For Our New German Blog Readers: See You in Salzburg


The number of blog visits is up in 2016, compared to 2015.  Hopefully that is a sign that I've been engaged more relevant topics. Views from Europe, India and Africa grew in number and duration.

"Why We Should Ship Our Electronic 'Waste' To China and Africa" ran in Motherboard Vice five years ago.  Klaus N. read it in Germany and decided to do a piece on it for 3Sat (German language equivalent of PBS, I'm told, which broadcasts in several countries).  That led to a pretty steady dozen or so readers in West Europe.  This year, the number is close to 100.

Some of the attention is probably "reflected from the mud".  Kevin McElvaney published the arm-flailing Mike Anane's absurd claims about Agbogbloshie ("the biggest e-waste dump on earth") Sodom and Gomorrah? Fishing as a Boy?..."), which led to interviews in all kinds of German news, and led to a flurry of follow up visits to Ghana by other aspiring documentarians.  A textbook case of photojournalism running off the reservation without a hint of datajournalism to support it.  The posts here which provide links to World Bank and other data seem attractive to the photographically inspired.

In any case, Fair Trade Recycling is now a curiosity, if not a known quantity, in Europe.   I'm preparing my presentation for ICM, 16th International Electronics Recycling Congress IERC 2017 in Salzburg, Austria, where I will sit side by side with Jim Puckett of Basel Action Network on a panel in front of hundreds of European regulators and researchers.

Landscape shot of the small small site at Agbogbloshie where close ups of kids perched on monitor casings takes place
I offered to do a presentation on how incredibly small and insignificant our topic is.  How bland, how navel gazing our concerns are from the perspective of the slum dwellers we wring hands and handkerchiefs about.  The background of the landscape photo I took shows the Old Fadama slum in central Accra.  The dump is across the lagoon.  And the most photographed, if not the largest, ewaste dump on earth is there in the center, on this side of the lagoon.

No kidding, folks. This is it for wire burning. I got photos of photographers on that tiny, barren spot, posing young slum ruffians on top of some of the few dozen devices found scattered on the lagoon bank.   See the "close up" of the same site at bottom... same tent in the background.

Above is another (landscape) view of this exact site and the 25 people burning wires there. Note tent behind girl

So the photographers, Bellini, Delvaney, McElvaney, Essick etc. brought western interest to the wires burned on the mud, and I blogged about the data.  And so I get the consolation prize, the invitation to present in Salzburg.  I'll be next to Jim Puckett, the man from Seattle who has reaped literally millions of dollars off of the photos taken at this very site, which he described hauntingly as "thousands of orphans" in his piece "A Place Called Away"... which inspired my counterpoint in Motherboard (this appears to be deleted finally... but thanks waybackmachine.org).  Thousands of orphans. 400 containers filled with 600 computers which arrive daily, burned (working or not) mere days after arrival.  A river the people of the city are afraid to go near, because of e-waste dumping.... 

It borders on comical, on the absurd.  No doubt BAN.org has finally pulled the piece because it's written by the Executive Director and it is the worst pack of lies written about Africans since Leopold.   BAN got major dough with this story and never spent a dollar of it on anyone in Africa.  It is an embarrassment to the environmental community, a stain, a chink in the armor we must repair.

I'm sitting on a panel with the man, and will have been to the place he described, and will be able to call ANY of the "boys" anyone in the audience points to, on my cell phone, from the panel. Because the site is so incredibly small and insignificant, because the quantity of computers dumped there is counted in wheelbarrows per week, not sea containers per day, its fairly easy to identify everyone there and to stay in touch with them, as I have since I visited.

Here are links to 3 short datajournalist documentaries on Fair Trade Recycling, which BAN has recently claimed is not even an organization.  Jim's been trying to get me thrown off the panel, I'd bet.

3Sat/TV-Beitrag     https://vimeo.com/53719841
Compares old computers that still work to sex between older functioning adults.  Interviews yours truly and has several shots of our WR3A associates in Egypt.

Clean Hands Teaser   https://vimeo.com/116852349
Poignant interviews with European do-gooders who meant well, but did not know what they were talking about, and the Nigerian born TV repairman (Joe "Hurricane" Benson) they put in prison (Collateral Damage).

Al-Jazeera E-Waste Republic  http://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2015/ewaste/index.html
Data Journalist Jacopo Ottaviana travelled with us to Agbogbloshie and presented both sides of the case - for and against - used WEEE exports.

And if my predictions are correct, and Africans discard electronics after 10-20 years, here is the international World Bank data on how many households with TV were in each country 15 years ago.



So while EU and USA have more TVs "per capita" than the developing world, the developing world has, in total, FAR, FAR, FAR more TVs in its waste stream today.   Some reports have recently declared this... but it's completely obvious now, and was completely obvious a decade ago.

Oh, and if you really need a picture of children suffering in sordid conditions to get your e-Waste mojo going, here's a 10 year old photo of poor Vermont children exploited by a heartless Ewaste Magnate.





1 comment:

Anthony Mays said...

It was photos, like those in your article, that I once saw in a Greenpeace posting that inspired me to write an eco-fiction book using e-waste as the theme. My hope was to educate a group of readers that might not normally consider the problems e-waste causes world-wide by giving them something entertaining as well. Sadly, it has not received the exposure I hoped. Nonetheless, e-waste has continued to grow, but I am heartened to see there are a number of responsible recyclers and programs beginning to address our electronic throwaways.
http://www.anthony-mays.com