E-Waste Tragedy 7: Logical Fallacy ("Something Must Be Done")

Staying on subject.  What lessons can the Environmental Activist Community learn from the "E-Waste Tragedy?"  Does Joseph "Hurricane" Benson belong in prison?  If not, how the heck did he get there, and how do we keep from making the same kind of mistake again?

Turns out, the ancient Greeks had this nailed many centuries ago.

In Orlando, at the E-Scrap 2014 Conference, I actually had a chance to speak to several people on all sides of the "Guidelines" issue.   Most, including Jim Puckett, said of course Joe Benson does not belong in prison.

The person from StEP (Jaco) mostly defended the prison sentence for Benson.  Jaco acknowledged the probability that 91% of Benson's sold good were actually reused, and acknowledged that most of the stuff filmed at the dump was "Post-Reuse", and generated by Ghanaians.   Nevertheless Jaco made the case that "rules are rules".   If the Guidelines "suggest proof of full functionality", that Benson should have known the consequences of his export activity, even if those Guidelines were based on eroneous (BAN.org) claims.  Even if Benson knew they were being reused, and new he was bringing rejects back for free recycling in the UK, prison was warranted.

(Did you notice the term "Guidelines suggest proof is needed"? How about proving the suggestion is warranted?)

Throughout these conversations, we observe the "Appeal to Desperation".


This logical "appeal to desperation" has also been labeled the Politician's Fallacy, and often results in prohibitions, war on drugs, 10 foot fences to foil 9 foot ladders, and many "industry self regulation" standards.  There is a lot of money in providing "Something".

Having studied this for a couple of decades, I'm basically hardening in my position.   Even Mr. Puckett actually offered to sign the petition, and said of course Benson should be released.
Desperate measures

Desperation is demand.  Desperation is everywhere.   Desperation for internet, desperation for affordable TVs to watch documentaries and World Cup Games, desperation for good tech jobs, desperation for informal scrap work, etc.... these drove the demand for Joe Benson's suppply.   Desperation to be part of the emerging world market drives the economics that purchase televisions and computers and cell phones that rich countries discard.

I've stood in lines of Egyptian medical school students waiting to see the latest CRT monitors imported from America.   I have been to Africa, Asia, South America, and the Mideast, and I'm cooked in this.   I know the truth, I can't forget it just to fit in with my fellow environmentalist friends.  If I have a contract that forbids exports, I will fulfill the contract, but I'm not pushing anyone under the bus and I'm not singing racist hymns.

The number one cause of death of women in Lagos and Cairo is lack of computerized blood banks.   Two former medical school students in Cairo were buying 2 containerloads of computer monitors in 2008, just to meet that desperate need.

So yes, there are poor people, and huge cities in Africa have dumps.  The snapshots of Africa's Desperation have led to "white guilt" which makes European and American "agents of conscience" desperate to escape their guilt, their corporate liability.  And the #whitesaviorcomplex and #liabilitycomplex recyclers in the West are desperate not to be associated with that poverty, that blame, and that guilt.

Desperation for internet, television, cell phones and blood banks vs. Desperation not to be accused of liability for a reused device that EVENTUALLY gets scrapped 15 years later.   Guess whose desperation is more important?

  • Something must be done about whites desperate not to be accused.
  • Shredding and export bans and Guidelines are something.
  • Therefore, something (export bans and Guidelines) must be done.

Benson is in jail because Lord Chris Smith's UK Environmental Agency places greater weight on the latter "appeal to desperation".   The Guidelines were designed without the Africans, Asians, or South American geeks of color in the room, they were done without purchase orders, and the total failure to account for "elective upgrade" and "eventual discard" in the PACE charts shows that White IFIXIT geek jobs are protected, white big shred is protected, and expat Africans like Benson finish last.

It has come to jail.   Someone is in jail because of Guidelines drafted in an Appeal to Desperation of do-gooders, in a liability ju-ju culture.   And taxpayers in England are paying both to destroy working televisions from hotel upgrades (to flat panel), and are paying to feed and house an innocent man in their prison.

And no one is reporting on this.

Are they all still afraid of the Ayatollah of E-Waste?  I no longer think that explains it.   I think it's the Money In Something, as in the Something that must be done.

It's a sin to kill a mockingbird, people, and your window of deniability ("We thought we were doing the right thing.  We had to do something.  Something had to be done.  We didn't know...") is closing as fast as the prison cell door.

Sadness and desperation is a human condition which covers all continents, and all centuries of human history.   Those who exploit it for profit will come and go.   It infected Western medicine, until we developed a system of peer review and scientific method.  Do no harm.   This is the lesson for the health of the environment, the health of the planet, and curing the ills of pollution and poverty.

The E-Waste Tragedy is rooted in ignorance of geography, of world economy, failure to find root causes, failure in lifecycle analysis, and simple logical fails.

"Something must be done" is nothing new.  Virgin sacrifices, scapegoats, and wars have been the result.   It's time to trace Benson's unjust jail sentence to its root causes.

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