Butterfly Effects: Watchdog Who Trod On Loaf

Tomorrow's Sunday Sermon is drawn from Hans Christian Anderson's Tale, "The Girl Who Trod On The Loaf".  O E-Waste Activists... There will be gnashing.of.teeth@hell !
"There was once a girl who trod on a loaf to avoid soiling her shoes, and the misfortunes that happened to her in consequence are well known. ...[S]he was a poor child, but proud and presuming, and with a bad and cruel disposition. When quite a little child she would delight in catching flies, and tearing off their wings, so as to make creeping things of them.
If you have never read Hans Christian Anderson, don't start your kids with this tale.  I read it at age 10, and it has always been on my short list of nightmares.  It's a story about a girl named Ingen, from humble beginnings, who finds fortune from a wealthy woman, but who begins to look down on other dirty people and to set herself above them.   She is given a loaf of bread to bring to her hungry parents, but rather than take a long route, uses the loaf to cross a mud puddle.  She sinks into a 3 page Bosch painting of hell, which is mainly populated by things that disgusted her and things she did which made the world more disgusting.  She hears the world above, and is shocked by her own reputation, even among those she thought admired her.  She is finally freed, long after everyone she knew is gone, by a girl crying for her, which triggers Ingen to weep.  At first she weeps for herself, which doesn't free her...  It is only when the girl that cried is an old woman, and she remembers Ingen again, that Ingen cries for someone besides herself...

Despite tales of "collateral damage", there is never a tear of remorse from BAN, from NRDC, from CBS... not even a  Platonic Apology.  The E-Waste Priory, with shiny consciences, robed in green, sing their own praises to Euro idealists.   Before them, on a leash, they show the muddy poster orphan.   Knowing his place, he never speaks a word, never asks for a share of the royalty on his photos.  Geeks of color are unlikely to sue.  Maybe they were kinda polluters anyway...

Monarch Butterfly, wingless by ~dudecon on deviantART
The Priory's anti-ewaste campaign against Butterfly Geeks repeats a tired dynamic.  Overstate the problem, omit data, mount a poster child, attract funding from industrial complex (shredders, anti-gray-market, dictators), tax citizens, destroy value, and arrest bad examples.  It retraces wrong steps society has taken before, from witch trials to segregation to lynching... all means to a noble end.  Through withdrawn import permits and seized sea containers, they pull apart, shredding the wings of the refurbishing industry.

In the long run, those NGOs rationalize, their standard will bring better jobs, better lives, and less pollution (at least to refurbishers, if not to mining communities).  They are very, very certain of their moral path.  From the safety of their cathedral, their Green See offices, they care about the muddy people, and their brand of compassion betters the world in the long run.  They go on "waste tourism" trips, snap shots of the unwashed,.  They wish and aspire on the recycling ghetto's behalf, that they will "leapfrog" to a shiny city on a hill, and grow back more beautiful wings. Like the PTL Club prays for gays to become straight.

What is really bringing significant value to the "ghettos"?  Reuse and refurb of high tech equipment.
"Third-party companies have built $100+ million per year businesses in buying used computer equipment, refurbishing it, and selling or leasing it out to someone else"  [CBRonline.com 2005]
Or, from our Tale,
"...Her mistress said, “you ought to go home again, and visit your parents, Inge, and I will give you a large wheaten loaf to take to them, they will be glad to see you, I am sure.”
The Watchdogs are very sensitive to public revelations of unintended consequences.  Lip service - that "the perfect not be the enemy of the good".  But they are very, very proud of the e-steward certification, the "perfect" recycling standard they have laid claim to.   They say it is the only "legal" standard, but charge you money just to look at it.
"So Inge put on her best clothes, and her new shoes, drew her dress up around her, and set out, stepping very carefully, that she might be clean and neat about the feet, and there was nothing wrong in doing so. But when she came to the place where the footpath led across the moor, she found small pools of water, and a great deal of mud, so she threw the loaf into the mud, and trod upon it, that she might pass without wetting her feet. 
They select an end point, a recycler who pays for the endorsement.  Those who pay expect to see repercussions on their competitors.  So BAN.org runs with a story that the large, sustainable, non-mining, ISO, recycling, white box factories are "illegal" and "polluting".  Their end point justifies the means.
"But just as she placed one foot on the bread and lifted the other up, the loaf sank in deeper and deeper, carrying her down until she disappeared entirely, and nothing could be seen but a black, bubbling pool! That's the story."
I speak for the geeks
The anti-recycling publicity (recycler bites environment) creates cognitive risk in the environmental community, leading to wild goose chases of "waste tourism".  Shredding companies financially benefit.  Planned Obsolescence interests benefit.  Environmentalists: what happened to organized religion, what has happened in medicine, and what has happened in vigilante lynch mobs, could happen to us.   Our higher power of best intentions, our spiritual materialism, may lead us to trod on a loaf if it gets us to our destination and is more convenient than getting our feet wet in the actual "murky" market of the emerging economies.  Anxiously seeking to prosecute, without benefit of diagnosis, is reckless.  Like a cub scout applying a tourniquet, E-Stewards need med schooling.

