Fair Trade Recycling: Networks of Tinkerers

I have a lot of deadlines pressing, and a lot of 80% finished stuff in the DRAFTS folder, so I'll be spending less time in the next week competing for the latest and most cutting edge developments on electronics scrap export policy, surplus property policy, e-waste, digital divide, and Fair Trade Recycling.  We do have a big WR3A Announcement coming down the pike in the next 2 weeks, so stay tuned.

Tinkered Printing Press
Meanwhile, we try to be a resource for university and college students who are studying the past and present about trade in "e-waste" and surplus property.  We have an exciting new Master's Thesis student here in Middlebury for 6 months, who traveled from Paul Cezanne University in France just to study "E-Waste" with WR3A.

Many of these students come from other nations, and it's obvious to many of them that transfer of surplus technology is a transfer of wealth.  We never seem to see that simple idea in any UN, EU, or even EPA documentation.  It's as if our culture has become so obsessive-compulsive about food spoilage in the refrigerators that we are banning sale of food to starving nations unless we have proof it won't spoil.  If you give food to a starving child, you better have done your paperwork.

The "hyperbole of harm" accusations by groups like Basel Action Network have made donations and trade almost "radioactive" for donors.  Who is hurt?  Poor people, democracy, and the environment.  

My "hypothesis" that "tinkering" (see Japan, a Network of Tinkerers, Y. Takahashi, 2000) is the opposite of the "resource curse", that repair and refurbishing (or "Yankee Ingenuity") is a form of "value added" which has been critical to the most successful international development stories... it can probably be documented here in the USA when Yankees bought manufacturing practices and "surplus from upgrades" from England (c.f. Benjamin Franklin autobiography, on printing technology).

So again for the academics, here is some light reading about how Japan went from resource-starved and military complex into becoming the kingpin for technology two decades later.  This is happening in real time in India, Indonesia, and China - just to  name three of the five largest countries in the world, two of them the top Muslim population and largest democracies.

A Network of Tinkerers:
The Advent of the Radio and Television Receiver Industry in Japan
Yuzo Takahashi
Technology and Culture
Vol. 41, No. 3 (Jul., 2000), pp. 460-484
(article consists of 25 pages)
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25147538
A Network of Tinkerers: The Advent of the Radio and Television Receiver Industry in Japan

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