Let's return to the 1990s focus on rain forests.
They are most threatened by major extraction. Mining exposes the forests to bushmeat hunting and toxic effluent. Timber and pulp mills replant, but may replace native diversity with homogenous crop trees. Hamburger demand causes deforestation.
Rain forest depletion is a major contributor to global warming . Plants eat carbon and release oxygen.
So if you increase recycling, it reduces the pressure of demands on rain forests. If some of the people who recycle are very, very poor, recycling brings them income and protects the planet.
That is not an excuse to send toxics along for the ride, it's an invitation to practice fair trade recycling. It's directed at people who do not export, and who think that's something to be proud of. Restricting recycling exports to the degree some want to is 'environmentally wrong'.
When good people export, it gives the buyers overseas more choices of people to import from. The good people can offer incentives on the recyclables, so that wages and safety conditions improve. Essentially, that means underbidding competitors not just with price but with quality. It means treating the poor e-scrap buyers overseas in a way they are not often treated - like valuable clients.
To ensure that fair trade standards are followed requires more face contact and communication between Americans and the recyclers of different cultures. That creates trade and social benefits, peace and understanding.
Let's not forget... Recycling is good. It is not disposal. It has been so popular among environmentalists for so long, that it becomes tempting to jump on a "man bites dog" story if something about recycling disappoints us. Threatening to take recycling away isn't nice. It's not nice to the people whose jobs it is to recycle, it's not nice to the rain forest, and it's not nice to the people who are trying to do the right thing by taking their stuff to be recycled.
In other words, the Perfect should not be rude to the Good.
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My first ever blog post had the phrase "agents of conscience", which is something I conceived of in high school. In prayer, I weighed becoming a hermit, becoming a philosopher, a politician, or a priest. Like Siddhartha the ferry-boat paddler (from Hermann Hesse's novel), I chose a concrete and socially inauspicious career in scrap. I find myself defending the voiceless, the recyclers who work the hardest. Because hard work is good when it is digging resources out of decheterie, rather than out of mountains, watersheds, and forests.
I would describe myself as someone who believes strongly, and passionately, in religion... without being someone who advocates for any particular brand or practice. Cannot figure out how to be evangelical about generic religion... but I give all credit for everything accomplished to a higher power.