"Here to Help" Part 1: Is GAHP a Charitable Industrial Complex Honeypot?

#dennismoorecrime #environmentalmalpractice #parasitesofthepoor #whitesaviorcomplex #whiteguilt #morallicense #charitableindustrialcomplex #heretohelp
[Any photos or screen shots from the following sites below are claimed under the "fair use" exception, they are specific evidence in a commentary, policy critique, and use of public and charitable tax exempt funds]

Demonstration of $75K portion of $1.2M investment:  Turning 1kg of wire worth $0.70 into 0.7 kg of wire worth $1.00 

From the outset, let's acknowledge the do-gooders mean well.  They are here to help.  If they turned out to be what one Africa directed blogger coined as #parasitesofthepoor, or arrested one of Africa's best and brightest Tech Sector employers, it's a "Dennis Moore crime".  Redistribution of recycling was trickier than they thought.

[Note 6/27/2015:  Blacksmith Institute / Pure Earth contacted a journalist to dispute whether I have used the right budget numbers.  I am trying to get them, though my direct emails to Pure Earth have not received any response.   The Blacksmith Institute's portion total GAHP Budget does not appear in any way to be misspent or mismanaged, but the project has not "transformed" Agbogbloshie and I stand by the intent of this blog, which is to demonstrate that exaggerating problems and then claiming to have solved or addressed them is not doing as much good for the people of Old Fadama / Agbogbloshie as they African Tech Sector importers are.  "Raising Awareness" of a hyperbolic claim of toxic harm created, in my opinion, an atmosphere which may have contributed to the horrible decisions to raze, bulldoze homes of the scrap workers.   I've asked Jack Caravanos to review my data and will continue to request authoritative information about these grants.]

Second, let's also acknowledge that the "root cause" of the externalization of pollution - economic and system imbalances between typical OECD and typical non-OECD nations - is a genuine concern.   The most polluting activities on the planet (like metal mining) move from wealthy areas to less wealthy areas.   As I have long maintained, it's a property value issue more than a political (OECD) issue.   If an activity such as mining or dumping or recycling or auto repair lowers property values, it's less welcome (more regulated) where the property is worth more.  It happens within countries, across streets, on city blocks, it's called "zoning".   And that is the real issue behind Agbogbloshie neighborhood in central Accra.

Third, let us acknowledge the enthusiasm and effort that the new body, Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), brings to Agbogbloshie... which, according to the "worstpolluted.org" website announcing the initiative in 2014, was the top of a list of ten most polluted sites.  

Note that the original list from Blacksmith Institute aka Pure Earth was alphabetical (A is for Agbogbloshie), but the worst polluted site puts the country name "Ghana" first, removing the alphabetical-ness but leaving Agbo at the top of this list.

Ten most feared words in the English language?  "We work for the government, and we are here to help."  Saving Africa is becoming a feared concept among the scrap workers in Agbogbloshie.   And it's a difficult one for me to address without appearing to take pot shots.  I've been in the role of trying to help, and have felt the resentment of someone on the sidelines.

"At least I'm raising awareness.  At least I'm trying to do something."  It's the psychology of moral licensing, and it feeds the complex demand for a problem to be exaggerated in order to be "solved".  If you want a professional photographer, who may feel a little queasy snapping #povertyporn shots in a shantytown, tell the photographer that they are profiling victims, that the problems here were all exported by cheaters of the system in Europe and America, tell them it's against international law.   The moral licensing is a currency African governments have used for years, citing (or feigning) colonial victimhood.  Privilege is very real, but so is excuse making.  Light and dark are both real, but the "truth" is immune to both.

Sodom and Gomorah Saved by Balloon Art!
So I'll try to follow up the philosophy of environmental malpractice in a second blog, and stick here to documenting the GAHP "Global Alliance on Health and Pollution".   I hope they have engineers and doctors who don't take criticism personally.  Again, if I'm wrong, I want to know about it, removing a wrong idea from my mind is like removing a thorn from my thumb.  I will argue and test the point, and I will have preconceptions and biases, and we all hate to admit failure.  But if you are intelligent, you know that scientific method is our friend, and that history outlives us all and needs to be nourished by truth.

