Distracted from the Real Environmental Criminals

On my way to Retroworks de Mexico, I happened on a Discovery Channel show (#trivia - on the back of the middle seat on JetBlue, the only unoccupied seat on the plane, I was at window 20F, which doesn't have a working TV on JetBlue flight 179, flier beware.  But I could watch Discovery Channel on the middle seat).  Jungle Gold. its finally captured the ugliness which e-waste recycling debate distracts our environmental community away from.

In Ghana Africa, we see "the real criminals", or the bad environmental activity we export.   Bankrupt California boys, Catepillar tractors, Mercury, guns, and a toxic extraction process allowed by the mineral policies we exported, policies developed during the Apache Indian wars in the western USA... all in an easy to watch "Survivor-like" reality documentary.

At the end of the Jungle Gold episode (different from the one linked above, I couldn't find it), the two American lads  George Wright and Scott Lomu are deep in debt.  The last scene focuses on the worst environmental act performed in Ghana.  Gold mining, and the extraction of the gold from clay (not the same as panning for specks) with highly toxic liquid mercury.

The Americans don't do the dangerous part themselves, they let an African man use the mercury to soak up the gold into a ball, wrapped in a cloth, and burned off (mercury vaporizes) into the atmosphere.  One of the Americans actually talks about how difficult it is, watching his coworker posion himself, and says that someday he hopes to buy a centrifuge for the guy.  Right.

The mercury itself comes from America.    It is imported from Recycling Programs for mercury lamps in places like Vermont, where lamps are sent for retort and the mercury is exported to miners in Africa.  Recycled mercury is virtually the onlly source of mercury, it's almost impossible to find a mercury mine, because the environmental net on waste disposal is so efficient.

Export Bans and  Reducing Mercury Consumption in Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining

is a presentation by Kevin Telmer, University of Victoria
GEF/UNDP/UNIDO Global Mercury Project

An export ban that actually makes sense.  While we are at it, let's ban the export of dumbasses.

I visited jungle gold mining in Cameroon in 1986, but it was not as highly capitalized as this one.  It had a 73 year old Frenchman and 14 African employees carrying sand in pails.  I did not see them use mercury, it was scaled up gold panning.

The use of mercury to get gold out of clay is different.

We will have a lot to answer for.   We condemned sustainable recycling jobs in Africa.   We closed the jobs importing for repair, saying only "fully functional" can be imported (stripping the 100M from the repair class in Africa, the same "repair blessing" that led South Korea and Japan to OECD status).  Foregoing the reuse value of our used computers, we bankrupt California, sending young hulks like Mr. Wright and Mr. Lomu into real estate bankruptcy.  We sell Catepillar equipments on loan for them to dig trenches in the water tables of Ghana, and supply them with neurotoxic Mercury to contaminate the headwaters, mercury we have diverted from disposal in our own Subtitle C lined landfills.

But our worse export?  The General Mining Act of 1872, a mineral policy which is mandated by World Bank and IMF loans to impoverished countries tempted to change the way mining claims are owned, managed, and cleaned up after.  We bankrupted Superfund with mercury contamination of our own gold mines, and now export the gold mining practices into the rain forests.  Visit earthworksaction.org

To make the world better, we banned free and fair trade with CRT computer monitor refurbishers who make the display devices which carried the message that ran through the bandwidth from the internet that destroyed the dictatorship that Mubarak and Gaddafi built.  INSTEAD OF BANNING GOLD AND IVORY, EXPORT OF 'RECYCLED' MERCURY, AND OUR WORST MINERAL LAWS, WE BAN AFFORDABLE INTERNET DISPLAY DEVICES AND TRADE WITH GEEKS OF COLOR.

I'm 50 and I have achieved my dream from high school and college.  I have a full time environmentalist career, with a sustainable way to help develop economies in emerging geographies.  But at 50, all of my time is being sent trying to undue the harms of fellow environmentalists.  The Tao Tse Ching was right, but I am no sage.  The ten thousand things, they rise and fall without cease.

Environmentalists are not immune from the arrogance and ignorance and self-importance which threatens the major religions.  Ignorant and sure of yourself.  It's a toxic combination.

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