Our Political New Year's Resolution: Ebony and Ivory

It's 6AM and I'm packing the car for another annual cross country road trip from (red state) Arkansas to (blue state) Vermont.  I was hired as a cross cultural trainer for new US Peace Corps volunteers arriving in Cameroon in 1987, and sometimes feel I never stopped.

Can't resist posting my note to the AirBNB host where we stayed in lovely Leslie, Arkansas.  She was the child of a hippie who grew up in the Ozarks and now lives in Seattle.

Finding yourself in liberal Seattle must be like me finding myself in Vermont. Generally I'm very relieved to be away from "ignorant and proud of it" politics here in the southern midwest. But also I find myself very aware of my coastal liberal friends and our own confirmation bias and "profiling" of conservatives, and attributing to 'denial' what may be legitimate skepticism over 'solutions'. Consider yourself a Peace Corps volunteer from a red state.

ebony and ivory stripes (wikipedia chain gang)
Confirmation bias. Profiling.  I'm not immune to it.  None of us can be. But when you walk a mile in another man's shoes - as I've done for a long time with the WEEE export entrepreneurs in emerging markets - you can sit on their jury.  The blindness of NGOs to the studies that show nuance is nothing new.  It's Captain Ahab.  It's Scarlet Letter.  It's Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  It's in To Kill a Mockingbird.  It's Huckleberry Finn's crime.  These great works are all about people who start a mission based on justice (like environmental justice) and consider themselves jurists and agents of conscience, but are deafened by their own conclusions.

We need to keep it simple. If I'm skeptical of your trade ban on used electronics as a "solution" (to what? poverty?) that does not make me a "denier". Let's find something else to agree on, a simple message that might appeal to rural and urban and OECD and non-OECD.

The earnestness of the EU enforcement officials and environmentalists in this documentary teaser on Joe "Hurricane" Benson is poignant.  These are people in Europe trying to make the world better, trying to make a good living while stopping environmental crime.

We all need to focus on ONE THING.  Extinction and habitat loss.  Mining in coral reefs and rain forests is the culprit, and recycling buys time until new inventions can source reduce the demand.

Judging and jailing geeks of color is such a bad idea, we have to really question why it took us all 15 years to understand it.  SERI, NERC, Union of Concerned Scientists, UNEP, StEP... everyone played a small part in this Oxbow Incident, this mob justice.  We took Africa and Asia and Latin America's very best and brightest reuse and repair nerds, the valedictorians, and elevated their "waste crime" to a par with ivory trade.

Let's not distract INTERPOL with bogus "ewaste" chases. There are plenty of REAL environmental crimes. Joe Benson was a victim, and his prosecutors were, too.

500 years from now our generation will not be remembered for its landfills or toxics.  We will be remembered for wars and extinction of other species.  Creating affordable good enough teledensity for the critical mass of users in poor countries will help them have ACCESS to the information on things like Ivory.  The internet cafe and affordable cell phone geeks who import used equipment (that yes, 15 years later winds up at Agbogbloshie city dump) should be on a pedestal, not in a jail cell.

End Environmental Malpractice, and good things may happen.

From Slashdot conversation about China banning the Ivory trade in 2017
This is from a 2013 Time article [time.com] (emphasis added):
In a 2007 survey, the IFAW [International Fund for Animal Welfare] discovered that 70% of Chinese polled did not know that ivory came from dead elephants. This led to the organization's first ad campaign- a simple poster explaining the actual origins of ivory. A campaign evaluation earlier this year found that the ad, promoted by the world's largest outdoor advertising company JC Decaux, had been seen by 75% by China's urban population, and heavily impacted their view on ivory. Among people classified as "high risk"- that is, those likeliest to buy ivory- the proportion who would actually do so after seeing the ad was almost slashed by half.
Affordable displays (rebuilt OECD CRTs) led to wider internet use, which allowed messaging on ivory, which led to massive awareness of elephants in the largest ivory market.  And those were the CRTs BAN flew 60 Minutes around in Hong Kong, which they said led to Guiyu, which had NO CRT monitors at all, because they didn't go to a Guiyu dump in 2007, they went HERE.

I found out about the "Big Secret Factories" by listening to the Chinese who were buying and importing them.  It's called DUH.  Walking in the other dude's shoes, people.

 Looking for a bluegrass cover of Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder's 1982 Hit "Ebony and Ivory" I found this instead.   Seems more seasonal.  Happy New Year.  And Free all the Joe "Hurricane" Bensons this year.  Amnesty.  All of them. Even if it IS inconsistent with your past declarations (always the excuse of the Ayatollah of E-Waste).  Ebony and Ivory.  Peace.

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