So, back to Saving Agbogbloshie...

From WorstPolluted, we are introduced to the mulimillion dollar campaign to "save" Africa from its own Tech Sector.  The words "turning the corner" and "transforming" and "addressing" are all hopeful words, intended to give donors a sense of progress.   If Interpol or UNEP or StEP needs funding and resources, they need a photogenic problem and hope for a "solution".
2014 Turning the Corner on Toxic Pollution
This 2014 report is the ninth in an annual series of reports published by Green Cross Switzerland and Blacksmith Institute for a Pure Earth. Joining the publication this year is the Global Alliance on Health and Pollution (GAHP), a collaborative body that facilitates the provision of technical and financial resources to governments and communities to reduce the impacts of pollution on health in low- and middle-income countries.  The “World’s Worst Polluted” series of reports has effectively raised global awareness about the extent and the impacts of toxic pollution in low- and middle-income countries..."
And here is the factsheet checking the box, how they "saved Africa".  Note that under "outcome" they state "The goal is".
Intervention: A mechanized recycling facility that would help eliminating open burning of e-waste. 
Outcome:  The goal is to reduce all types of pollution while increasing benefit for recyclers. 
Co-benefits:  Health and income improvement locally. The project can be expanded and be replicated as a model for other e-waste sites in Ghana and beyond.
What I can personally report is that this is the one site that was "off limits" to my photo shoot in Agbogbloshie last month.  One of our translators said that there was a financial agreement involving the "recycling association" not to allow reporters to the site that "saved Agbogbloshie".  You got that right, the one and only location "off limits" to Agbogbloshie scrap wire burners and documentary makers was the GAHP Success Story.

Fortunately, we have the pictures from the Blacksmith Institute's press releases and blogs!

So if you can admit that you got millions and don't want to get into any specifics or budgets on where the money went, and the site isn't accessible by the wire burning people themselves, #WhiteSavior organizations always have that low bar of the non-profit world as a safety net... "we raised awareness".  And by "global awareness", I would add, you misinformed people in China, India, Europe and America about people in Africa.  What is the AWARENESS that the project sponsors raised?   My report, and Adam Minters, and others is that the site is rather small and has been misrepresented in the press.  What "awareness" does GAHP, Blacksmith, and Green Cross (Swiss organization) bring to the world?

1.  It's one of the biggest e-waste dumps in the world
2.  It's at the top of a no-longer alphabetical list of worst polluted places on Earth
3.  It's biblical in scope - the HEADLINE is "Sodom and Gomorrah"
4.  Mission Accomplished!  Your $1.2M made a difference (by raising "awareness" see 1-3)

The GAHP Blog photo shoot of the "before" images is titled "Sodom and Gomorrah". 
Sodom and Gomorrah. That is what locals call the e-waste dumpsite at the Agbogbloshie market in Ghana. A Blacksmith intervention is projected here. Thanks 
For those of us in the trenches (tip of the hat to Rafa Font), the Biblical reference to the market is bandied about by non-Dagbani business developers.  They've already brought a large Bank to the doorstep of the Onion market.   The land is in the middle of town and they want the Dagbani speakers of the north to move their shantytown out of the way of developers.

Agbogbloshie is poor people occupying valuable commercial real estate.  The developers don't want to pay them the property value to move.  Let's see, my great grandfather (William Freeland) worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs near Shiprock for a couple of decades... what insights can Americans bring to the table when it comes to intervening in day to day lives of browner people?

Gee, headlines work.  If you need military budgets for General Custer, ink the stories of poor white homesteaders attacked and scalped by Injuns.   Now, to create a budget to reverse that harm, you need Curtis photos, to make people feel guilty, to get the budget for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  What the BIA did...?  My Great Grandfather narced on on his agency (my family has copies of letters he sent to Truman and Eisenhower).  Victimhood, guilt, moral licensing, toxics... halloweeny descriptions and close ups of little brown children at dumps.

Save us from Bad Cartoon Whitie!!
Thanks to BAN.org, Greenpeace, and a slew of hungry photojournalists, the real estate dispute at Agbogbloshie, the problem of the area, has been transformed from a land value / real estate problem to a "save Africa from white people dumping" problem.   And last year, at virtually the same time as Joe Benson was being locked in a metal cage in England, Blacksmith Institute got a bunch of money from the GAHP which was eager to start its first transformational project.

