So I was thinking about extreme poverty around the world while I was walking to my car today and one place that always enters your mind when you consider human suffering is Africa. I think of the desperation that hunger and thirst and insecurity drives people to do, like killing beautiful beasts for their ivory or fur. This thought process lead me to think about how the corrupt government often takes advantage of that desperation and uses it for control and power. If they make them starve long enough, they will surely do whatever they ask. I know that one of the greatest sources of income for Africa comes from their minerals, diamonds, and gold. Blood Diamond is one of the most important movies to have ever been made in my humble opinion because of the issue it shed a blind nation’s eyes on. So I decided to do some research to see if there has been any decline in the mining and exportation of diamonds in Africa and I came across something really interesting. It turns out that gold is not only extremely valuable, second only to platinum. But only about 160,000 tons of gold have ever been mined in all of recorded history. So recycling gold has always been important, but with the price of gold skyrocketing, recycling it is more popular than ever.
Thousands of tons of gold are recycled each year to meet market demands. In fact, more recycled gold is used each year than mined gold. Gold is one of the most reused materials we have available. Not only is it recyclable- but gold itself promotes a greener world.
Here are some of the manyyyy things you can do with gold:
Gold conducts electricity easily, doesn’t tarnish, and is easy to work with. It can be drawn into wire, hammered into thin sheets, mixes well with many other metals and can be melted and cast into almost any desired shape.
Gold is used in the production of china, earthenware, porcelain, and glass. While gold has been used to make jewelry and decorations for centuries, it’s also the key component in liquid gold preparations, which can contain up to 12% pure gold, and are ideal for decorative brush application and for pastes used for screen printing.
Gold is used when making specialty glass for climate controlled buildings and cases. A small amount of gold dispersed within the glass or coated onto the glass surface will reflect solar radiation outward, helping the buildings stay cool in the summer, and reflect internal heat inward, helping them stay warm in winter.
Gold is also used as a pigment in glassmaking. A small amount of gold suspended in the glass when it is manufactured produces a rich ruby color.
About 10% of all gold is used to make coins or for the financial backing of governments. Gold is the standard for monetary systems in many countries. Aside from gold coins, ingots, and bars, gold is available in other forms like pure gold, gold alloy flakes, foil, gauzes, grains, powders, sheets, sponges, tubes, wires and even single gold crystals.
The most important industrial use of gold is in the manufacture of electronics. Gold is the highly efficient conductor that can carry tiny currents and remain corrosion free. Electronic components made with gold are very reliable. Gold is used in connectors, switches, soldered joints, connecting wires and connection strips.
A small amount of gold is used in most electronic devices like cell phones, calculators, personal digital assistants, and GPS (global positioning system) devices. Most large electronic appliances such as TVs also contain gold.
Gold is also used to treat certain medical conditions. Injections of weak solutions of gold have sometimes been used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
One of the most exciting current uses of gold in medicine is in the precision delivery of medication to fight cancer. Microscopic gold covered “medicine bullets” are fired at targeted cells then activated to release their load.
Small amounts of gold are used to remedy a condition known as Lagophthalmos, which is the inability of a person to close their eyes completely. This condition is treated by implanting small amounts of gold in the upper eyelid. The implanted gold “weights” the eyelid and the force of gravity helps the eyelid close fully.
Gold is used to make many surgical instruments. Because it’s nonreactive, many electronic equipment and life-support devices are made using small amounts of gold.
NASA uses gold as a lubricant between mechanical parts on space vehicles like the shuttle. In the vacuum of space, organic lubricants would volatilize and break down from the intense radiation beyond Earth’s atmosphere. Gold has a very low shear strength and thin films of gold between critical moving parts serves as a lubricant – the gold molecules slip past each other under the forces of friction, providing a lubricant action. The visor on the helmet of an astronaut’s space suit is coated with a very thin film of gold. This thin film reflects much of the very intense solar radiation of space, protecting the astronaut’s eyes and skin.
Gold is too expensive to use by chance. Instead it is used deliberately and only when less expensive substitutes can’t be identified. As a result, once a use is found for gold it is rarely abandoned for another metal. This means that the number of uses for gold will continue to increase over time. So remember to recycle gold whenever possible.
I know it must be hard to make the connection between what gold has to do with poverty (besides the obvious lack thereof)…but here is my thinking: Often times, the land with the most gold discovered in the earth is the land with the most impoverished people. But to think that gold has been reused over and over again for centuries now and that it has been discovered to be extremely helpful in many ways, including green efforts, makes me feel like this whole thing has come full circle in a positive way. Maybe the gold that was mined from hard workers under the Africa sun will one day be reflecting that sun back into the sky to help cool the buildings that will hopefully one day replace the shacks. Maybe its medical powers will work miracles and not only in the body but within the medical tools themselves. Maybe one day things will be better for the people of Africa because of the gold their parents slaved for because of that very gold. Or…the endless search for more gold and greed will continue to be the root of all evil.