Meet the E-Waste Criminals

We have hours of video of all our our export partners, which we used to make some 3 minute films for Fair Trade and WR3A.  The first here is just a preview of the hours of interviews, I just grabbed clips from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal and Peru to give an idea of the "Geeks" who are working together.

These are not nameless, faceless, Viet Cong polluters.  These are the smartest kids from their schools, who in the USA would be applying for engineering programs at MIT.  In the countries where they were born, buying and repairing and selling computers is something they can be proud of.  Most of the ewaste they see is "home grown", but if they get a chance to get some really nice stuff from rich countries, it is a boon to them.

The truth is hard to massage into clips and sound-bytes.  I think "Fair Trade" works.  But it is hard for an agent of conscience to find the right pitch, to slow the train set in motion.  We have been sold a simplistic "export is waste" story, which served a legitimate legal purpose in reforming E-waste export practices ten years ago. 

At this point, the fear of exporting "toxics" has demonized the best and brightest in the developing world, taken food from peoples mouths, and taken computers away from blood banks.  It is out of control.   As we would desire and expect, the United States EPA took all of this kind of information in and drafted a CRT Rule which was intended not to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and EPA formed a group of experts from NGOs (BAN, WR3A, CTBC, etc), manufacturers, non-export USA Ewaste processors, and reuse and recycling processors who export.  They drafted a set of rules for Best Practices called "R2". 

EPA is being attacked, the International Geeks are being attacked.   I find myself increasingly writing "Malcom X" blogs, because my "Martin Luther King" approach is getting nowhere.   The people in this video, the people from overseas, were not represented by anyone but BAN and me at the R2 meeting.  I am willing to set up tours from any journalist or reporter who wishes to "meet the exporters".  We will show you everything, the good, the bad and the ugly, the entire Heronimous Bosch fresco of recycling and refurbishing in the developing world.  It is not perfect, but when you meet the human beings that I meet and deal with, whom BAN has never spoken to, you will see what Micro Lending and Kiva sees.  People who are who they say they are, and do what they say they do, who are trying to drop their buckets where they are, and who lift as they climb.   This is not just about the environment, this is about development, and telling the truth about human beings who have no seat at the table and cannot defend themselves.

Way back, my Freeland relatives and Dewards lived in Vermont before the civil war.   They moved to Kansas to vote in the "free or slave state" elections, following the Missouri slave state vote which upended the Mason Dixon compromise.   I have often wondered if I would have had the guts to follow John Brown.   This experience, being the only electronics recycler to stand up to BAN, is perhaps in my genes.  

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