Any well-meaning misdiagnosis does more harm than good.  It leads eventually to backlash, to Tea Party distrust of regulatory immunizations.  It can lead to distrust of even enormously beneficial policies - like the end of leaded gasoline, which cut lead poisoning in urban children by more than 50%.
 "At least we meant well, we THOUGHT Indonesia was burning the computers" 
Our environmental community, from Silent Spring Garden Club to 350.org, must see the passion we have harnessed as a weapon to be wielded carefully.

Primum non nocere

I am not at all opposed to enforcement, to regulators, or regulations.  As a former regulator, writing about enforcement and regulation, I'm sure to be popular among scofflaws.  I'd prefer that regulators focus on proportionate pollution, like mining effluents.  I am damn opposed to what happened to the CRT refurbishing factories in Indonesia and Malaysia and southern China.  ISO 14001 Factories which we trusted to make and assemble our CRT monitors, turning to refurbishing and remanufacturing, preserved sustainable jobs in developing countries, creating affordable internet along the way.

Denied the right to import legally an openly from states like California, it's little wonder that the importers, to meet demand, begin to develop relationships with shady recyclers.  The import-for-reuse business moves into back alleys, and underground... The mafia always benefits from prohibition.
"And then came creeping over her face and eyes flies without wings; she winked and blinked, but they could not fly away, for their wings had been pulled off; this, added to the hunger she felt, was horrible torture."
Prohibition of used computer exports?  Pulling the wings off butterflies creates creepy things.  Calling these beautiful, sustainable, job creating, non-polluting, recycling and repair factories "polluting" or "illegal under Basel" cripples sustainable young entrepreneurs, and cripples internet in emerging and tipping democracies.  Enforcement against refurbishment, under the salivating watch of Planned Obsolescence/Anti-Reuse, creates an underground economy.  Like any prohibition which resists market demand, "organized purchasing" (from Interpol) defines, and thereby creates, "organized crime".  And this is nothing like alcohol or abortion, there is nothing taudry about poor people reusing and recycling.   This is a butterfly, or a mockingbird.

Jim Puckett is a crusader, with a genuine passionate anger against toxic pollution.   He meant well, but diagnoses based on philosophy rather than data.  Jim cannot now afford to look at the collatoral damage, because he doesn't want to tarnish his environmental robes.   Unfortunately, he refused to consider the affordable internet market, the legitimate recycling jobs, and other children his childcatcher patrons are arresting.   He mistook the accolades for environmental progress.  A modern day Thomas Midgley, Jr., he protects his legacy above the health of his clients.

Never measuring the balance of harm means never learning the outcome of the cures.  He has now created the "cognitive risk" against recycling to green consciences, which is playing out with the actual arrest and actual closure of internet cafes, cell phone infrastructure entrepreneurs, and self-made sustainable factory owners.  Like a healthy republican candidate leaveraging fear of innoculations, he profits in polls while making people fear hand disassembly, repair, reuse and recycling.

At the Washington DC meeting of Interpol on E-Waste in 2010, Jim Puckett preached to the Childcatchers.   When I asked him from the floor, point blank, whether he had seen ANY computer monitors in Guiyu with the 60 Minutes team, he simply admitted he had not, and went quickly to the next question.

Jim is now MORE than aware of the display device contract manufacturer takeback, aka "semiknockdown" factories, but he has closed one eye.   He passively lets the buck of false accusations be passed, lining his pockets in the blood change.

