Term Paper V (5): "E-waste" Export, Geog of Env Justice

Back to the "Term Paper" (for those following).   Here is how I overlay the "regulated areas" of "environmental justice" and "property value" on an actual case of "non-OECD".

(You may need to go back to "Term Paper 1-IV").  This is an academic post, which goes well with a video, but we also want these accessible in nations which csor videos, so here's a link to a "geographic" song, Rue St. Vincent, sung by Yves Montand.  Open and listen in another window...

Case Study:   Singapore and the Malay Peninsula

Malaysia, the nation, also includes huge rain forests in Borneo and Papua New Guinea - home to both the most biologically diverse and unstudied rain forests on the planet, disappearing orangutans, and the OK Tedi Copper and Gold mine (#evil).  Where it is green, Malaysia is very green.  But it's easier for the purpose of the case study to look just at the Malay peninsula, which Malaysia shares with the city-state of Singapore (at independence from the British empire, they were both part of Malaysia, but Singapore won independence fairly peacefully).

First, the "eyeballs diagrams" are NOT drawn to scale.  Singapore is 704 square kilometers, Malaysia has 338,550 square kilometers.  After a couple of years of co-governance, Singapore became independent in 1965;  it still had not rebuilt from Japanese occupation during WW2.  From Wikepedia 13.01.08:
Facing severe unemployment and a housing crisis, Singapore embarked on a modernisation programme that focused on establishing a manufacturing industry, developing large public housing estates and investing heavily on public education. Since independence, Singapore's economy has grown by an average of nine percent each year. By the 1990s, the country had become one of the world's most prosperous nations, with a highly developed free market economy, stronginternational trading links, and the highest per capita gross domestic product in Asia outside of Japan.[1]
Peninsular Malaysia has 131,598 square kilometers, so even eliminating the islands Borneo and PNG, it dwarfs Singapore.

It's easy, in any metric, to imagine Singapore as an OECD nation.  Today it is wealthier (per capita) than the USA, and has among the strongest environmental departments in the world - not spread across any wild or rural areas (the green sliver in the diagram is grossly exaggerated).  Every centimeter of the city state seems to have been assessed a property value.

It is not easy to imagine Singapore economically boycotting Jahor Bahru, the city in southern Malaysia which grew, as an emerging city and yes - sometimes ghetto - to Singapore's growing wealth in the 1990s.  Whether or not the Basel Convention is geographically feasible to enforce between Singapore and Jahor Bahru, the focus of this essay is whether it would be good for Malaysia.

Today, Singapore invests almost as much abroad as "externalizing" countries like USA and Japan have "externalized" into Singapore.   But to label Singapore's investments across the strait into JB as "exploitation" or "externalization" is difficult to image or imagine.

The same dynamics can be observed with other nations without the "curse" of undeveloped rural land and forest.   Hong Kong and Shenzhen, or Taiwan and the Guangdong.

Yes, there are horrific stories about King Leopold extracting ivory from Congo, and Andrew Jackson's seizure of native American lands in violation of USA Supreme Court rulings.  The "colonialization" story is so traumatic, perhaps, that a certain distrust of "globalization" can be forgiven.

But if Quebec does gain independence from Canada, or if Barcelona's Catalonia gets independence from Spain, should we really consider reasessing rural Canada and Spain's membership in the OECD?  Should we really ban trade between the nations, and investments by Barcelona in e-waste recycling and refurbishing factories in Extremadura?

Fair Trade Recycling is the only thing that makes any sense.  The "zero sum" game proposed by the Basel Action Network, endorsed by E-Stewards, mistakes trade between property value areas for the cause of the pollution found in areas with rural governance, raw material economies, and poor enforcement.

The trade between barrio and urban center, and between mountainside ore consumption, smelting, and industries, is tricky for sure.   But for agents of conscience to withdraw from the trade leaves a vacuum.

If BAN doesn't like Executive Recycling and other bad exporters, perhaps BAN should take a lesson in economics and geography and accept the fact that BAN created them. Perhaps well intentioned, but the lampooned story of endentured scrap boys buying California's 200 million dollars worth of cathode ray monitors created the bad exports.

The only thing that caused any Asian refurbisher to accept loads as nasty as the load photographed by CBS 60 Minutes in the Colorado firm's container was a shortage of monitors.   Factories in Malaysia and Indonesia were running 3 shifts per day, 7 days per week, making affordable monitors and TVs that would run on the tiny weak electric currents in the typical ghetto and barrio.

I lived in Africa, where I had electricity 2 hours per evening.  The electric line was run (illegally perhaps) from the Military camp by extension cord to a well connected former prostitute's bar adjoining the camp. From her back lot, another extension cord ran over the yard to her neighbor's house, and so on, and so on, until a trickle of current reached my house about 300 meters down the hill from the "free woman" part of the town (nicknamed "Zimbabwe" by the military officers and others).

The current arriving at my house was not enough to power the flourescent lamps in my living room, and often, for two hours, they would flicker and flicker, casting a ghostly strobe light barely capable of attracting moths.  But it ran my radio and saved me on batteries and didn't cost me a dime.

So I understood, completely, when buyers from Mexico City turned down the large 27" Zenith, Sony, and Toshiba televisions we sent from Vermont to Retroworks de Mexico.  I understood exactly why buyers from  Lima asked us to sort out anything larger than 19".   And I understood the economics of the CRT "skd" refurbishing industries in Indonesia, southern China, and Malaysia, buying only 15" and 17" computer monitors to make TVs.

