FIREHOSE: Environmental "E-Waste" Sustainability: Peter Sellers "Being There"

Following the blog policy to keep video to a minimum (it consumes a lot of bandwidth for readers in "good enough" internet bandwidth markets, even if their CRTs actually display better video quality than LCDs...) I will not embed the trailer to Peter Sellers' 1979 Film, but encourage you to follow the link.

BEING THERE.  (link to trailer on youtube, plot summary from wikipedia below fold)

Ewaste advocates think they walk on water
The analogy/allusion?

We meet someone who gets all his information from TV... cannot read or write.  Someone else, involved in something really important (economic policy) bestows their faith to the someone who just repeats things he saw on TV.   They become "insiders", powerful people with lots of influence.

Someone (Jim Puckett) took a picture of mixed electronics in the USA, then took a picture of sorted/single unit electronics unloaded from a sea container in Africa, then took a picture of (decades old) junk TVs generated in Africa at dumps.  He announced that the Africans are buying the unsorted junk from the USA and burning it in fires in Africa.

Some of us who really were "being there" in Africa decades ago know that the technicians who import the goods are the best darn hopes their nations have, the Ben Franklins of their emerging democracies, used computer displays filling the role of the used  printing equipment Franklin brought to Philadelphia.

BAN and Greenpeace's story... It's mathematically and economically impossible, its disproven by looking closely at the second photo (sorted, stretch-wrapped black hotel-upgrade quality TVs).  There's no interview with the Africa buyer.  Then, when the gobs and loads and piles of shredded TV glass appear here in the USA, our friend Jim shows up with a camera, saying "Tsk, Tsk" to the New York Times.

CBS 60 Minutes, NPR Fresh Air, PBS Frontline... the list of media consuming the images and reporting the "conclusion" makes Sellers movie seem more than possible/plausible in the Sustainability community.  How will college PIRG "E-Stewards" activists look international students in the eye when the simple hoax becomes apparent?  It's a hatchet job on the reuse market, planned obsolescence and big shred, playing us for fools.

The NYT reporter fails to ask the question... if 80-90% of the unsorted junk CRTs are exported to Africa, where did these massive piles of glass come from?

It would all be hysterical, except people like Joseph Benson of BJ Electronics, Hamdy Moussa of MediCom, and big factories like PT Imtech of Semarang Indonesia (a refurbisher of CRTs for the good enough markets) are tarnished and arrested and have collectively lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in intercepted goods, diverted to piles (unprocessed in Egypt, or shredded as glass in the USA).. to be photographed Greenpeace or BAN, and described by Chauncey Gardiner.


Chance (Peter Sellers) is a middle-aged man who lives in the townhouse of an old, wealthy man in Washington D.C. He seems simple-minded and has lived there his whole life, tending the garden. Other than gardening, his knowledge is derived entirely from what he sees on television. When his benefactor dies, Chance is forced to leave and discovers the outside world for the first time.
Chance wanders aimlessly, wearing his former employer's expensive clothes. Chance passes by a TV shop and sees himself captured by a camera in the shop window. Entranced, he steps backward off the sidewalk and is struck by a chauffeured car owned by Ben Rand (Melvyn Douglas), an elderly business mogul. In the back seat of the car sits Rand's wife Eve (Shirley MacLaine).
Eve brings Chance to their home to recover. Drinking alcohol for the first time in the car ride home, Chance coughs as he tells Eve his name. Eve mishears "Chance the Gardener" as "Chauncey Gardiner". Judging from Chance's appearance and manners, Rand assumes that Chance is an upper class, highly educated businessman. Chance's style and seemingly insightful ways embody the qualities Rand admires. Chance's simplistic utterances about gardens are interpreted as allegorical statements about business and the state of the economy.
Rand is also a confidant and adviser of the U.S. President (Jack Warden), whom he introduces to "Chauncey". The president interprets Chance's remarks about how the garden changes with the seasons as economic and political advice. Chance, as Chauncey Gardiner, quickly rises to national public prominence. He becomes a media celebrity with an appearance on a television talk show and soon rises to the top of Washington society. Public opinion polls start to reflect just how much his "simple brand of wisdom" resonates with the jaded American public.
Rand, dying of aplastic anemia, encourages Eve to become close to Chance. At his funeral, while the president delivers a speech, members of the board of Rand's companies hold a whispered discussion over potential replacements for the President in the next term of office. As Rand's coffin is about to be interred in the family mausoleum, they unanimously agree on "Chauncey Gardiner".
Oblivious to all this, Chance wanders through Rand's wintry estate. He straightens out a pine sapling and then walks off across the surface of a small lake. The audience now sees Chance physically walking on water. He pauses, dips his umbrella into the water under his feet as if testing its depth, turns, and then continues to walk on the water as the president quotes Rand: "Life is a state of mind."


In case you missed it yesterday... Firehose.  Environmentalists lead the charge against accused African importers of used tech equipment.   People tell me I'm hurting myself by being disagreeable and annoying and alienating "powerful friends" like Basel Action Network, Electronics Takeback, and Greenpeace.

No one remembers the names of the powerful friends in Alabama.  Everyone remembers whose side they were on.   I think in ten years, I'll emerge with my reputation intact.  How about you?

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