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 when he's in with weasels...

1) Mining and smelting investments are driven away from property values;  they create most of the poison, species and habitat loss, carbon, etc.  It's an ugly business.  Most of the "harm" your computer will ever commit to the earth was done before you brought it home from the store and opened the box.

2) Labor value is found in high density in ghettos (lighter blue) and "emerging" neighborhoods.  It is a resource, and it is agnostic... it does not recognize whether metal is "Mined ore" or "Recycled Ore", and putting a label of "waste" onto urban ores has had unintended consequences.   In the past few years, the term "waste" has been abusively applied to material which is "in surplus" in one geographic location (e.g. working CRT monitors) and sold, added value intact, to a market where the goods are not in surplus.  An alien would not understand how recycled metal is regulated differently from virgin metal, the wealth or nationality of the previous scrap metal owner would be undetectable.

But the alien de Tocqueville would be able to see material moving around, and see the economic value of the property that people were living in, and see the regulatory functions were associated with property value.

The Spock de Tocqueville would observe People trying to feed their siblings hungry kids will do a lot of things.  "Useless Lists of Jobs Beneath Wealthy People" and "E-Waste Poster Child" blogs were my attempts to treat people doing "e-waste", primitively or immaculately, in a position as an equal.

Below is a chart which I have trouble fitting here, but it's my attempt to show the jobs people have moving value and creating value out of the various land value areas.

If you follow the movement of material and value through the digestive system of adolescent nations, you learn that the free market has a lot of environmental credit.

The physical lead, silica, copper, aluminum, plastic, steel, etc. are the same, the recycling scrap work or the ore smelting work performed in similar property value locations.  The main difference is that virgin material is exorbitantly more pollution in its refining than (pre-refined) recycled material.  We call "lead" poison in one place, and we pay tax subsidies to dig it up and leave it on the ground in another place, because we need the chemical properties of lead.  Mercury we don't even need... we ban it in one zip code, while producing it in abundance as a "byproduct" for a metal we covet, in a different zip code.

The "focus materials" are not eliminated by shredding very well anyway, but because we worry about where the lead goes, we shred it first, like some kind of religious ceremony, before sending it as "fluff" to the same landfills and same countries buying scrap metal.

The environmental damage which will be documented by people one hundred and thirty years from today are happening still in the big green low-property value areas, the same as the big green parts of the USA which have most of the large toxic Superfund sites, some tracing back 130 years ago.   The Apache Indian Wars of 1872, fueled by gold fever, were not that different from the conflict mineral wars today over Coltan and Tantalum for our next generation cell phones.   And the extinction of the gorillas is not that different from the near extinction of the buffalo in the same big green areas of the USA map.

In the big green circle of low property value, people mine coltan for cell phones, with proceeds taken by generals of child soldiers, then hunt gorillas and baby chimps, or use liquid mercury to burn gold out of dredged clay in African rivers.  Those are the jobs in the green, low real estate value, territory today.  130 years ago, we had similar jobs here in Arizona (where I am today), killing Apaches with smallpox infected blankets, nearly killing the last buffalo, using child labor, and yes using the same alluvial mercury gold mining techniques in "Jungle Gold" and "Bamazon" TV.

The jobs in the light blue area are a little easier to get close to.  Reporters like Cam of "Victoria's Secret" can film mud huts pretty close to the roads.  And yes, some of the jobs people use are salvaging display devices, which I will describe in detail in Part 4, using a picture from Jim Puckett's camera.  People in the dark blue wealthy areas are still a little confused between vibrant urban ghettos and distant Heart of Darkness jungle villages.

The best example are small monitors and TVs (see next blog) which work on the type of very weak electric current which is typically found in growing barrios, ghettos and slums.   See photo of the colorful (from the side) barrio in Lima I visited.   People with yards subdivide their yards for families of nieces, cousins, and growing children... every inch of space is taken, and believe me, no new electric power lines were dug or poles lifted... the wifi and electricity is perculating through Cairo, Jakarta, Lima, Mexico City, Lagos, Accra, Mumbai, Rio, Islamabad, and Bangkok... house to house... the "good enough market" has a grey line as the ghettos take home more pay.

So take a look at the big chart above, if you can open it (I will provide another link to it).  I will put asterisks and show where the colorful jobs are, cutting off baby monkey heads to make bushmeat ashtrays, and the jobs taking a containerload of carefully selected 17" CRT screens - the largest size that will power up inside a slum with weak-diluted-twice-branched current - and try to get you to see how all black people in Africa are not alike, and that the Irish slums of Boston were not the same as the activity going around Wounded Knee.

If you were an alien, and you got E. Curtis photo money for pictures of people living in poor places, it wouldn't matter all that much if you captured the Dickens sickened folk in the cholera outbreaks from the Great Stink (the flushing toilet environmental calamity of 130 years ago) or the flushed out wire which gets burned at Agbogbloshie... You'd see those as kind of the same, a new technology floods a legitimate tosher or a legitimate affordable display device repairman.  And you'd see the sportsmen killing buffalo for their coats, leaving the carcasses to rot, in the green rural countryside, kind of like you'd see the people killing gorillas and crocodiles for tourists endangered species platters.

Because you'd see people as basically the same, and wouldn't understand why people group the negro TV repairman with the negro coltan miner, and the white smallpox blanket Apache child killing buffalo hunter with the white Irish working in recycled paper mills in Boston (where recycling paper started because the trees got too far away, and rag pickers switched to paper picking).

You would associate the activity, and the enforcement, with the type of housing, and quickly recognize that the political jurisdiction a piece of metal crossed did not change the chemistry of the metal.  Because you'd be purple or green with alien antennae, and see that humans are 99.9% genetically similar, and it would be much more obvious to observe the ecosystem that creates or allows the behavior, ratther than group human behavior by century time, or by human complection.

I'm on a laptop on the road, gotta go.  This needs to be footnoted, and linked back to some references.  But I'm in de Tocqueville mode, writing happily for the handful of people who encourage me by following this blog and sending email questions about it.  I hope the video doesn't lose anyone.

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