And I understood the purchase order from Africa, the one Joseph Benson of Nigeria filled with the 4% of televisions that this containerload from BAN represents.

The TV CRT industry was making larger and larger CRT televisions, to sell to rich people who have larger square footage inside their homes and apartments.  But the unit sales were high in the emerging ghettos and barrios, where young men and women were coming from the countrysides without electricity, like the moths to the flickering lights in my African apartment.

They came all this way.. and they wanted to watch TV.  And they didn't have enough room or money for BOTH a TV set and a computer monitor.  And the contract manufacturing factories were making something just for them, something the bigger and bigger western manufacturers were not making...

For past pages, search "Term Paper" in the Good Point Ideas Blog search box (listed below)

Jan 16, 2013
Term Paper IV: "E-waste" Export, Geog of Env Justice. Photo Sitting in the exhibit hall of CES, the Consumer Electronics Show, at the World Trade Center (an enlightened name for an exhibit hall) in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Jan 09, 2013
Term Paper #3: Environmental Justice, a Little Drop of Poison. I'm going to put this up temporarily with a Tom Waits song (a little drop of poison) and then delete it in a few days. It's below the fold... Well a rat always knows ...
Jan 07, 2013
Term Paper II: "e-Waste" Export, Geography of Environmental Justice. Yesterday's thesis about the relationship between land value, environmental enforcement, and pollution, used a map from ...

Jan 05, 2013
Term Paper on "e-Waste" Export and Geography of Environmental Justice. Thesis: Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head... And wrote a thesis chapter in one sitting. Regulatory burdens are primarily driven ...
Jan 12, 2013
Taking a break on the "Term Paper" project which explains the "good enough" markets among the world's urban poor, I found some broken links on this 2010 post "CRT Recycling Primer". I updated a broken link and added a ...

For a preview of Part 6, keep reading

The rest of this is intended for a future post, but for the edification of solid readers, I'll leave my stream of consciousness... which explains EVERYTHING about CRT exports from 2002-2012.

Display devices built around an affordable, 17", seven-dollar used CRT monitor, with both a digital relay (capable of taking any analog signal, NTSC, SECAM, PAL,, etc and putting it onto an digital image)... but devices which could successfully turn on when the weak ghetto current was strung from the owner's house to his son's new apartment, built inside the tiny backyard of the streetless barrio.

These markets can't use 27" TVs.  They simply won't get enough electricity to light up.  The tubes have plenty of "copper" to burn, and plenty of environmental effort to "externalize" by willing shippers.  But there is a reason why the CRT contract manufacturer SKD factories buy 15-17" screen monitors, and why Joseph Benson's container, photographed by Jim Puckett, had only one uniform size of TV.  All TVs burn the same. But they don't work the same.  And the markets buy only the TVs that work.

So the smart guy says, hire someone from the repair slums to work in the USA to prepare USA "waste" for overseas "commodity status. 

Way ahead of you there boys.

The diagrams show how physical material changes as it moves across property values.  At each step in the chain, the "free market" adds value to the material, until "market interference" stops the adding of market value.

The things which take away from the "value" of the property are:

1) Time / obsolescence
2) Oversupply / surplus
3) Toxic and harmful bi-product of the value added

In "fair trade recycling", we acknowledge each of these factors, and the value of the employment and development and access to possessions, and improved property values from the free market.  We do not ignore the toxics, but we recognize them proportionately to where they are created and why.

When rich people buy something brand new, created from mined material in the rain forests, where most of the toxics are released, THAT is where the guilt is best placed.  Making wealthy people feel guilty about possible liabilities over product someone else wants to buy and take responsibilty for, their former possession, can add value so long as the message does not disrupt the focus on the original mining, refining and re-manufacture.

The environmental community has - at times consciously - entered into the high production value world of cognitive dissonance and cognitive risk marketing.   The blacker and younger and bigger eyed the faces, the more the guilt, the more the money they get.  They don't share a penny with the kids they photograph.  It's a horrific "environmental" industry, a severe malpractice, made more alarming by the seeming impossibility to debate or derail it.   It is a juggernaut of planned obsolescence, destroying added value as a competitor to real value, a use of surplus in one geographic location (a glut of CRTs in a rich neighborhood) to create a "waste" label which then follows Egyptian democracy thinkers using CRT monitors to plan their futures.

It's sick bomb, and I have named names who do not respond publicly.  My theory is that they are completely lost, completely outclassed, complete doddering witch doctors afraid to lose their roles in a a new "environmental health care" paradigm which sees natural process as healthy and manageable.

You cannot possibly be angry enough about this, I assure you.  It is the moral equivalent of western doctors using unclean needles to vaccinate people for venereal diseases in Africa when I lived there, which (I suspect) increased the AIDS virus to the most promiscuous sex workers and johns.   The injections Africans then INSISTED on (doctors in Cameroon used to give people shots of "vitamins" just because typical African patients wanted more for their dollar) must have increased the risk of transmission of HIV.  It had to.  I don't know how much, but it has never to my knowledge been measured.

Tin solder mines to replace recycled lead.

Vitamin shots for VD which wind up transmitting AIDS.

"Waste" labels on 5 year old CRT monitors sold to Egyptians who cannot afford $200 flat screens.

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