Term Paper Required Reading: Waste Policy Haves and Have Nots

Here are three background reading assignments:

A:  History of the light bulb (Arizona State University INVSEE)
B:  Rapidly Urbanizing Populations Face Unique Challenges (WorldWatch Institute)
C:  Network of Tinkerers - 2007 US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Network of Tinkerers - Bureau of Labor Statistics

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - Quick View
by PB Meyer - 2007 - Cited by 5 - Related articles
Nov 5, 2007 – Network of Tinkerers: A Model of Open-Source Technology Innovation. Peter B. Meyer, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Working Paper 413 ...

When you fail to understand that "waste" is relative, and you apply the precautions over past waste in present contexts, you would take the used printing press from Benjamin Franklin, you'd take the used RCA victrolas from from Japan Victrola Corporation.

VictorTalkingLogo.jpgThe movement of used goods from "haves" to "have nots" is a story of opportunity.  Sales of working product (USA producing new cars and selling them to Europe) is an exchange from "haves" to "have nots".   Donations of rice to children is an exchange.  Purchase of coffee from a country that has coffee, for consumption in a country that does not have coffee, is an exchange between haves and have nots.

When you study the history of development, and the history of tinkering, and the history of new products, from light bulbs to flush toilets, you prepare yourself to do a better job trading in commerce. Or you can tell yourself that prohibition, boycotts, and bans on commerce are the answer... if you ignore the history of prohibition, bans, and boycotts.

If you look at one of the biggest boycott topics in recycling - the export of used ships to shipbreaking yards in Bangladesh or India, you should study the history of the Japanese Imperial Navy, and the sale of early submarine prototypes by the Electric Boat company of Groton CT and Quonset Point, RI.  The sale of new ships, used ships, and scrap metal ships to Japanese and Korean companies over the past 100 years is easier to monitor than the sale of cell phones in a single month today.  Tinkerers, resource curses, cognitive risk, boycotts, protectionism, and democracy all have important places in the history of shipbreaking and shipbuilding.

This Harvard Business School study of the economics, dynamics, and policies which led to the development of shipbuilding industries in Korea and Japan has little discussion of property values, some discussion of labor and payscales, and some discussion of the competition Korea faced from cities like Camden NJ and Groton CT.   Was this an environmental externalization story?  Or is the externalization of "toxins" and the use of poverty porn just a recent evolution in the type of negative advertising that lambasted sales of "scraps to Japs"?  (For a 2009 blog connecting the dots between Japanese steel scrap exports after WWII and the financing for NRDC and WeRecycle, see this Recycling History Lesson on Hugo Neu Corp).

My thesis is that the dynamics behind the movement of steel manufacturing apply with the exception of high capital investment and high raw material supplies when you look at the rapid development of Signapore or Taiwan through "tinkerer blessing" economies.   You take away the massive demand for shipping and capital, and you can turn an economy into an electric and electronics hub in a very short time, using schematics, piracy, counterfeiting, reverse engineering, fixing, resale, repair and other "white, black and gray market" dynamics.  My assignment is to research the history of Japan's steel and shipmaking (thoroughly researched) and compare and contrast it to Japanese history of electronics, and the reverse engineering of the network of tinkerers.  When geography moves two sets of jobs from Camden New Jersey - audio electronics and shipbuildign - to Japan and Korea - what is behind it?

How did the haves of New Jersey lose property value while property values increased in Japan and Korea? Was this an environmental story?

The Victor Talking Machine Co. was a major employer for Camden, NJ.   Japan's infatuation with tinkering and electronics shanzhai could be seen as the writing on the wall for Camden.  From wikipedia 13.02.03:
Although once a thriving center for manufacturing and industry, Camden is perhaps best known for its struggles with urban dysfunction. Three Camden mayors have been jailed for corruption, the most recent being Milton Milan in 2000.[20] Since 2005 the school system and police department have been operated by the State of New Jersey; the takeover expired in 2012. In 2008, Camden had the highest crime rate in the U.S. with 2,333 violent crimes per 100,000 people while the national average was 455 per 100,000.[21] Camden public schools spent $23,770 per student ($19,118 on a budgetary per-pupil basis) in the 2009–10 school year[22] and two-thirds of the students graduate. Two out of every five residents are below the national poverty line.[23]
But to blame the rise of the nation of Japan's Network of Tinkerers for the decline of Camden is to grossly misunderstand employment and property values. 
At Camden's peak, 10,000 workers were employed at RCA, while another 40,000 worked at New York Shipbuilding. 
The move of shipbuilding, like the move of electronics, had little to do with externalization of environmental enforcement.

The rise of Bisbee, Arizona as a copper mining town in World War I had nothing to do with environmental standards.  The closure of the mine in 1975 (following passage of the Clean Water Act) did.

To say that the 1920 production of Bisbee Arizona was taking away jobs from 1975 Bisbee Arizona is a bizarre thought experiment, substituting time for geographic distance.

I'm not completely sure where I'm going with this right now.  But it is comprehensible, and it is sane, to ask these types of questions when we are discussing something as important as denying Africans access to repair and tinkering economies.  

The boycott of Africa proposed by E-Waste Watchdogs is not based on science, and it is not even based on accurate statistics.  But the advocates beat a protectionist drum, an anti-globalist mission, which advocates for "e-waste jobs" to be protected in America.

I head back in 2 weeks for another trip to the American southwest, where my great grandfather worked in the bureau of Indian Affairs for 2 decades, changing from a do-gooder (liberal) to an arch conservative (congressman in Missouri and founder of the Taney County Republican), and who later gave his newspaper business to its employees in a last flirtation with liberalism.  It's a place to think about property values, the worst environmental superfunds, the role of environmental protection, and the injustice incarnate on native American Hopi, Navajo, Apache, Mayan and Aztec.

My factory in Mexico is in one of the poorest places in the Sonoran desert, and there is a lot of Indian blood in my compatriots.   Will Retroworks de Mexico succeed or fail?  And will we do so with the help, or the curse, of E-Stewards and Basel Action Network?  It's such a very small experiment compared to the history of shipbuilding, shipbreaking, copper mining, resource blessings, and resource curses.  

But for people like me who study international relations, international trade, and the environment, it's a place to think about these things, to do time thought experiments in relativity, and to ask people to their faces whether their jobs are exploiting them?  Face to face with haves and have nots, we will discuss the exchanges on the table, the standards of working, the environmental standards, the OECD, the Basel Convention, reuse, repair, and tinkering.

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