Presentation at MIT: Sustainability and Tinkerer Blessings

The theme of my presentation at Mass Institute of Technology (MIT) University this afternoon.

It's a class on international development strategy.

It took me back to high school.

This slide explains how I turned from philosophy to scrap recycling.

Recycling goes beyond human health, it conserves energy and resources for future generations.   The opponents of recycling have trouble coping just with the fact that kids they photographed 12 years ago are now adults working in smartphone factories in China, and understanding that Africans began throwing used televisions away 30 years ago.  This is ultimately about whether we are intelligent enough, and care enough, to do things today which affect the generations yet to be born.

The images on the left are from my years as a teacher in Africa... lots of pictures of kids I cared about then.  The pictures on the right are family photos from my life now, 30 years later.  The kids on the right had not yet been conceived of, and the kids on the left are now adults or dead.

"Toxicity" is important, but the future generations will not look kindly on our decision to mine coral reefs in Indonesia to get tin because it's less toxic in our lined landfills than (recycled-content) leaded solder.  I write largely hoping that some record of our environmentalist zeitgeist, hope, arrogance, ignorance, fear, and self-delusion will help future environmentalists behave more intelligently.

Here's a hint:  Give all your environmental leaders a brain scan (politicians as well, perhaps).

I predict that the worst ideas will be coming from people who don't associate time-space very well, and who react to images and imagery in the same areas of the brain that react to ju-ju, hocus-pocus, and racial stereotypes.

Since Basel Action Network has put my own "crazy" outlying brain into the discussion, I'll ask students at MIT, Memorial University, Arizona State University, Middlebury College, University of Southern California, Universidad Pontifica Catholic de Peru, University of Guadelajara, UVM, University of Amsterdam, Universite Paul Cezanne... and all the rest... to read writings by pro-export and anti-export crusaders and decide which is more logical, and which meets the Sustainability Goals (if those are the right ones) at the top.

The definition of insanity I've been given is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome.  The Resource Curse and the Tinkerer Blessing would show (according to my theory) that highly evolved brain scans - like African geeks and Singapore technicians who problem solve electronics schematics - are healthier than the types of brain that evolve to take the reigns in "resource curse" nations, where billions of dollars flow through oil and mining spigots.   What it takes to succeed in an oil rich country is control of the flow, which basically rewards aggression in the brain.  The surviving fittest are often military leaders.

What it takes to survive in Taiwan, Signapore, South Korea, Japan, and other "nations of tinkerers" is cooperation, trust, and ability to problem solve.

I saw an African man take two Dell laptops my techs had pronounced "unrepairable" and fix the bad caps and give them back to me in 45 minutes (I gave one to my host, Hamdy).   The tech was about 22 years old.  If a 22 year old African man can produce $400 of value in 45 minutes in a sustainable and environmentally sound way, I say go for that.

Which brains decided to arrest the African technician above, taking legal resource away from record illegal Ivory and Rhino Horn harvests in the past decade?  Which kind of brain is going to evolve fastest to realize the difference between these priorities?

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