Travel Time in E-Wasteland

OECD Sierra Madres - Hope, Effort, Poverty, Copper
[Introspective Navel Gazing Blog Alert]

I'm stumbling around on my Phoenix-Tucson-Fronteras-Sierra Madres-Bisbee-Tucson-Phoenix-Las Vegas (CES) trip.  Have had some time to get a few articles and insights into draft, but need time to get the right pictures etc.     I think there is some really new insight into the USA's "E-Wasteland" policy to come out of this.

I've got pictures of mining trucks the size of a three-story restaurant, hauling red rocks and mud from the pits of the earth.  I've got pictures of grandmothers' fingers turning tiny screws to release optic sensors from CD roms, which we can sell to laser-pen manufacturers in China.   Tomorrow I'll have pictures of the latest new gadgets from the Stuff-a-Plenty show (CES) in Vegas.  I had 4 days of intensive conversations (as well as silly movie scene recollections) with Ph.ds and grad students, discussing Marxist vs. Smith labor economics.   Along the way I've been meeting with Indie recyclers in the trenches, patching their minivans with duct tape, cruising the streets to take massive wooden projection console Televisions from the spare rooms of retirees, and providing phone support to staff in Middlebury.

Now I have to spend all my remaining time putting together a Powerpoint for the CES Show in Las Vegas.  I'll be with an august panel of experts and don't want to wing it.  But here is a big insight on what people did that made a difference 50,000 years ago.

My favorite comments by email and to the blog are when readers realize the different time and spacial levels I try to examine Recycling Policy from.   The geographic dimension is obvious.  The social dimensions are the front I feel alone in defending sometimes.  The Geeks Overseas have taken so much insult and guff that I can no longer really refer to it as "friendly fire" from the Environmentalists, and in 2011, unable to get the War On Reuse Generals to recognize white flags (like the California Compromise), I'm actually shooting back.  This is one of the posts where I take a long-bomb throw, a shot at the stars for a touchdown, the details and personalities of recycling policy shrinking on the ground, from the view of the football.

Touche Pas A Mon 50K YO Pote
I'm alone now for a day.   Standing in the desert, in silence with hundred year old cacti being cleared for a sprawling retirement-opolis, I can again imagine the 50,000 year test.   Yes, I'm referring to last year's "Introspective Blog" on the 50,000 Year Test, written from the beach at the end of the runway at LAX, after a different grueling e-waste urban ninja free-running parkour trip along the west coast.

That post was trying to imagine something I'm doing mattering to someone in the future.  Extremely difficult to imagine a "one person's impact" scenario over 50,000 years.   Even Global Climate Change is more of an emergency for our grandchildren, but difficult to speculate past 2,000 years who will be winners and losers.

When I imagine what a human counterpart may have done 50,000 years ago, which may have affected me today... I think of extinction.

Wooly mammoths, Neanderthals (who lived side by side with homo sapiens and intermingled their genes with us).  The two things I think mattered were:

  1. Someone killed the last of a species (maybe one we don't even know about, a woolly snail darter or dodo-bird-of-paradise... but large grazing animals were the  PLEISTOCENE's big loss).
  2. Someone mated with another race, a Neanderthal, a race of people doomed to extinction themselves.
Humans added value of diversity by preserving through trade - traded genes.  And humans subtracted from diversity by extincting some species away.  That's the only evidence of "differences made" by my ancesters 50K Years ago.  And that's the challenge for those of us seeking to make a difference today.

We can only speculate on whether the Neanderthals were "out competed", "failed to adapt", or were murdered with the superior tools documented at the homo sapiens sites.   We have recently learned that, with the interesting exception of modern humans in sub-Saharan Africa, that modern humans share genes with Neanderthals.   Whether from a Romeo-Julliet, Hatfield-McCoy love tryst, or a rape war with infant survivors, or a desperate baby placed in a basket on a river, the story of Neanderthal has the same outcome.

Something from 50,000 years ago died, and something from 50,000 years ago survived.  Neither of these was an idea, or a belief, or a tradition.   On one side, diversity was lost through extinction.  On the other, diversity was preserved by two people (and I consider Neanderthals as "people") joining despite intense competition and possible warfare.

