Euro Agbo Porno Photo Journos 2: Dr. Jack Caravanos Back on Duty - Let's Flog The Mining

Since I've been quite the heckler of Blacksmith Institute / PureEarth for allowing themselves to be cited as a source of many, many incorrect and false reports on Agbogbloshie e-waste, it's refreshing to be able to give them a kudos.  I was just going after "data journalists log, photojournalists flog" on Africa in the previous blog.

Now what? I'm back so soon?

Blacksmith's main researcher on toxic sites across the globe is NYU's Dr. Jack Caravanos. Dr. Jack's research on soil and processes at Agbogbloshie was actually very good... too bad no one citing the report as saying things it doesn't say has ever read it.    The Guardian and other press who cited it as evidence that Agbogbloshie was some kind of significant world dumping ground would have done well to interview Jack rather than Mike Anane.  Jack's twitter account should be followed, because he's the first place I saw this story.

But here's where we are in total agreement - it's the mining.

And the Kabwe Lead Ore Mining in Zambia, to be more precise.

Jack Caravanos and Blacksmith Institute first put Kabwe lead ore mines on the map.  The worst recycling on earth is better for the environment than the very best mining.  And Kabwe, in Zambia, is one of the worst mines.

Compare the Guardian photojournalism of Kabwe to the Stephano Stranges photography of Agbogbloshie.  They meet in the middle, with StephanoStranges Coltan mine...  Is this where grisly photojournalism redeems itself?  Or is this where Robin tries to salvage relationships without being hypocritical?

I told the Guardian in 2014, "It's the Mining, Stupid".  Can we finally take on the toxic legacy of the General Mining Act of 1872, and the precedent it set for mining across the earth?

Euro Agbo Porno Photo Journos 1: Flog African Tech Sector "E-waste"

My last post kind of took on European "White Savior Complex" in the e-Waste story.  I hesitated before hitting "publish".  Was I being too hard on Europeans?

The latest "European photo-journalist safari" came out the day after.  Italian photojournalist Stephano Stranges announced fundraising for his, well, somewhat creepy African series "Victims of our Wealth" or "Le Vittime della nostra Rizzchessa". Screenshots below...

From his website "Stranges Images" (which is largely in English, though he's Italian), you get the picture, so to speak.  The metal mining exploits Africans to make electronics, and then the Africans are exploited a second time by the selfsame electronics in Agbogbloshie.
Coltan, in other words, the mineral that everyone carries around in his or her pocket, is the object of a long commercial chain that implicates serious consequences in terms of human and environmental rights.   This mineral which is used in the production of various high tech materials, is especially fundamental in making smartphones

The compulsive consumption and the continual updating of these objects, fed by by the media’s barrage of ad campaigns, has caused the coltan industry to grow exponentially since the end of the 1990’s. From that point, there has been the exploitation on the part of large multinationals and the catastrophic consequences regarding the people from areas like DR Congo.   My photographic project, therefore, starts in this area of the world, as the initial link in a process that begins with the extraction of the mineral followed by the production of the object (South East Asia) and then moves onto the excessive use in every corner of the planet, ending up in the immense African dump sites (in particular, Ghana).
Now in fairness, I am greatly concerned by the Coltan Mining in the Congo (have been upfront that Congo and Amazon metal mining was topic Numbro Una since 1980s - that's WHY I got into recycling!).  So I have some schadenfreude of my own in Stranges photos of African mining.  (Some historical confirmation at bottom).

So I figured what the heck, I'll talk to them about it... by twitter (next page below).

Look at the specific claim made to support the photojournalism. Data journalists log, Photojournalists flog...
Its name is Agbogbloshie, but when you look for it, you better ask for “Sodom and Gomorrah”, everyone knows it with that name. It is the black dump of the West. 100,000 tons a year including mobiles, fridges, televisions, computers. Here, they are burnt, opened, selected, recycled and re-sold, to then enter again the cycle of production and sale. 80,000 is the estimated population, mainly coming from the North and the most depressed areas of Ghana. 
80,000 residents managing 100k tons per year of foreign waste?  What does that look like? Do you see that in their photos?

I saw 25 people in Agbogbloshie, managing 500 lbs per day of wire.  It was mostly from automobile consoles.  It was not EVEN hysterically remotely close to the photojournalist claims, and the photojournalists own photos prove my points - and disprove theirs!

Zen of Arrogance: Confessions of a USA Recycling Madman

"Might as well be me"
If you've followed this blog for much of the decade, you know how much "guilt and privilege leverage" I write about, the liability culture. Both liberals and conservatives play "gotcha-ism".  Let me indulge in a backhanded swing, to return the ball to the court of European Recycling Overlords.  Basel is Better?  Or is it a new "infant formula" for Africans?  

Used and repaired goods are best for emerging markets, be they in the Ozarks or Cameroon or Ghana.

The irony of Europe's infatuation with Basel Action Network is that they think they are owning up to their post colonialism.  They feel heroic, doing a good one for the former colonies. But instead of "environmental justice", they accidentally delivered racial profiling of the talented tech sector.  Once again, USA is less racist despite our worst efforts.

Cross cultural case in point:  I used the n-word in a story I was recounting.  Hear me out....

