Education is Expensive, but the Cost of Ignorance is Higher

This expression was shared with my by Ow Yung, Su Fung.  She is VP at one of the contract manufacturing facilities we still work with in Southeast Asia.  She has been primarily responsible for following through on the Contracts and Agreements which Fair Trade Recycling runs on.

The two-party contract relies on Civil Law, not on international police or "competent authorities" of foreign environmental agencies.  The competent authorities can be a part of the contract - our first contract with Ow Yung Su Fung's company required them to have their national Dept of Environment tour their "state of the art" factory four times per year.   Later, she obtained ISO 14001 and ISO9000.

We wanted to address the potential for incidental breakage or bad units in our contract.  I proposed to Ow Young, Su Fung, that they meet with a CRT glass manufacturing company, and provided the contact name we had used to sell USA CRT cullet there (while working on the CRT Glass Test).  At first, she was apprehensive, as the makers of new CRTs generally are not very friendly to companies like hers, which used to buy new CRTs but had not replaced them on the factory line with 'gently used" CRTs from America.   But the meeting went well, and Ow Yung Su Fung obtained the first CRT cullet supply contract for that furnace.  She became the chief supplier of the used CRT cullet, even sourcing the broken monitors from her competitors.

As the years went by, the price for the refurbished CRTs dropped, and the shipping distance to sell the new ones she made increased.   By 2011, she could no longer sell any refurbished CRT monitors in her own country, and had to re-ship 100% of the fully functional working units elsewhere in Asia, or to Africa.  At the same time, the supply of used CRT monitors in her home city increased, and she really didn't need to buy from our Fair Trade Recycling contract any longer.   Because of the relationship, we kept contact.  Today she buys dual core Pentium IV computers, replaces capacitors, and sells complete systems, along with LCDs.

Ow Young Su Fung is just one person.  They have about 100 employees in two countries.  Her boss, Allen, was a Taiwanese engineer who pioneered the system for cathode ray guns to show Chinese and Korean characters on the phosphor screens.

One of the problems I had running WR3A as a "coop" was that there was no incentive for me to personally fly and find other buyers when I had one that was working well, and there was no incentive for me to share my buyer with other USA suppliers when the demand tightened.  I know that there are dozens of other people like Ow Yung, Su Fung, in the world.  But it takes time to develop a relationship, and it doesn't pay to be promiscuous, jumping from bed to bed in the recycling market.

Perhaps my exposure to the world is too narrow, perhaps I focus too much of my writing on a dozen or so friends and trading partners in the globe.  Perhaps I need to get out to Guiyu more, and see the ugly side which scares American environmentalists away from these fascinating tinkerer markets.

Ow Yung Su Fung is a single mother of two kids.  I know her to be a very good mother, as well as a good technician, and right hand / vp.  In China, you see stories of people with a child like this [MailOnline-EpilepsyRecycler], tied to a motorcycle, while the parents scrounge for scrap for recycling.  Fung is educated, a self-made executive, and can afford special schooling if necessary for her kids.  When she says "Education is Expensive, but the Cost of Ignorance is Higher", I understand the depth that this must have in her own personal life.  We want her to do well, and we want her kids to go on to become doctors or pilots or astronauts...

When pictures are used to appeal to our cognitive risk, associating recycling with poverty, and poverty with epilepsy, it's easy for the uneducated to forget why Penang Malaysia is nothing like China.  I never got a response from BAN when I wrote an open letter [April 2010] asking them to retract the accusation that Su Fung Ow Young's factory was "poisoning people".   Readers of this blog know that I have never quite forgiven Jim P. for that editorial.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. 
Mahatma Gandhi 
Jim Puckett of BAN met with Ow Yung, Su Fung, by Skype at the E-Scrap conference two years ago, but I don't think he copied down her name.  We were meeting to pursue my "California Compromise" proposal, under which I'd stop shipping to Fung's company, and California would allow SB20 recyclers to ship bare tubes, prepared to standards, and allow California and BAN to follow every load and every downstream.  Fung understood the risk.  She knew that no other Asian company would talk to BAN.  She and Allen said they trusted me, and if I told them it was a good idea, they would try it.

Two years later, SB20 is bankrupt, and California has had to allow dumping of the broken CRTs, which could have been sold to her company working, in a landfill.  Jim said in an article on CNET that dumping the stuff in a landfill (even IPhones) was better than shipping them overseas.  The only good recycler is a dead recycler.  This is environmentalist fratricide.

It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend. 
- William Blake

But I keep being reminded, as I wrote in my Apology Blog last Earth Day, that the Geeks of Color are moving on.  They have for the most part found other partners in other countries.  Chinese used CRT televisions are for sale in South America, and SKD factories are popping up in Egypt and Dubai.  Su Young Ow Fung doesn't think about Basel Action Network over the weekend.  She has been confronted by more important things.   She can wait 15 seconds, walk 5 meters, and see the world changing all around.

BAN was an enemy of hers from the beginning.  Her mother carried bundles on her head at the seaside loading docks, saving pennies on the volume of world trade.  She is VP of a high tech firm, which became a recycling company for the nation which generates its own "e-waste".  She can afford to care for her children in a way that her mother could not have.  And it strikes me in the heart to hear that I am "dumping" on her, and that her factory, which I shared film of with BAN, is a "myth".  But she shrugs, quotes a proverb on ignorance, and goes on with her life.

It is sad that American environmentalists are being trapped in a stereotype, what my wife calls the "otherization" or "exoticism" of foreign cultures in her classes (she's Chair of the African Studies program at Middlebury College).

Fear mongering.  The latin origin of the word "monger" was a trader in slaves.  I must find the balance somehow to confront the fear-mongering of the anti-globalists who define my relationships as exploitation, and who fear-monger that repairing display devices is somehow costing American shredding jobs.  Their strongest weapon is fear and ignorance and guilt.  Shaking hands with the geeks of color, the new source of hairy palms.

A general feeling among Confederate soldiers was that the Emancipation Proclamation was an attempt by Lincoln to incite a slave uprising to destroy the Confederacy. After generations of brutal repression of the slaves, it was easy to imagine an uprising with ugly reprisals and Confederate politicians did their best fearmongering of the possibility. Instead, and to their great credit, escaped or liberated slaves who wanted to fight for emancipation joined the Union Army in large numbers. An astounding 85% or more of the African American population eligible for military service volunteered. By the end of the war, African Americans made up 10% of the Union Army, some 180,000 in all. 

"Wait 15 Seconds, Walk 5 Meters"

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