The counter-point-pleas for sustainability and internet democracy, bubbling among the "mud people", is inconvenient, and called off-topic.  Parts of the story that do not fit Basel Action Network's narrative are ignored, even at the cost of obliterating sustainable environmental operations.  Managing one primitive image is easier than explaining the other side of Shenzhen, where Foxconn is making our smart phones.  Information doesn't lead where he is going, and is ignored.  Factory refurbishing is an inconvenient truth, and he has led many to trod on the loaf rather than retrace the trail of facts and data.

There is a loaf of sustainability, democracy, and income for the "mud people" whose images he uses, hideously, to raise funds.  BAN charges royalties for photos of muddy children, but shares not a dime with them or their parents.  Like General Custer, raising money to buy smallpox blankets for Sioux children. He needs liquid feedback from our environmental community.

Everyone taking a shortcut of falsehood to profit from sales of shredding good equipment, everyone who makes a blind fingered accusation against a geek of color, every Interpol report which publicly surmises that payment from a CRT furnace to a CRT recycler, or payment from an African entrepreneur to a UK computer collector, is as complicit as the Oxbow mob or the Mockingbird Jury...  You deserve what you get.  Hypocrites and bad guys.  You are giving the green light to the child catchers.  Wake the hell up.
Little Inger sank into this brewery, and no one could stand it very long there. A cesspool is a wonderful palace compared with the Marsh Woman's brewery. Every vessel is reeking with horrible smells that would turn a human being faint, and they are packed closely together; but even if there were enough space between them to creep through, it would be impossible because of the slimy toads and the fat snakes that are creeping and slithering along. Into this place little Inger sank, and all the horrible, creeping mess was so icy cold that she shivered in every limb. She became more and more stiff, and the bread stuck fast to her, drawing her as an amber bead draws a slender thread.
Does God forgive bad doctors who misdiagnose and kill patients out of ignorance and pride?

Once again, I invite E-Stewards like Westervelt, Davis, Neu, Shegarian, Roman, Brundage, Yob, Taggart, Houghton and Sims to personally spend ten days at any of our refurbishing plants, in Mexico or Africa or Indonesia.   Legitimate journalists - Knudson, Lobet, Minter - have done so, and faculty and graduate students are following suit.

Come sleep in the homes of the mothers whose children's lives are less at risk from "witches brews" of lead solder than from unemployment, primitive hospitals, and lack of malaria medicine.  Let them examine the containers of working computers seized in Egyptian customs.   Come and see what I have seen, with our USA Passports, our "get out of dictatorship free" cards.  Come and meet the revolutionaries who are trying to change Africa and the world at huge risk to their parents and children.  Take a walk on the wild side of technology, break bread with the techs of color.  Come, take notes.  See what APEC Remanufacturing Conference has seen. I don't believe you will push the Chicas, like Rosie Parks, in front of the bus.

Refurbishers, come to E-Scrap Conference in Orlando, and stand up to the Ayatollah of E-Waste.   This is not just a "pissing match".  Fair Trade Recycling is confrontational, but constructive and non-violent.  We are not making war, no more than Gandhi or Martin Luther King made war.  We are using our words, using truth, and doing him a favor to say out loud, and forcefully "LET MY PEOPLE GO".

Hans Christian Anderson warned, when you trod on the loaf, the creatures whose wings you pulled crawl all over your naked eyeballs in hell.  Stop pulling the wings off my butterfly friends.  They have come to hate USA environmentalists worse than they hate the people who mix in junk along for the ride.  That was not the case ten years ago, and like the Tea Party backlash against immunization, it's a mistake on their part. But they have a right to exist.  They need to hear that, and they need to hear it from Stewards.

