Wait 15 Seconds, Walk 5 Meters

If you don't like the recycling you see in the non-OECD nations (about 6 billion people), look elsewhere.  "Elsewhere" within the non-OECD is an incredibly sophisticated, layered, textured market.  Wait fifteen seconds, walk five meters, and you will see something or someone completely different.

Cameroon has changed since I lived there in the 80s.   Douala (the port city and economic capital) has just been "wired" by high speed optic, as of December 12... Cameroun's first "smart city".

Aya Heroines Rising
Meanwhile, the level of suspicion raised by anti-export groups has risen to comic book proportions.  There is a huge campaign, backed by nanny-NGOs, planned obsolescence, and heavy shredding investors, dedicated to preserving decade old images of children in puddles of filth.  They want us all to believe there is no convergence, that 6 billion people are moving backward, away from the OECD.

If you actually work with the geeks and the techs, you see that the world is developing in positive ways, faster than believed  possible.  Yes, there are child soldiers, there are terrorists, there are Somali pirates, there is disease, and there is poverty.  But the tide is rising, not falling.  And the seed is the same as in Singapore and Japan - Geeks and Tinkerers, Fixers, and Techs.

The internet, the cell phone, the digital camera, the music.  Kiva entrepreneurs, internet cafes, young doctors and nurses earning medical degrees.   The African doctors, the African mechanics, the African writers, they create a buzz which I haven't felt since... well, Guangzhou in 2002.

China's rapid rise to "converging market" would have been a zany prediction to many back in the 1980s.  Except that people were indeed making it.  My college advisor (Roy Grow, Carleton College) told us earnestly what a powderkeg of potential China sat on, and that nothing that was happening in Japan was to be unexpected when China found its footing, and the intelligent people took charge.

That's what free trade is.  Intelligent people making intelligent choices, without a nanny-state NGO or government protecting them.

India elects minority Sikhs as prime minister, and minority Muslims as president.  Libyan dictators fall.  Women-owned businesses grow outside the boundaries of selling mimbo and body massage.  Lenovo the contract manufacturer grows up and asks Daddy IBM for the keys to the personal computer business.  We talk by Skype on handheld smart phones with women executives, cutting deals in Penang to deliver PCs to Cairo.

Stupid chopping technology investors quake with fear that the "dirty little secret" of e-waste exports will prove to be a double-cross, a hoax built on paternalistic assumptions.   I actually saw a standard that said printer RAM must be destroyed prior to export, in case the overseas market takes the printer RAM and locates the last printed document in the queue.   This makes sense for the White House or the Pentagon.   I doesn't make sense for grade schools and making it USA law is ridiculous.

Before the Africans can prove they aren't primitive, that they can out-rig and out-repair a laptop or cell phone, beyond the levels of savvy tech, the heavy hands of American Industry will try to pass a law to ban trade.  They realize that the false images of children cannot protect them forever.

If we let them, they will pass a law against selling a laptop to Aya.  The name of that law is the Responsible Electronics Recycling Act (HR 2284 / S1270)   The question is... Responsible for who, and responsible for what?  Responsible for tricking American consumers into shredding repairable display devices?  Responsible for running PCs through carbon belching grinding machines which could have been parted out by hand, creating jobs and protecting the environment?  Responsible for blending rare earth magnets into chunks of steel to be lost, so that we mine coral reefs to replace them?

Responsible for keeping Aya off the internet, that's what scares me.  HR2284 is a thinly veiled, racially marketed, restriction on trade which is bad for American jobs and bad for the emerging markets.  The people peddling it don't walk the streets I walk, don't meet the people I meet.  They may be bigger and richer than we are.   But the genie of Geeks of Color is out of the bottle.   They can find the product to refurbish elsewhere.    This is just going to be bad for America.  And it won't create jobs... sorting a ton of laptops for reuse and export creates far more and far better employment than running them through a shredder.  Costing America money doesn't make Americans richer.

This is being marketed by "parasites of the poor", the people trying to make money off of other peoples problems.  Denying Americans the right to resell their used computers, forcing taxpayers to pay to chop up working and repairable equipment, is corporate welfare, taking jobs and technology away from a world that is desperate to buy it.   Getting in bed with dictators who want to take affordable internet away is a bad place for environmentalists to be.   Wake up and get out before you get screwed.

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