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 http://scorecard.goodguide.com/env-releases/land/,  showing toxic release sites on a map of the USA, and a chart from the same website showing the relative amount of toxics generated in specific localities.  When the releases are charted as "an occurance" and each release is given a single data point, the map shows the "superfund sites" to be concentrated in urban areas.

The sites, when weighted by actual tons of pollutions, are 83.75% in the top 20 / 100 sites (suggesting the 80/20 rule or Paretto Principle may apply).  The top 10 sites are in Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Missouri (Doe Run area), and Orange Florida.  Each of these sites has a "drilldown" function for data at Scorecard.Goodguide.com  Orange County Florida, the one non-western, non-mining area on the top ten list, has a NASA, USA Department of Defense, WR Grace, Dupont, Department of Energy, Chevron industry, etc. on its list of "potentially responsible parties" for lagoon pollution.  The nine sites above it are raw material extraction industry sites, none of which, my thesis states, could function economically inside a high-property value area.

2.HUMBOLDT, NV350,591,683
3.PINAL, AZ248,792,746
4.SALT LAKE, UT138,824,328
5.ELKO, NV83,494,740
6.GILA, AZ57,220,938
7.EUREKA, NV43,572,135
8.OWYHEE, ID28,887,324
9.REYNOLDS, MO27,313,480
10.ORANGE, FL24,032,977

The enforcement and likelihood that a site is identified as a threat is proportionate to its proximity to a landholder complaining about it.  For this reason, the "superfund" target sites on the USA map above are concentrated around cities and population centers.  This "NIMBY" or "Not In My Back Yard" dynamic is part of a normal democracy.  The spotlight on "environmental justice" in the USA focused on the difference the likelihood of enforcement correlated to race of neighborhoods;  that's an overlyer, according to my thesis, for economics and property values.  As I pointed out in one of the Slums Blogs last spring, 5th Avenue in Manhattan had auto repair shops a hundred years ago... but these relocated to Queens because it's easier to do repair work on an area with lower property value.

The Diagram Below generalizes the relationship between property value, wealth, and awareness of pollution. People live in rural villages, forests, and plains, but their population density is lower, and enforcement of all types is less likely in these areas.

The difficulty or unlikelihood of an enforcement paradigm outside of a population center is why emerging market city-states like Hong Kong and Singapore are more likely to achieve OECD-like status sooner than an emerging market like Malaysia or Indonesia or Brazil... the most recent nations admitted entry into OECD have been small.   Large nations admitted to OECD tend to have gained entrance early on, because of their econmic power (like the USA).  The USA was admitted into OECD while the pollution in Orange County was occuring, but as one of the "founders" of the OECD, the USA benefitted from a simpler formula - wealthy and white.  Not even Japan was not on the first OECD list.

Still, the strongest predictor of OECD status or "developed nation" is the percentage of the country with dark blue - high property values - compared to the amount of undeveloped greenfield, raw material exploitation value.  The difficulty of policing it is part of the reason for the "resource curse".  When most of the value in a nations economy come from exploitation of oil, gold, diamonds, or other "resource blessings", before a city state has emerged for manufacturing (or re-manufacturing, tinkering, and contract assembly), the prognosis for primitive thugs running the country, subjugation of women, and low social development is dim.

What I'd like to do in Part III of this "term paper" is to show how trade between two nations with similar or dissimilar Venn Coding differs

1) Brand New Manufactured Products
2) Used, Remanufactured, Refurbished Products
3) Recycled Scrap
4) Raw Material
5) Waste

The blessing of Globalization has been trade between blue and blue... nations high property value holders trading with other nations high property value holders.  The amount of trade a light blue "emerging market" does with a dark blue area (selling IPhones and Android tablets to cities) is a predictor of how quickly it will itself become wealthy.  The "tinkerer blessing" part of my thesis is that absent a raw material "blessing", the highest value added potential is in repair, or "found value" in reuse streams discovered inside "recycling scrap" streams.  Japan's reverse engineering of the victrola (JVC from RCA scrap), and South Korea's reverse engineering of Japanese and USA Automobile blocks (same work as Cummings in Tennessee), are the key to understanding those nations rapid development.

When the dark blue is the chief "unnatural resource" for the light blue, the economies do better than they do when the light blue gets its money from oil, coal, ore, and diamonds.  Bushmeat, ivory, and "endangered species platter" at Carnivore restaurants are all signs of proximity to light green low property areas... just where the Superfund site pollution is found in the USA, even if the "individual superfund sites" are concentrate closer to where regulators drive between their home and work.

