And it certainly did not make a lick of sense to bulldoze homes, mosques, and schoolrooms of the Agbobgloshie recycling (and onion farming, and litter collection, and water carrying) community. The predominantly Dagbani were set up like a bowling pin, knocked down, got to wearing thin.
No white money-hatted cartoon characters have been found or sent to prison in the past ten years, since BAN's "Digital Dump" morphed into Frontline / UBC Vancouver's "millions of tons", which morphed into Greenpeace in 2008 labeling Old Fadama, aka Agbogbloshie, as "Sodom and Gomorrah" and "the largest e-waste dump in the world". The story just got bigger and bigger, despite our constant cries, and the increasing number of scientific studies that found no evidence at all of "dumping". None.
The people being arrested, the owners of the seized goods, are Africa's Geeks of Color. They are bringing affordable electronic communications to inner city Africans, in the face of a European campaign called "Project Eden", the chalkboard-clawing title of Interpol's #greatwhitesavior campaign, and UNEP's Willie Horton poster boy TV repairman, #FreeHurricaneBenson.
We know what happened in Old Fadama because geeks and nerds like Alhassan Ibn Abdalla tweeted and filmed the destruction on #WorldRefugeeDay... because he lives in the real world, not in a TinTin comic, nor in jungles of "Eden". Geeks are tweeting news that winds up in the articles above on laptops and cell phones imported and repaired by Africa's Tech Sector. I'm blogging passionately because I KNOW these people, they lived in my HOUSE in Vermont. They are the best and brightest, and FairTradeRecycling has become like a modern day "underground railroad" for geeksofcolor threatened primarily by environmentalist propaganda. It's crazy. It's religious colonization all over again. Environmentalists are "here to help" by putting black people safely in chains, protecting all of London from scary African tinkerers and nerds. It's a nutty combination of Roots, Big Bang Theory, and The Shining. "Heeere's TinTin!"
|Here to help|
Let's environmentalists retrace our steps. How did we get from speculative concern over "donated" equipment (in fact purchased and inspected by Africans), worth only 20% in scrap of the cost of transport, to demolishing homes on UN #WorldRefugeeDay, under a colonialist Biblical banner #SodomandGomorrah and #Eden?
Sure, I keep writing about the same thing. But can anyone find a WORSE case of #Charitableindustrialcomplex, #colleteraldamage, #parasitesofthepoor, #saviorcomplex, #unintendedconsequences than BAN and Greenpeace and Blacksmith Institute and UNEP's #Ewastegate? So horrifically stunning in its reality, putting Africans in European chains for fixing cell phones and TVs? It is an environmentalist horror show.
|Finally an end to dumping of 15 year old city buses on Africa's Eden|
In November, 2009, I tried to bring up the need to balance supply and demand in emerging markets, and this blog "We Shouldn't Have to Make That Choice" was one of the first that I know of to publicly question the narrative promoted by Basel Action Network, Greenpeace, and the companies which would later commission legislation (HR 2791) to ban Africans, Asians, and Latinos from "fly and buy", coming overseas to find affordable tech which they know how to reuse.
The "Choice" blog was picked up by Resource Recycling and ran in E-Scrap Magazine. The reaction by Basel Action Network was swift. I was personally attacked, and WR3A companies overseas were accused in a counter-Op Ed, as - and I quote - "poisoning the poor".
Poisoning the Poor was a direct reference by Puckett to his old employer, Greenpeace Amsterdam, and their riff on his Digital Dump piece (which I actually aided and abetted in writing, in 2004).
Won't go through the whole history, but my defense of the technicians of color was eventually referenced directly by (AMA's counterpart) officials of the State of Vermont to strip my Vermont employees - who are the equivalent in income strata of their scrapper counterparts in Agbogbloshie - of most of their income. I had to sue to get the contract back (which we now have), but the Vermont business interests in leveraging the hyperbole is similar, in many ways, to the way AMA (the Accra local government agency) leveraged "Sodom and Gomorrah" language in Western press to force evictions of the scrappers in Old Fadama / Agbogbloshie last weekend (on #WorldRefugeeDay no less).
Close friends of mine have at times tired of the "pissing match" between BAN and WR3A, and at a certain point the "just world fallacy" takes over. People get "e-wasted-out". People tire. People have already tried to clean their closets, mentally and physically, of the old tech clutter, and resent, at a subconscious level, the way it is brought back.
My read all along has been that this whole "ewaste" topic has a limited shelf life. I think the buzz is almost over. People are starting to see what the Chinese saw starting almost a decade ago - Africa is a business opportunity, its rate of growth today looks a lot like China in the 1990s.
So when people wonder about me as a businessman, my hope is that I have sacrificed the easy "I don't export, I don't exploit the poor" path that E-Stewards opened five or six years ago. I wrote the first mildly negative blog about E-Stewards in "Choice" - not even negative really, but definitely stand apartish - because perhaps I felt the relationships I was making in Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt, Senegal, Mexico, Peru, Angola, Burkina Faso, Viet Nam, China, Cameroon, and Ghana were worth more, in the long run, than the flash-in-the-pan photo-driven exaggeration.
The tsunami of exploitive "parasites of the poor" press was harder to swim in than I anticipated. I thought it had cooled with the publication of the Secretariat Basel Convention funded reports in 2011-13. Frustratingly, CUNY and Blacksmith Institute relit the match in December 2013, with a "Top Ten" list that appeared to far too many to suggest Agbogbloshie directly imported sea containers and burned 215,000 tons of used western electronics. The grant they got to "transform Agbogbloshie" soon after demonstrated the incentives for hyperbole, and is perhaps the best example of what Peter Buffet called "The Charitable Industrial Complex".
Going against Big Shred, Anti Gray Market Alliances, Planned Obsolescence, and Dictators who don't want widely accessible internet, was a naive, foolish, hippy move on my part. The fact that my friends from the 80s, the hippies who founded Basel Action Network and Greenpeace, also turned on me was also painful. And the outcome was a lot of fiesty, angry, mudslinging and "bunker mentality" writing and tweeting on my part, as I was forced to lay off 15 of my 30 employees, close my dream facility Retroworks de Mexico, and use my twins college savings to sue the State of Vermont.
David Mears wrote that I was "confused" about the bid process... I've got all the FOIA and we all know who was confused about "no land application" of CRT glass and "lowest bid" and "90 sites". But my employees need Mears and his staff now, Vermont workers are suffering, and I'm not going to do them any favors by reopening those wounds.
Anyway this almost reads like a "signing off" blog. It's not really, its future looking.
The reason I could sacrifice so much dignity, income, reputation and time with my family is that no one in Africa or Asia or Latin America reads anything that E-Stewards or CAER write. And used display device sales has really run its course, the USA is no longer the "Saudi Arabia of Reuse" (Ironically, we now are for oil). Things have changed in the direction I predicted.
The cards I kept were with Africa, Asia, and Latin America's tech sector. And the warm, wonderful, heartfelt welcome I found at Chendiba Enterprises, and at Agbogbloshie, brings tears. These people actually get it, they get that someone, somewhere, gives a damn about the poor hard-working, hard-studying techs and copper handlers.
And I don't care who rides the new wave, the more the better. The people I care about have been listening the whole time. And in the Zen of realization, I know that nothing that has happened to me the past decade is a fraction of the suffering these people laugh through and carry on ever single day. The "poor little rich boy" with the "first world problems" got voted off the Recycling Do-Gooder Island... and found himself in a comfortable boatride to the future, the next decade of solar, wind, telecom, and water in Africa and elsewhere.
Hoist the jibs, mind the mizzenmast.