So... Not to reinvent the wheel.   My life is about preserving species (avoided extinction costs) and joining people of diverse insights, abilities, and backgrounds.   Hopefully, humans buck the current odds and survive another 50000 years in some form or another.  Hopefully it's something just as advanced above us as we are above the hunter-gatherers of 48,088 BC.   Hopefully, there will be creativity, creation, art, diversity.

I cannot commit to preserving rain forests and coral reefs for beyond my own lifetime.  But I can commit to preseving them as a baton for my children and grandchildren to pass forward, or with technology, unlock the genetic codes to someday recreate more of the nature and species and life forms.   If we can just keep from killing species for long enough, and continue to advance communication and knowledge and education, perhaps, maybe, technology or a change in attitudes or both will keep some of the genetic diversity I grew up watching, on Jacques Cousteau and Jane Goodall documentaries.  Like Tom Hanks in "Saving Private Ryan", I can help stave off the Planned Obsolescence, Mine-and-Kill, Anti-Tinkerer, Geek-hating copyright-troll, patent-extension free-speech battleground I find myself in, just long enough for the genetic science air calvary to sweep in.   And my children will be friends with the descendents of the high-tech  mining companies just as I am friends with Germans.

It's going to be about a struggle between right ideas and wrong ones.  The outcome I'm fighting for is fair trade between peoples, joining ideas, and preserving rain forests and coral reefs.  I happen to be defending the latter from self-titled environmentalists, who destroy the former by making recycling difficult and expensive and shameful (leaving Supply and Demand to dictate OK Tedi Rain Forest Mining, and scalping of the Congo Rain Forest for Tantalum cell phones)... or who stupidly create ROHS requirements (leadfree solder, made with non-toxic tin and silver) without ever "precaution principle" checking where the damn tin and silver come from (coral islands in Indonesia).

The post title, "Travel Time", is a double entendre.   This month, it will be 50 years down, 49,950 years to go.  Time to get back on the road, spewing carbon like bullets, and try to make a difference, Saving Private Species.

In ancient times, a gruff Jim Puckett tried to keep a growling Robin Ingenthron from doing something he considered exploitative of a woman of a different place, a different race, a different species.  Against convention, a half-breed was born, with ideas and traits we share today.  And somewhere, a future OEM leader corralled the last Mastodon, and rather than preserving it, made a killing in meat and fur.   As silly as that little image seems to us today, written on a Toshiba laptop on wifi by a highway, our fights today (at this exponential rate of discovery) will seem silly centuries from now.  But creating new diversity from exchange, and dooming old diversity from unsustainable consumption, will be remembered somehow.

That's all I got.

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In late Pleistocene, during the last 50,000 years, there were mass extinction events in many different parts of the world, involving at least 200 genera (plural of genus = a group of related species). But this was different from previous episodes of mass extinction:
1. It was much more selective, involving mainly the megafauna: the large herbivores (mammoths, mastodons, huge ground sloths, cave bears, woolly rhinoceros, other rhinoceroses, etc.) and the carnivores that fed on them, the dire wolves and saber-tooth cats. There was no accelerated extinction of smaller terrestrial species, plants, or marine organisms.
The following disappeared from AmericaEurope and Australia:
All herbivores
> 1000 kg
75% of herbivores
100-1000 kg
41% of herbivores
5-100 kg
< 2% of herbivores
< 5kg
2. It occurred at different times on different land masses:
Time of start of
major extinction episodes
(years before present)
Africa and S.E. Asia
North Eurasia
North America
South America
West Indies
New Zealand
This excludes any global catastrophe or climatic change as an explanation.
In all of these cases except Africa, the extinctions occurred shortly after the first arrival of prehistoric humans.  The first humans were faced with animals that had evolved in the absence of human predators, and the animals were probably easily overcome. Therefore, the most plausible explanation is that these extinctions were caused by overexploitation by human hunters.

An alternative view to extinction rate spikes 50,000 years ago, via climate change, is available below.   This questions whether the arrival of the humans is a coincidence to the extinction of large animals.  But I cannot imagine humans helped.

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