"EWaste Crimes in Ghana", Part 6: The Defense Case and Affirmative Plan

https://vimeo.com/65961078  Pieter Hugo's Permanent Error

It's agreed that constant improvement is necessary in Ghana.  Traffic jams, electricity and water outages, flight delays, bad water, bribes and incompetence would not be acceptable in the USA or EU, and people shouldn't accept it here.

Virtually nothing in Agbogbloshie's scrapyard, with a couple of exceptions, is remotely acceptable.

The headline that imports go here, at least in any remotely significant proportionality, is the problem.  Consider the modest statement:  
"The majority of western diners at Chinese restaurants are being fed cat meat.  80% of those cats were sent by western pet owners to Chinese veterinarians". 
One would not want to condone eating cats, or deny it occurs, yet the broad statement would be considered outrageous, if not blatantly racist.  Yet similar allegations made about Agbogbloshie recycling, illegal dumping, and Ghana importers of electronics throwing away 75% - "facts" equally stupid and outrageous - fill any google search for the placename  "Agbogbloshie".  Imagine if you googled "Chinese restaurant" and virtually every search result said the majority of western diners are fed cat meat... imported from Western humane societies."   Ludicrous flamebait, yet accepted and repeated by reporters based on close ups of sweaty African faces.   Not even any significant piles of "ewaste" cats in the photos.

It's just shocking.   Shocking educated westerners are repeating this BS.

If Hugo, Dannonitzer, and other slum tourism cinematographers found a cat butcher and filmed the process of preparing cat meat, it might or might not be in good taste.  That's not the issue here.  The problem is that they allow their film skills to be used to denigrate honest businesspeople in emerging markets, and to somewhow give visual credence to a bogus hoax statistic. 

Basel Action Network made up fake statistics on more than one occasion (the 80%, and the 75% specifically attributed to "extensive investigation" in Ghana).   Artists like Hugo and Fedele see a "fact" so alarming and outrageous that it excuses videographic exaggeration.   Blacksmith Institute may not have technically asserted that Agbogbloshie was "scientifically determined" to be one of the Top Ten most polluted sites on the planet, but given the BAN.org "facts" they could smile and think they are accomplishing change. 

Or maybe everyone will see if recyclers admitting to export here (Ghana) would defend themselves.

Might as well be me.  I do business with used electronics importers and dealers in Ghana.  Not a lot, far less than 5% (maybe 1%) of our used computers are sold here.   Why risk trading with a country which has been associated with Agbogbloshie?

Why risk trying Chinese food?

  • We have shown you that Agbogbloshie, whether the goods it is burning are directly imported or not, does not have anywhere remotely near the capacity to manage any significant percentage of the world's e-waste.  27 young men with pushcarts.

  • We have shown that the source of the allegation, Basel Action Network and Mike Anane, are recycling a circular source (one cites the other), that the only study done for BAN in Africa (Kenya 2006) estimated 90% reuse, and that BAN claims never to have stated statistics which it has stated in writing.

  • We have show you that according to World Bank, the City of Accra's 5 million residents have owned electronics for decades, and that Agbogbloshie cannot even account for a significant percentage of Ghana's own generation.

  • We have visited the port, documented incoming used goods, toured their buyer/importers facilities, and interviewed them.   They have nothing to do with scrap in Agbogbloshie, other than as collectors from local generators trading in equipment.

So most cats are not processed in Agbo's restaurant, most restaurants do not serve cat, most cats observed were living normal lifespans (a bit longer if anything than they live in EU), and the source of the cat-restaurant "shocking statistic" controversy earns money by making up lies about it.

Still it remains an emotional subject, and many cat owners just wouldn't feel right if their friends knew they took their cat into a Chinese restaurant.   All I have done so far is to create serious doubt about the allegation.

But for Ghana Technicians to survive and deal with as many choices of supplier they can, I need more.   By no fault of their own, two decades in development prior to it being required in Vermont, they must get certified.  

The must actually get certified to recycle CRT televisions, even though that's not their business.   And I'm here to see if I can come up with a business plan for Ghana Techs to be recognized as the most caring cat veterinarians/keepers on the planet.

First part of the business plan has been to scout out the problem.  How big is the e-waste pile that has been generated in Ghana, which needs recycling?   In a word, humongous.   In the next post  (TV Madness) I'll try to show the scale of TV ownership, even at the level of charcoal burning mud huts with thatched roofs in the northern Tamale area where the young scrappers came from. 

Yesterday I visited a drum maker in one of the villages, who treated my hamstring with local medicine.   In the corner of his hut was a black and white television.   He didn't remember when he got it, and wasn't using it (broadcast too weak, no money for satellite), and it was covered with dust.   

But he said it works fine, so he can't throw it away.

In the coming blogs I'm going to try to come up with a business plan which will achieve the following:

1.  Extend the lives (and environmental impact) of "elective upgrade" (items that work or could be repaired but original consumer prefers something better).

2.  Provide affordable mass communications in rapidly emerging markets (like Ghana).

3.  Create opportunities for relatively high paying, satisfying jobs in poor communities (like Tamale, Ghana, where Scrap Men hail from).

4.  Identify the extent of hoarded, obsolete, upgraded devices in cities like Accra and Tamale which have yet to enter the scrap market.

5.  Create a well-designed, sustainable end-of-life recycling program in Ghana for those devices, run by skilled Ghana technicians and certified to international standards.

#5 will be completely paid for by #2 and #3.   Universities and commercial generators which allow their used ICT equipment to be exported to Ghana will receive income, but will be asked to donate 1/2 the proceeds to #5, to begin the task of cleaning out Africa's garages and sheds of old equipment, properly dismantling it, and creating Fair Trade with Mutual Respect.

I'll then stop blasting BAN when they stop insulting my kombis in the developing world, recycling in the USA will be more affordable thanks to reuse income, and we can all sign kumbaya.  Or at least give answer to my son's question (from EWCG Post 1) "wtf?"

No comments: