Holy Slashdot! Look at the Certainty over Fake Data!

So sure of themselves.  Feel the righteous indignation peculating the internet...  It gives environmentalists super powers.   Enfused with the right amount of coffee, the enraged altruist can hurdle statistics and peer reviewed studies and protect Africa from the proven innocent.  In our latest episode, e-waste bans will protect Americans from a future "epidemic of cyber crime!"

Environmental waste!

Insert your cognitive risk here: ________________________

Below are responses to my post in Slashdot.org ("news for nerds, stuff that matters") about the three studies (Kahhat/Williams, UNEP, and BAN's own adviced Kenya Study) which report that 80-90% of imported electronics goods (paid for by the importer, after all) are reused, while 85% of the "e-waste" filmed at Agbogbloshie, etc. is generated by Africans after decades of reuse.

Mon dieu!  The outrage!  People really sure that if it comes from developed nations, and is purchased by "backwards" Africa, that it's gotta be bad.   Lots of caffeine evident in discussions of e-waste.  The superpower of Certainty!  The power of Smug.

Seems (according to one self-identified ewaste pro) that I "have got a chip on my shoulder".  Or another quips that that I haven't read "customs reports", or I'm "missing the point", and that even if the imports are mostly good, that "it's still a useful myth to shame Westerners into doing the right thing" (that being... to boycott black people?).    My usual favorite shows up - that eventually working equipment will become e-waste.   ERGO... Egyptians shouldn't be allowed to purchase working equipment until they have e-waste processes established.  (Let's try applying that to the next i-Device sold in USA)...

Meanwhile, BAN.org director Jim Puckett agreed with me, face to face, that there were no CRTs at the end of the Hong-Kong-CBS-Wasteland trail, and that the SKD factories he objects to are reusing and recycling the elective upgrades ... he just objects to the parts refurbished.  He hoped the poor will "leapfrog" us, he once told me.

Now, as good as those contract manufacturing factories may be, it's the principle of repairing and refurbishing them prior to export which BAN professes.  Puckett hopes he will create USA CRT monitor refurbishing jobs by requiring "pre -repair" facilities to remove bad capacitors (or working ones that may be upgraded by better ones), effectively eliminating any incentive for the sale to overseas repairpeople.  Banning the export, we'll repair them here!  Tell that to California, which didn't even TEST the working ones when exports were banned - they just shredded them, and now California companies have requested permission to landfill the shredded glass.  That's what created the sellers market, forcing Africans to buy from people willing to stoop to doing business with them.

Safer to stand back, and to clap when they are arrested.  Chains... prison bars... defamation...
Boycotts!! Boycott the poor dammit!!!  It's the only solution to globalization!!!

Enforcement against the 3 heroes in "Environmental Malpractice" blogs? - Puckett called this "collateral damage".  A little more nuanced than the huffy comments of his consumers.   He called a ban on reuse (if via remanufacturing at an original assembly plant) a "legal technicality".  In other words, E-Steward arguments in support of HR2284 are no longer based on the percentage of exports which are bad, managed in primitive conditions, but on the legal precedent set by the cell phone testing committee at Basel meetings.   Even if the goods are 85% reused, they violate the 2008 precedent about cell phone testing defined by a committee meeting...  The interpretation should be made law, and will (eventually) when the Basel Ban Amendment is ratified... so it's not about children and pollution, really...

In other words, BAN itself has made a complete retreat on the "80% Primitive Waste Export" statistic.  But their followers didn't get the memo, and seemed amped up on coffee, certain in their beliefs that Benson, Moussa, Chiu and others accused of "e-waste export" were guilty of an environmental crime.

Look at the certainty of the commenters below... feel their righteous anger.  How dare I defend importers who have been profiled as "waste tourists" in the western press?

The lack of discourse and debate on this subject, the lack of public response to the arguments I've made in favor of reforming rather than banning the trade, and the caffeinated defamation and vitriolic attack on those of us who defend fair trade recycling, is the lesson to be remembered.   The "exports" from my company to non-OECD have fallen every year by 50%.  The markets are able to get used equipment from non-OECD China.  But if the future makes fair trade exports unnecessary, there is still a lesson for environmental watchdogs.