See, the guy in the black hat in Story of Stuff is actually an African technician, and 90% of the goods he exported worked for a decade plus or minus, and it's the stuff exported for reuse in the 90s and early 2000s that Blacksmith is photographing in 2014.

The "white savior complex" organizations, those in the charitable industrial complex, made serious bank here based on photos of hard working, poor, black, Dagbani speakers, and left nothing but table scraps after the banquet.   They meant well, like other missionaries, colonialists, and Bureau of Indian Affairs agents.  Their consciences are intact... in the words of Kevin McElvaney ("still not sponsored" video) partner, "we will sleep like babies".

I'm told that people involved knew about the dispute voiced by Fair Trade Recycling, and I certainly reached out repeatedly to Jack Caravanos at SUNY and Richard Fuller and Angela at Blacksmith Institute.   Perhaps they thought it was a bit of me-tooism, perhpas they thought we (too?) were motivated by the funding for the project.

What we wanted to do was introduce a whole bunch of African Tech Sector Dagbani speakers, the ones who actually import and reuse imported computers, to help in the project.

And we wanted them to not fan the flames of false data - which I must admit is somehow skirted or weasel worded in later postings, about how much if any of the junk in the photos came off a boat.

But Interpol is still arresting people and still giving guidance documents to European inspectors based on the utterly false lie that 75% or 80% of black people exporting are exporting waste, and that export for repair is illegal under Basel Convention Annex IX (it is listed there - as a legal export).

"BEFORE" - Now look at the before photo shoots by Blackmith, what they are going to clean up.  Is there any evidence of import?  Any sea container?  Anything that doesn't look like an object probably imported for reuse and probably reused for a decade, plus or minus?  Try looking at the parts of the photos without "scary poor black people".  Try looking at the rusty 1970s cars.  Try looking at the 1980s refrigerator freezer which does NOT look like anything put into a sea container in Europe.

A radio on a push cart, a satellite receiver, and a decade old phone (which may not have batteries being made for it any more, I wager).  Surely nothing here that could have been found in the banana plantation known as Accra, Ghana.   See the sea container?  Neither do we.  But yeah, we get the point, you are going to save a really poor scrapyard.

Now look at the "After" photos of Agbogbloshie by Blacksmith Institute.   
Transforming Agbogbloshie
On October 9, Agbogbloshie, Ghana - one of the world's largest e-waste dumpsites - got something new.

(Well there's that claim by Blacksmith which they told me they never ever claimed - that Agbogbloshie is one of the world's largest e-waste dumpsites.   This was in my one 40 minute conversation with Angela, who was keeping me from talking to Richard Fuller by saying that Blacksmith had never said Agbogbloshie was one of the largest e-waste dumpsites in the world.)

From the PureEarth website folder titled "Transforming Agbogbloshie" (fair use):

Here it is!  Africa saved!   A bag of popcorn, an orange balloon and a green balloon.

Here is the GAHP money at work!  No more wire stripping boys!  Now they have a million dollars in proper tools.

Here is Blacksmith accepting their accolades (I wonder how much the gala cost compared to the project in Agbogbloshie?) 

Zoom in on the middle left.... Is that the famous "nipple hat" art work by Bellini or McElvaney or Hugo?  So many photojournalists to keep track of, not to speak of the names of the scrappers...

Behind bars, arresting Joe Benson for bicycle crimes

You guys want me off your case?  Write a letter asking for the release of African TV repairman Joe Benson from English prison, and come out publicly disavowing the unproven, unsupported lies that 75%-80% of tech imported by Ghana technicians is not reused but burned in Agbogbloshie.  Tell BitRot to tell the truth.

Or ask how much money has been raised by "Still Not Sponsored" with that recognizable voice introduction by Michael Anane.  To be continued in Part II... How To Break the News to the Poor White Saviors Who Sacrifice and Just Want to Help, Is That So Wrong?

"Blimey, this redistribution of wealth is trickier than I thought!"
 - Dennis Moore 

(Monty Python character, played by John Cleese).

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