Whoa.... quite the post unleashed.   It may embarrass or haunt me.   Spiritual materialism, unwillingness to admit the consequences of our best intentions, this may require a priest, meds, and a shrink.  But in the meantime, take the long message, primum non nocere, do no harm.  Pride, even eco-green-liberal-pride, cometh before a sinking feeling.
But one day, while hunger and grief were gnawing in her hollow frame, she heard a little, innocent child, while listening to the tale of the vain, haughty Inge, burst into tears and exclaim, “But will she never come up again?”
And she heard the reply, “No, she will never come up again.”
“But if she were to say she was sorry, and ask pardon, and promise never to do so again?” asked the little one.
“Yes, then she might come; but she will not beg pardon,” was the answer.
“Oh, I wish she would!” said the child, who was quite unhappy about it. “I should be so glad. I would give up my doll and all my playthings, if she could only come here again. Poor Inge! it is so dreadful for her.”
These pitying words penetrated to Inge’s inmost heart, and seemed to do her good. It was the first time any one had said, “Poor Inge!” without saying something about her faults. A little innocent child was weeping, and praying for mercy for her. It made her feel quite strange, and she would gladly have wept herself, and it added to her torment to find she could not do so. And while she thus suffered in a place where nothing changed, years passed away on earth, and she heard her name less frequently mentioned. But one day a sigh reached her ear, and the words, “Inge! Inge! what a grief thou hast been to me! I said it would be so.” It was the last sigh of her dying mother.
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PS - Jeezum, this is long.  Rereading, and trying to edit it down to size, trying to decide whether to post or place in draft queue... I'm reminded that, in high school, I seriously considered the ministry.  I chose instead "karma yoga" of reducing mining via recycling, hoping to buy time for endangered species I learned about from Jacques Cousteau.  

I realized that my spiritual breeding, from Evangelical, to Christian Science, to Tao, to Plato, to Vedanta Society, Siddhartha, to  Trungpa, and back to Jesus - that my Belief System was a mutt breed which would never build an economically sustainable congregation.  No matter, the best prophets never live to see a following, and in the end, we are all divisible by infinity.  50,000 years, impossible to reach that far ahead, even with a patent on the wheel.  But the purpose of a sermon is to gather believers, and somehow find a fresh way to re-inspire them to the purpose.  If it's interesting enough (and there I most often fail), they may share the insight with a friend.

Whether our personal heavens or hells are divisible by billions of others, born and yet to evolve, and redivided by galaxies more numerous than grains of sand, we can try to illuminate the moment in which we find ourselves.  We can try to be a match lit for our life-instant in a dark tunnel of human evolution.   We can try to be the moment which wakens the sleepy truckdriver, sparing the oncoming minivan from a fiery, News at 11, crash.

I really love the hope and joy I see when a geek in a poor country succeeds at fixing something he got for nearly nothing.  The jolt of reward, for his tireless reading of technical books, when his friends were chasing balls and skirts.  The window he opens on the internet, the hope that springs from Facebook and Tweets of the African Arab Spring.   The money he earns, and uses to hire other would-be warriors, the medicine they bring, the safety of mosquito nets.   To know a seventy year old African man who in his lifetime managed building of a first hospital, not just the name "Beth Israel" of some unknowable figure of history, but eyeball to eyeball with the dark eyes that carried the project of medicine through unknown red tape, threats, and discouragement.  In the same lifetime as the man who built the first hospital in Accra or Yaounde or Bujumbura, he can see women doctors, he can see computers used to manage the blood banks, he can see progress on malaria, and the number one killer of women in Africa - bloodloss in child birth.

This man cares about "toxics" and "witches brews", though he has learned in Africa to see them from opposite lobes, goalposts of history and progress.

What Malcolm X, Martin, Gandhi, Benjamin Franklin, and Aristotle brought was pride and hope... not by talking about pride and hope, but by rising from venues of ghetto to be match lights in the tunnel, attracting people with relief that there IS a direction.  We go to prayer for direction, I think, and direction needs gravity.  The illumination of truth snaps together with faith like bearings on a wheel, and we sense, in our chests and minds, that we have created a motion as powerful as the Mississippi River which Huck and Niger Jim rode passively together, mano a mano, past Dukes and Kings.

The most you can probably hope for in life is an Odyssey.  So, I'm an exporter, visiting foreign lands, trading with women and men in different societies and cultures.  I'm an apologist, a defender, for globalization.     I cannot say that my bridge of friendship, between Muslim geeks in Cairo and Jakarta and urban Zen Buddhists in Hong Kong and Vancouver and evangelical women in Sonora Mexico and Arkansas will bring peace to the world.   But it's much more likely to lead to peace, and environmental sustainability, that stereotypes of wire burning villages and donations for churches in heathen lands.   Reagan spoke of touching the face of God in flights toward the stars.  

But God is more touched when we touch our neighbors, and love them as ourselves.

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