Agbogbloshie Ghana: Eden & Hell Ain't What it Used to Be

The Economist Babbage Blog and recent Guardian pieces, rerunning the "A Place Called Away" portrait of Ghana Electronics recycling are kinda wow, kinda 2008.

Any true student of urban studies know that these cities are changing day by day.

I was sticking my neck out in 2010, telling folks that the Guardian Newspaper photos of 2 tons of white monitors in Agbobloshie did not prove the thesis that people like Joe Benson were "organized crime" for exporting 500 tons of black hotel televisions.  The photos at Agbogbloshie practically disprove the allegation on their own.  1990s waste outside an African city does not mean that 2000s product purchased in Essex London is headed for the same place.

This is about People and Geography, not about Stuff.  There is no "Hell" on any geography map, and there is no "Eden",  and there is no place called "Away".   People who describe emerging markets with words like "Hell" and "Eden" have a Victorian Economist view of the world.

Or maybe it's more the Mary Poppins timeline.  Saving Mary Poppins and SavingAfrica have a certain theme in common.

Below are 4 Key "World Travellers" of 2014 who are making the great E-Waste Hoax go away.  Not with a Bang nor a whimper, but with a Tweet.

Yin, Yang, or Omm Part 2: White Man Ju-ju vs. 3-Point Shot

In Part I we took a close up of an actual problem - the past decade of managing Cathode Ray Tube televisions and monitors, after briefly introducing the concept that guilt and liability - positive ethical systems - can be twisted into bad law via fear, greed, and envy.  

What's the "green scare?"  
Same as the red scare.  Export Sympathizer is today's "Commie"

The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (RERA), HR2791, was the focus.  The bill acknowledges overseas refurbishing and recycling operations if and only if the name-brand company (e.g. Dell of Texas) is shipping there (warranty repair, takeback).  That's "responsible".  The contract factories overseas are NOT owned by the name brand, there are no Dell employees at the computer display factory.  If Hurricane Fung, Hurricane Hamdy, Hurricane Benson, or Hurricane Chiu were OEM employees taking back used goods for repair and refurbishment, they'd be "Stewards".  Instead they are "primitive waste criminals".

The Guardian covered Dell for coming out against a geeks of color boycott, and I vigorously applaud Dell for that.   But RERA language creates a "members only" export system.

As the blog got longer, I've cut it into three or four parts.  Poor editing, or de Tocquevillian insight?  Mostly lack of time to edit, I'm running a business after all.  The digression into psychology and ethics is the readers choice, I figure.   Just don't hit the "print" key.


Time Out! The Economist Babbage Blog Blows E-Waste Hoax Horn of 2009

Following twitter (via Adam Minter) I ran across an editorial/blog in my favorite periodical, The Economist.  I've linked to some well researched articles in the Economist here in the blog, e.g. about emerging markets and urban development.  I continue to subscribe, buy subscriptions as gifts, and hold The Economist in high regard.

But holy cow... what kind of 2008 garbage is this piece by Editorialist Babbage?  Where Gadgets Go to Di(7/21/2014).  He's repeating statistics disavowed by BAN, referring to Greenpeace's 2009 campaign, and alluding to a vast unknown market for burning computers.  In a Sci/Tech Column, for godsake!  Oh the humanity?

I do encourage followers of the blog to read the article and to comment, and to refer Babbage and Economist SciTech to BAN's retraction of it's overseas dumping "statistics" and recognition of the UNEP reports from a year ago.  Find links at "How the Basel Action Network Saved Africa" posted a year ago last month.

And here's some breaking news about "collateral damage" Hurricane Joe Benson I just received
Just a quick note to let you know that Joe was moved, last Friday, to Maidstone Prison.
Maidstone is an open prison so at least the conditions he is in will be improved.
It should be a lot easier for Juan to get an interview with Joe.
His date of Birth is 15th April 1960.  We still don't have a prison Number but give it a try anyway.
This makes me sick.  The EU is ruining Africa for everybody.  

Yin, Yang, Omm Part 1: Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (HR2791)

WR3A became the anti-BAN.  But we have both been part of a Charitable Industrial Complex.

It's like a tug of war over dusty, desolated, impoverished Darfur, a guerrilla morality of ethical posturing.   A war between rich over who gets the rights to the poor's images. 

Poverty and inequality, or the perception of it, is power.  Ask Marxists about how to harvest envy.  The bigger the problem is perceived, the more you can justify meddling and redirecting the marketplace to "fix" the problem.  (appropriate illusion and background music by Brazilian MysteryGuitarMan Joe Penna, below)

There is no denying that there are problems and inequalities in the system.  But whether or not the poor are hurt more by the free market than by's efforts to "fix" it, we are contesting a moral high ground which itself has an economic value.  In this series (Yin Yang Omm) I'm attempting to write about how the economically disadvantaged either benefit from the dispute, or from its resolution, or whether they have any interest in it at all, and who-the-heck-are-we in that equation.

In several previous blogs, like Environmental Malpractice, readers get a closer view of what it's like inside the planned obsolescence shredding industrial complex, and how it is driven by white man juju - liability.  The fetishes placed on the secondary market by people "responsible" for the continued life of products they've let go of force many to shorten the lives of the product.  Recycling laws have made it almost impossible to export working assets.  It is taking billions of dollars of USA assets which are wanted by less affluent but rapidly emerging markets, and turning them into toxic piles, and puts people supplying countrymen who cannot afford new product into jail cells.

Reactions to perception of inequality or injustice can drive societies to do irrational things, to burn witches at stakes, ban books, and shred new cars.   Envy can drive liability lawsuits, jealousy can sway jurors... (so Mazda said to heck with it).  That's right, liability for product has created a system which actually shreds new cars rather than punt them into poor countries, and the same system is increasingly positioning itself to shred refurbishing markets.

Through a proposed new law on exports to secondary markets, BAN and CAER essentially propose a paradigm where the emerging markets cheap labor is available to only to corporations, but are blocked from buying their own supply of work.  RERA would allow these people to do warranty repair, and to assemble and disassemble brand name goods, but not to purchase non-working products for reuse, repair or recycling.

The Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (HR2791)   

The Bill is supported by some people I really like. Niel Peters-Michaud, for example, has enlisted himself and his company both with E-Stewards, BAN and CAER, and has also been to Africa and testifies that limits on trade to that continent will produce better results.
"Do we really believe that the dream of someone in a developing world is to process our toxic e-scrap?  I think they would prefer to dream of driving a well equipped Audi." - Niel Peters-Michaud
Before going deeper into the psychology of two white CEOs from liberal northern states arguments over the welfare of Africans, let's look at what a state (California) with a system similar to RERA's has created.  Hint:  no new Audis have been distributed to any African nations.