Since it was quoting another person - a judge - who used the word in a sentence to me personally, I've always thought it was fair to leave it in the judge's quotations.  The use of the n-word by the judge impugns the judge. In that context, leaving the word out intervenes on the judge's behalf, at the expense of the folks he was commenting on (me and some black folk).  I literally imitated the judge's voice, and the shock value resounds because it's shocking to have heard the words coming from a judge's mouth.  But I heard through the grapevine that the Europeans thought it was verboten, and another black mark against exporting fairly.  Robin used a word Europeans know not to use.

Nuance?  It's an example of some folks being more comfortable and direct about the state of affairs our friends face.  If you've never met a black person in Arkansas, you're safer avoiding the term altogether.  If you are comfortable in your relationships, you skewer the 1970s Ozarks judge with his own words.

This was some racial tolerance inside baseball.
So - How does a guy from the Ozarks get to know more about Africa than Europeans do?

In the context of the N-word, I was in Austria, speaking on a panel, and told the story to other panel members (not to the audience).  I was telling them I was on my way back to Ghana and Agbogbloshie, and trying with the story to self-deprecate the part of America I come from.  The story is humiliating, which is a form of humility.

Fair Trade Recycling [WR3A] Launches "E-Waste Offset" Initiative In Africa

[Middlebury, Vermont May 22, 2017]  Fair Trade Recycling has launched a strategic partnership in West Africa to create capacity for proper recycling of junk "e-waste" devices without impugning, racially profiling, or interfering with the imports of Africa's talented "Tech Sector".

The initiative is based on "carbon offset" models, and is derived from conclusions Fair Trade Recycling representatives arrived at during research in Ghana from 2015 to the present.

Under the new program, African Tech Sector buyers will be rewarded with lower prices for used computers and tech sector equipment they import when they "offset" or "exchange" the tonnage for a similar quantity of obsolete or irreparable electronics taken back from African cities.  The model is patterned after "carbon offset" or carbon exchange models and the recycling training program for the women's collective "Retroworks de Mexico".

For every 50 containerloads of used electronics imported by Ghana's Tech Sector, the reuse shops will take back 10 containerloads of junk TVs and computers which were imported to Ghana two or three decades ago.  And the Tech Sector will pay for proper tools, training and methods - all funded by the profitable and appropriate reuse of newer second-hand products.

The "Agenda Shift" has already resulted in calls from major manufacturers interested in promoting takeback in Africa as a solution to junk buildup.

10 Tools & Techniques To Change the World from the Inside

Here, briefly, is my advice to college graduates seeking to employ social justice and change, and to use their idealism within the economy to earn their own way, make a living, and still change the world "from the inside".  If any famous people are planning Commencement addresses and haven't started, feel free to use this.

Twitter is a good utility. I usually praise it for its "search box", you can find breaking insider news if you ignore the "feed" and search for something.  Amazing links show up.

Another good thing is that forcing yourself to make a point in 140 characters can make for better journalism.

Here are my 10 Techniques to "Change the world from the inside", something my friends told me would be impossible when I left Fayetteville Arkansas to attend an MBA program in Boston.  You can choose something, some industry you want to change, and make a living doing so, and in the process actually alter the way the entire world does and sees things in the industry.

In order (Tweets below posted in reverse order).

Tool #1 Humility.   
Tool #2 Math and Secondary Research.
Tool #3 Psychology (including your own)
Tool #4 Networking
Tool #5 Humor (can combine with #1)
Tool #6 Scout Everyones' Perspective (clients, suppliers, regulators, everyone)
Tool #7 Pacing
Tool #8 Statistics and risk analysis and lifecycle analysis (see #2)
Tool #9 History of the field
Tool #10 Be a good citizen.


"Freemium High": Psychological Reward On Fury Road

Comment Field Social Media Adversaries, Check Your Buzz

This year, I have made a concerted effort to referee the internet.  Crack your fingers, place them on the keyboard, and enter the Fury Road of Comment Field Politics.

It was late. I'd had two glasses of Shiraz. And thought I'd check out Tucker Carlson, Bill O'Reilly's timeslot replacement on Fox News.

Had been listening to MSNBC and NPR side of the "Trump vs. Comey" story, and needed to clear my head of bias confirmation. It's our civic duty to understand both sides of the story. In high school, our debate coaches and senior team members would say "hey, the X high school seniors have a really excellent Negative Debate rebuttal vs. Solar Power, you should go listen, they meet Y team at 3PM"

I've known and somewhat respected Tucker Carlson from his bow-tie days, when he was the anti-populist alternative to Pat Buchanon.  He seemed to be aiming for the vacancy of Ivy League conservative William F. Buckley Jr.  His track record seems libertarian - Turned anti Iraq War (after the 1st year), supported Rand Paul, said gay marriage is a "civilizing force".

Now the abrupt cancelling of O'Reilly Factor put Tucker into the 8PM time slot, with the job of keeping O'Reilly's conservative viewers.  But those are a different age, and a different economic bent than traditional William F. Buckley, Heritage Foundation viewers.

So I was perturbed by Tucker's interview of an advocate for legal Haitian refugees, when Tucker brought up the topic of rounding them up and expelling them.