Boycotting the Third World? My Thought Crime About That

This weekend, USA Today and Burlington Free Press are were supposedly running two stories about my company, and about the Fair Trade Recycling summit.  Both stories were to feature interviews and quotes from Jim Puckett, who might say that my company is doing something wrong, even illegal.

A normal delay?  Did my blog signal someone to say something to someone?  What are the ethics (and smarts) of pre-defending yourself in a blog for a story yet to be published?  

I don't ship to these places any more.  I wish I could.

My company only exported 8 percent of goods intact last year.  That's 92 percent domestic USA processing.  And most of the 8 percent intact units went to Mexico, an OECD country, where the manual disassembly is a decent job compared to local mining jobs.   What we are actually doing that bothers people is defending people overseas, representing them to be not evil.  "Apologists" was Puckett's word.  I haven't seen the article yet, but I've seen what Basel Action Network has said about me and my company in print before, and heard him say I was promoting illegal acts to my face last week.

That's not an attack on what Good Point Recycling does.  That's an attack on our belief in other people.  Most of the intact units exported come from other recyclers out of state, material I buy tested working (including some e-stewards) and broker.  We do 2 shipments a year to Africa, and I brag about them, but they are less than a half of a percent of our 13 million pounds.

Still, I'm awake at 4 am wondering what the effect of a BAN accusation will be on my company and its employees.   Jim Puckett's quote is that I'm doing something illegal because the Basel Convention is going (in the future) to be amended to make export for repair or recycling illegal in the future.  His claim is false on its face value.  But when it runs in a headline, my company and employees will certainly be injured and be held to more scrutiny.

My belief that something should remain legal in the present doesn't mean I do it now, or will do it if it's illegal in the future.   If his quote runs, where is the line being drawn?   I don't ship to the factories in the photos above because Vermont doesn't want me to.  But it sucks, they are good companies, and the glass is just winding up in glutted piles.  But that's my OPINION, my belief.    Jim has said it's illegal.  My opinion is a transboundary movement.

In journalism, there's a term "have you stopped beating your wife" to explain the negative dynamics of a question being raised about a company or a politician.  If you can get a shot of the person being questioned, the blank stare on their face, it can be deadly.  Many a Chicago politician was introduced to the public with a slanderous insinuation, never to recover from the bad impression in polls.

Journalists like Dan D'Ambrosio face a tremendous obstacle.   The 80 percent export accusation, while kind of retracted, remains all over the web.  And the nuances of Basel Convention Annex IX category B (the legal export of repair and reuse and even recycling) are difficult for readers to comprehend.  It's easier to get the quote from Puckett, who claims that 80 percent of the exports are illegal, and therefore the eight percent my Vermont company exports are suspect.

The sad thing is that so many African companies are contacting me these days, begging for exports.  They believe that perhaps my company will not slam the door on them the way they've been slammed by companies from Florida to California and across the USA.   I wind up wanting to help them all.  But with 8 percent exports, I cannot.  And I cannot afford to fly and vet them all.

It's like my company is at the end of an underground railroad.  The word gets out that I believe in the export market, and the exporters flock to Vermont, and I can't even do business with them.

Maybe my crime is arrogance. I've been walking around like I'm ten foot tall and bullet-proof.  The irony is that the jobs created by the 92 percent of work processed here in Vermont would be sacrificed by shipping 100 percent of the work out of Vermont.   And it would be my fault for telling the truth about geeks of color.

Yesterday afternoon, my youngest son Jake (who is half European) was doing homework at the dinner table with two friends.  The girl from across the street is half Argentine.  The boy from the soccer match is half Madagascar.  They were doing science and math homework together.  None of them were thinking about their nationality or race.  They were concentrating on their homework.  Could they do the math?

Ultimately, that's the question.  Can the export market do the recycling?  And can reporters do the math?  Our race, ethnicity, national origin, has little to do with the answer.  If Africans and Mexicans cannot do the repair, reuse or proper recycling, they should get a failing grade.  If Basel Action Network issues contradictory statements, someone needs to correct their work.  But we aren't violating international law, and having a difference of opinion on what the international law will be in the future is not, as of yet, an environmental crime.   You want us to break 100%?  Fine, pay us to do it.  You want me to lie about geeks of color in emerging markets?  Scrap that.

I donate to Fair Trade Recycling.  Not to    Fair Trade Recycling is a non-profit NGO which disagrees with Basel Action Network on several regards.  He wants us to contribute instead to E-Stewards.  But he best be very clear who he's attacking, and what he's attacking for.

right to free dis-assembly
We won't pay extortion to an organization that criticizes our philosophy.  If Jim wants to photograph one of my containers, as he has threatened, I say be my guest.   We aren't doing anything wrong here, and if he doesn't like me interviewing Joseph Benson on the blog, tough, he shouldn't decorate his website with the body of my friend.  He better not try to hit my employees in the crossfire, because we pass the CRT glass test, with flying colors, because Vermont requires his stupid E-Steward interpretation.   I have a right to do otherwise in other states, and a right to say I don't like it here at home.   Don't tread on me.

No comments: