuse my ignorance on this but I would like to know what is stopping manufacturers from building such cameras. If you know, I would be most appreciative if you would tell me or point out some relevant site.

And for the record, I’d be perfectly happy if all the stuff I bought came in brown paper bags or plain cardboard boxes. Specially if that helped the long-term sustainability of forests like the one in the image above.