I find myself going back to where I started... checked out WorldWatch Institute, "State of the World", this morning.  It was where I thought my dream job would be.  But I decided that the study of what was happening was best done from inside the beast.  I became a regulator, then an environmental business owner.  But I hope to someday have lunch with Grant Potter, Executive Assistant at WorldWatch Institute, who got the job I dreamed of before I created my dream job at American Retroworks Inc., dba Good Point Recycling, founder of Fair Trade Recycling (TM)

I'll try to read WorldWatch Institute's Rapidly Urbanizing Populations Face Unique Challenges
I just don't know, a priori, if I'll agree with it or not.  But I wouldn't be who I am or where I am today if I didn't pick up WorldWatch Institute while researching my high school debate case on solar power and energy conservation.  I actually wanted to run a "recycling case" in the Energy Policy debate tournaments that year, based on the barrels of oil that could be saved by higher recycling rates (my partner Gary taught me the term "squirrel case" for an affirmative debate plan which was outside the box, told me it was a big challenge to weak teams who had their negative cases pre-outlined, but that it alienated some judges).

That's a digression which is best left for a blog end.  My twins are the age I was when I chose this path, world development through conservation, because poor people were more resourceful than rich people, and recycling as a career seemed like a better way to make a net impact than giving away my goods and putting on a monk's cloak... no disrespect, quite the opposite intended, to my fellow 1984 Carleton College classmate (James LaBresh) Ajahn Chandako ...

My intent in Part III is to look at "Export Trade" via the Venn Diagrams, who is trading with whom, in which direction, and where the materials and values go, and who is paying the cost of transport and cost of goods sold.  If you are an environmentalist, and cannot explain "cost of goods sold"  or "cash flows", you should give everything away and go join a monastery, because you are otherwise possibly going to accidentally get into environmental malpractice.   Sometimes "profit" isn't bad, sometimes "cheap" isn't bad, it can be the signs of positive trade with someone that doesn't have better choices.  If you do it fairly, in a win-win way, you can leave a cleaner planet, with fewer toxic sites than if the trade is banned.

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I hope I have a chance to keep writing (and editing) this essay.  I think it's very constructive.  But I'm not an academic, I have a recycling business to run.  What I have is a story, about how I read the Bhagavad Gita and chose, like Arjuna, to enter into MBA and business battles, to make a greater Net Impact, in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  The wisdom of Krishna and the wisdom of Jesus were in harmony to me, and the relationships between Buddhist "spiritual materialism" observations and the things I found distasteful about organized religion seemed to me, clearly, to be the same things Jesus was upset about.

I chose karma, which is to worship God by doing things, good deeds, for the physical world.  The physical world I chose to do good things for was a world where children did not yet live, a future where they had not yet been born.

The crime of my generation, as I saw it, was a legacy of extinction and habitat loss.  I was less concerned, as a young adult, with the exploitation of living humans than I was with the legacy that exploitation would leave future generations.  Extinction of species, destruction of coral reefs and rain forests.   

The only way to protect nature without reducing the standard of living of the current bunch of people alive today, the already born, is through sustainable development.  Sustainable development needs reuse and recycling wherever it has consumption.  Throwing away copper to dredge up more copper ore from another superfund site, or territory (like OK Tedi) outside the sight of superfund sighters, was the definition of "waste" to me, a wasted planet.

The things Arjuna would read in those decades were The Waste Makers by Vance Packard, and Lester Brown's State of the World.   How you can spiritually devote yourself to doing good by practicing business, and making a net impact on society, was explained in the consumption of a finited planet, a big blue marble.

Collecting cans and bottles is karma.  If the plastic of the bottle is attached to the metal of the can by a phillips screw, and you remove the screw by hand, you do the work of God.  This I believe.

When scrap boys take recycling from the city of Accra, I don't see their poverty as less valued than the poverty from an ascetic monk who takes a vow of poverty.  That is an early question in the religious books, how a rich man who donates all his goods to the poor is somehow holier than the poor he joins, and has somehow earned a greater reward in heaven than the poor people who had nothing to give.. that "blessed are the poor" did not make it a crime for poor people to go the other direction, so long as they kept the spiritual vows, and were not tempted by "materialism".  The "spiritual materialism", or continued accounting of a ledger by a rich man who gives all to the poor, is the study of monks.

I chose to become a recycler instead of a monk because I could count how many cans I recycled during my life here.  My ledger is on the species and planet I have consumed to sustain my lifestyle.  I believe in working with recyclers in slums around the planet, I believe they are the same in the eyes of god that I would be if I gave it all away, or lost it all in a stupid bad business investment.  

If you are going to potentially lose everything as you invest in a business, it works out if you lose it doing business with poor people.  If you make money via fair trade, their economies grow from the value of wealthy discards rather than the endangered undeveloped lands of villages.  If you lose your business, having invested it in helping poor people, you have at least done Jesus's work.

Mother Theresa was not "exploiting" the poor, even if society gave her our blessing due to her involvement with the poor.   But there are environmentalists who are not doing their homework who are parasites of poverty, who were not willing to take the math classes and accounting classes they needed to take in order to function, Arjuna style, as warriors in the history being written which future generations can learn from.

Future generations of scholars should learn that it was easy to say you liked Karl Marx and were a socialist because you never did your math homework, and it felt good to state your loyalties were with "the poor".  If your "loyalties" to the poor mean safely sitting in an office and pointing your lazy finger at those of us engaged in our businesses, risking all our money, to partner in fair trade with the emerging poor, well you have your reward.

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