The genuine concern over exploitation and environmental harm has been refined into a rationalization for big shredding machines, planned obsolescence, and calling me names like "outliar", "crazy", and "a big supporter of dumping on the poor".

Do I have a chip on my shoulder?  Same was said of Rosa Parks.  She could have sat in the back of the bus, she was just being contrary.  My friends got whacked and I'd be a coward to shut up and be civil.  This is John Brown Geek speaking.

The parent /. (slashdot) post is an article that warns us that as Africans get more and more access to internet, that while we haven't actually observed any yet, we should be prepared for a "coming epidemic" of African Cyber Crime.   Holy crap.  Won't someone please think of the children!

Shannon Wheeler's TMCM
The article offers no evidence that any "cyber crime" is brewing.  It's pure speculation, with a headline of "epidemic", "Africa" and "crime".  What does that remind us of?   Here's the logic:   just as more car sales mean there will be more auto theft and more car accidents, and more flat tires, the author is free to speculate that a continent growing in internet access at ten times the rate of growth of Europe will someday grow cyber gangsters.   The law of equal and opposite reactions - You can't have a light without a dark to put it in.  Internet access in Africa will bring cyber crime.  Fair Trade Coffee will bring us Too Much Coffee Man, like a radioactive spider bite.

Someone even offered a statistic!! "I was in Africa and did a study; 90% of people want to be involved in cyber crime".   I can't tell if the commenter is being really really funny (I suspect so).   Another jokes about "One Laptop Per Criminal"...  Another says it's the fault of Western society.  And when I mentioned "e-waste" allegations against African, oy vey...  Too much coffee, man.

(A couple of the posts below agreed with me, by the way, and my comment was moderated "up to 5").

[My post] By the way, in case you missed it, the stories about "80-90% of e-waste exports" being burned by primitive African children has also been disproven by 3 separate studies. Africa has had television since I lived there in the 1980s, and the junk filmed burned at African landfills was in use for years, it's the same generation of waste as goes to our own landfills. Three studies showed that 80-90% of used computers imported are successfully reused and repaired. Articles like this one lead to profiling and arrests of good people as "e-waste criminals". The "other-ization" of geeks of color is really shameful.
    • Re:

      Well I was in Africa and did a study; 90% pf people want to be involved in cyber crime. Shoots a hole in your supposed theory.
        • Re:

          What? You were in the whole of Africa? Every country? Hats off to visiting Somalia and other charming hotspots and getting the shellshocked citizens to fill out your survey!
        • Mathematics (Chair?) at Temple University, does a little writing.
          Try 'A Mathematician Reads The Newspaper'.
          I think the first of his books was 'Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and Its Consequences', great gift book.
          No brain, no pain.
          • Re:

            The e-waste thing isn't "other-ization" (whatever the F that is) but rather shaming of Westerners for dumping their garbage on Africa. Can we not disturb the narrative? It's useful.
            Alterslash.org [alterslash.org], all of Slashdot's stories in one page
              • Re:

                Except the Westerners didn't dump their garbage there. That was the myth I'm talking about. The math was wrong, just like this math is wrong. Why was it believed? Looks like even smart people like you believed it. Profiling.
                Reply to That
                  • Re:

                    Even if it's not true, it's still a useful myth to shame Westerners into doing the right thing instead of dumping their problems on people of color.
                    Alterslash.org [alterslash.org], all of Slashdot's stories in one page
                    • Re:

                      Eh westerners did, smuggling e-waste out of the EU is big business. Look up some of the customs reports.
                      Teyla! [rachelluttrell.com]
                  • Re:

                    The you're missing is that whether the equipment was in use for decades or not burning it in open ditches is not an acceptable disposal method. Laws in the much of the "developed" world don't allow this and increasingly don't allow landfilling either. No one is saying "ship the computers to Africa to burn them" they're saying "ship computers to Africa, some of them might be useful, a lot probably aren't, and there is a definite lack of oversight of proper disposal."
                    You seem to have a bit of a chip on your s
                    • Re:

                      "Geeks of colour"? What colour are they? Blue? Green? 
                      Is it so hard to use the word "black"? I've worked in Africa. Guess what word Africans use to refer to themselves. I give you a clue, it's not "colour". 
                      Racism will only 

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