Guilt, Technology, Race, Women, Photography & ZANZIBAR II

A very brief second part.

This is a fair use criticism of the film by Isaac Brown.


This is not the highest resolution available... but how many computers can you actually COUNT in this photo?  Of the number you count, how many were imported 15 years ago and in use for years?  How many were taken off a ship and burned?  Is it 80%???

My goal isn't to sanitize the exports, but to treat the importers as equals, humans, and to improve trade via free trade where buyers have fewer sellers boycotting them.

More about photography and guilt and women and race and technology in Part 3, which is much longer and needs editing.  Just ponder the power of a simple photograph until the weekend...

At Retroworks de Mexico, we call this "SAFARI".   When people come to photograph the "primitives" recycling computers "by hand"....

Modern day photographers are making me think twice about Edward Curtis... a friend of my great-grandfathers'.



When contacted by The Independent, Mr Benson yesterday denied he had been arrested and insisted his company followed the relevant regulations. He said: "I have done nothing wrong. I operate a legitimate business and we operate within the rules. We dispose properly of anything that is broken."

Racial profiling + photography.  BINGO.

Free the reputations of Joseph Benson, Gordon Chiu, Ow Yung Su Fung, Jinex and Hamdy.

read more about the "e-waste hoax" at allvoices.

Guilt, Technology, Race, Women, Photography & ZANZIBAR

Key facts (World Health Organization)

  • Every day, approximately 800 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
  • 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
  • Maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities.
  • Young adolescents face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than older women.
  • Skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies.
  • Between 1990 and 2010, maternal mortality worldwide dropped by almost 50%
The same time that internet access increased ten fold, death in childbirth dropped worldwide, and acceptance of gay rights became a hallmark of OECD nations.

Two recurring themes of this blog are the student of mine who died from bloodloss in childbirth in Ngaoundal, Cameroon, and the three loads of Pentium 4 computers seized from a medical student and hospital electronics company in Alexandria, Egypt (called "e-waste" by authorities).  When I'm accused of "not caring about toxics", I say I care about peoples lives.

The last day I handed out grade cards in Cameroon, I felt like a fool for calling her name .. the last student, the worst grade (grades were read out like a competition, in order of performance). Another teacher came and whispered to me that she had died that night.  She came from a relatively privileged family.   Her father was the Sous-Prefet, he was a fat cat, a grand legume.

The 1% in Africa also rely on the "good enough market" at the hospital.  There is no special hospital for the upper middle class, the prefectures.  But the good news, above, from WHO, is that the hospitals are getting more modern, and mortality of women in childbirth is declining.

The chances of dying are declining as Africa modernizes... but at what cost, this modernization?  Should the "precautionary principle" cause us to slow down on our exports of used computers and hospital equipment exported to emerging markets?

Another theme of this blog is the use of photography.  Photography has attracted artists, whose dream is to do something which brings justice, peace and equality to the world.  The photography of war, the photography of child labor, and the photography of injustice have helped change laws and helped improve peoples lives.

Tomorrow:  How the West learned the Poisonous Fruits of PHotoGraPhy.

But first... a little digression This 5th Day of September.  Why the photo of Zanzibar?

Saving the Recycling Business, 2009 (continued)

How I Saved My Company in 2009-10: Yearbook 2

I described yesterday the precipice I found myself on in January 2009.   I'd just purchased 50,000 s.f. of overhead.   The renter who paid (the other) half of the mortgage had gone out of business.

Learning to enjoy the desert
Scrap prices from almost everything we tore down, except for chips and boards, were at pre World War I lows.  I had a business consultant tell me to liquidate everything and try to rent the building, and a couple of VC (vulture capital) deals come circling around.  A competitor started offering all my VT and NH clients 1 cent per pound recycling on CRT televisions, something unheard of, supposedly financed by an international company overseas - but mysteriously carpet-bombed at all our New England clients - no similar interest by the Asian company in Arizona (where we also did business), and as mysteriously, the Asian company disqualified it if it was collected in Good Point trucks and delivered to the same place...

And this sounds like a joke, but some people out there know the guy - a scrap dealer from outside the state started calling my cell phone and saying the F word and saying I was screwed and he'd locked  up ALL my accounts, and I was going to regret not having sold to him.  I'd hang up and he'd be the next call, 30 seconds later.   (I think he must have had a brain aneurysm, it wasn't normal, even for scrap dealers.)

All I had going for me was Chicas Bravas - the NPR discovered our fair trade recycling banquet in Sonora Mexico.  And our long-running partnership with the SKD (contract manufacturer) in SE Asia was still alive.  And both had CRT glass cullet end markets for free nearby.   We were hitting 22% reuse then, which was not as high as off-lease computer dealers, but it was 90% of our income in January 2009.  We just had to believe in it and make sure our clients could believe in us.

How I Saved My Company in 2009: Yearbook

Snapshots of the 2008 crash, 4 years of Education

In 2008, after 5 years of outgrowing space and adding trucks barely in time to keep clients, and after outsourcing hundreds of thousands of pounds of shipments to other companies  because I didn't have the space to do it "in house", I got a tremendous opportunity.  Next month will be "graduation", the end of 4 years of this wonderful opportunity.

We were paying roughly $8K per month to rent 1/3 of a plastic factory, which was still producing.  Another tenant was renting 1/4 the space from the plastic company for $9K per month.

View from 5000 feet... and falling
The plastics company went out of business, and the mortgage on the building was available for roughly $15k per month (quite roughly).  I had an opportunity to take over 100% of the place, meet half the mortgage through the other renter, double my space, and be paying into equity rather than just a rent check.   It took 5-6 months to get the loan approved, to empty college funds, put my house on the line, and borrow from family.  It was about $330K down, and we bought the whole enchilada in late October, 2008.

Crash...   What was that?  That was the banks, the stock market, everything hitting the fan a few weeks later.