TOP 10 Themes to Ingenthron's Good Point "e-Waste" Blog 2006-2016

If you are going to map this blog to take my insights for a thesis, article, or term paper you are writing, I'd be glad to help though I don't have that much time to insert links below. Let me know whether I've forgotten any.  Because I might be finished.

These ten themes have valuable lessons outside of e-waste policy.  They are examples of examining an electronics recycling problem, and finding a universal that will lead to more environmental justice (and less environmental malpractice) in other trade policies.

1) Mining a ton of material always pollutes more than getting the same ton by recycling.

The hand-wringing about "perverse consequences" of recycling can lead to improvements in the recycling process.  But any "gotcha" or "dirty little secret" stories need to face up to situations like copper mining at the OK Tedi Papua New Guinea, the lead mining at Kabwe, the 14/15 largest USA Superfund sites, etc.  If you dispose of X out of concern over it's recycling process, and the same quantity you disposed of has to be mined from a rain forest, don't pat yourself on the back.

2) Elective Upgrade Decisions are Relative, Tied to Value Added

The second-hand market allows a chain of affordable use.  When a rich person chooses to upgrade to a new device, the environmental costs of production (like mining) remain embodied in the old device, which is now affordable to someone who could not have afforded a new device.

This creates a "critical mass of users" in emerging markets necessary to support investment in cell phone towers, internet cable, satellites, TV stations, etc. You can't raise enough taxes to repave a road if none of your citizens owns/affords a car.  Don't feel guilty about getting something new - so long as your used good gets reused.

More below

3) Human Nature (Play Theory) Prefers Agreement, But Scientific Advance Prefers Dialectic.

All right then, I'll go to hell. That's what Huck Finn decided about helping a slave escape, when everyone he knew considered that to be stealing from people who had tried to help Huck.

Scientific method requires we be willing to deduce conclusions by examining disagreements, and sometimes being willing to disagree with your society is what's best for your team in the long run.

This is a philosophical theme to the blog, which I believe helps do-gooders like myself to find humility, and to examine whether we accept accusations or baseless statements from our peers (our "team") based on cognitive dissonance, cognitive bias, or implicit preference for beliefs held by people who we think of ourselves as being "like".

4) Moral Valuation (Savior Complex) Is A Capitalist Strategy

The Priestatollah series, the Bullyboys series, and several of my personal favorites look ironically at how little money ever went to the children in the "e-waste crisis" photos, and how much of it went to the NGOs, Big Shred, Government Officials, and how much was funded by corporate Planned Obsolescence.

Pretty basic. Corporate groups like CERA are being a little more careful now about using pics of kids at dumps, but 5 years ago, they were absolutely ham-fisted.

The role of money in shaping recycling policy isn't a reactionary criticism to environmentalism... it is a matter of examining the health of our cause and truth of our prescriptions.

5) Racism Is More Visible in Hindsight, Can "Pass" for Other Concern in Present

The psychological tests in the 1960s showed people tend to report seeing their confirmation bias.  If they are afraid of someone unfamiliar, they are more likely to interpret a photo as showing something bad coming from the unfamiliar person.  It's mind-wiring.  In retrospect the rationalizatons about interracial marriage sound a lot like the rationalizations for arresting Joe Benson for engaging in trade between blacks and whites.  Just saying (and will keep on saying).

This is jarringly clear when you see white peoples reactions to photos of Africans or Chinese sorting metals by hand.  Something we give boy scouts a badge for, something we heroicize in World War II scrap drives, is presented in The Guardian as prima facia evidence of badness.  In some photos, the only exotic crime is the color of the skin, or the thing they use as a chair.

6) Value is Externalized the Same as Cost - Cost Externalization Can't Be Judged in a Vacuum.

There is a NET COST or a NET BENEFIT.  Doing a calculation on "externalization" that only looks at half the ledger will give results that are as accurate as not taking medicine because of a side effect or not earning income because you only look at paying the taxes.

This is a real pet peeve of mine because it's so stupid easy to explain African's math that false assumptions about "waste import" can only be explained by mind-wiring (see racism and play theory above).

Infamously, in 2010, Basel Action Network rejected an offer that would have produced $60M for the state of California, improved the quality of CRTs being refurbished in Asia, taken away markets from sham recyclers selling "toxics along for the ride", and reduced the cost of displays (in both environmental and economic terms) for people in India, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria, etc.  Because, BAN said, a circuit board would be removed (even if properly recycled).  All they could see was the negative in the equation.  See "California CRT Recycling Compromise" (it was covered in many trade journals).

7)  Emerging Markets see Jobs Differently

Laptop repair is to a Cameroon High School Graduate as Engineering School is to an American HS grad.

The lists of jobs in so called "third world" countries is a really different list, and arresting Africqa Tech Sector importers, like Joe Benson, is a pretty awful thing to pat yourself on the back for when you never even visited his buyers in Ghana.

And calling it "Project Eden" is cringeworthy.  See #5.

Whether a job is good or bad isn't decided by white people's parents pride.  It's relative to the other jobs a person has available.

8) "I work for the government, and I'm here to help".

You may find a few blog posts on the ten most feared words in the English language.  This is a huge issue in emerging market countries... as well as in Vermont.  Psychologically, you see regulators seeing themselves as an actor in a transaction, experiencing guilt or pride for work they imagine themselves as players in.

9) Know Thine Own Self

There is a good deal of philosophy, literary themes, and evolutionary psychology in the blog.  Some of that is new to me, I was never a big psychology person until I started writing about "e-waste exports" and started wondering why the SJW's and WSC's were creating a Charitable Industrial Complex, enveloped in privilege, over this issue.  Marketing Fair Trade Recycling has been a challenge because conservatives think it sounds "liberal" and liberals distrust trade.

10) Know History

This is really just #9, but everyone likes a 10 List.  In my particular case, I feel like being raised by Ozark "hillbillies" gave me insight and ideals that were a huge advantage in the Peace Corps, despite the prickly racial history of "red state" southern conservatives.

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