Another EU EWaste Documentary: E-Life by Ed Scott-Clarke (Teaser)

Have only seen the E-Life Youtube trailer so far.  Ed Scott-Clarke did respond to my email and suggested I wait to see the documentary.  So... this is only a review of the trailer. A teaser of the teaser (I'll review the whole doc when I see it).

So far, same old same old. A 40 year old TV plastic housing is used as a frame to film men ("boys") burning wire on that spot on the lagoon shore.  Supposedly, 40 year old TVs and VCRs are being dumped on primitive tribesmen on the shores of Ghana.

Executive Directors Lars Wogen, John Ditchfield, and James Scott-Clarke (relation?) had access to both sides of the story. The trailer shows one side. I can hold my breath, but the fact that they use the exact same "50 year old kitchen CRT TV plastic" in a smoky Agbogbloshie frame for their title shot makes me pessimistic.

Kids asked to pose with 1990s PCs on heads... The "majority"?...

If this is representative of what the documentary rolls out, it will say that I'm completely ineffective.  I interviewed with Ed and his crew for over an hour, almost 2 years ago. I had my chance.  But of course, that was after they'd been to Ghana and filled their camera hard drive.  I'll guess they did not go back to film what they missed - Africa's Tech Sector.

The Tech Sector has the connections - the diaspora of African relations in wealthy nations - to source used cars and electronics (and clothing and furniture) and load it onto containers for Tema Port in Ghana.  Every container is unloaded in a fenced government yard.  The goods are all inspected.  But what really acts as enforcement is the cost.  It costs $5,000-10,000 just to ship 500 TVs (ocean freight).  That's only $10 per TV, but that is 5 times more than the scrap is worth.  Add the cost of buying the TVs, labor to load them, cost to redistribute them to cities across Ghana (not a single sea container goes to Agbogbloshie).  The story narrated in the trailer, that junk goes from Europe or USA to the African dump, doesn't add up.

There's next to nothing in the trailer's film that even resembles significant foreign dumping.  Automobile wire, a couple of PCs... Again, there's far less e-Waste visible than the City of Accra has to be generating.  But the photographer's recipe of tire fires and pics of kids at dumps will *** you in the eye sockets for another one night stand of poverty porn.

What does add up is missing from the trailer.  The number of Ghana households who watched Ghana's national team ten years ago in the 2006 World Cup (Soccer/Fut). ... ON TELEVISIONS they obviously possessed that year. They watched it on TVs they had purchased 5-10 years earlier (80%+ of Accra households had TVs in 2002).  Today those TVs would have been in use in Ghana more than 15 years.

Whose story makes more sense?  Africans bought TVs and quickly discarded 80% of them for copper value?  Or Africans are watching TVs, using them for 15 years, and replacing them - just. like. you?
Accra Used Computer Shop February 2017

Will the documentary tell us that the used material sold in Accra shops TODAY is much more modern (5 years old) than the crap at the dump (20 years old)? It, too, will be discarded in the African cities after 15 years of use.  Which is 3 times longer than Europeans and Americans use it... they are quadrupling the lifecycle.

I look forward to seeing Ed Scott-Clarke.  Maybe it will be showing at E-Scrap (where I met Ed and did the interview).  MAYBE I'm all wrong and he will tell a much more nuanced story about Africa's repair and reuse skill, about the innovative Tech Sector, and maybe say something kind about those of us in the industry who refuse to boycott geeks of color.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, if any reader hears a photojournalist say I'm lying about this (as @SashaRainbow told her followers after blocking me on Twitter and Facebook - she thinks), I will pay you to contact me directly with what the photojournalist claims, and I will patch you in to the guys who burn the wire.  I know the top guys by first name, and we speak every month (Razak Whatsapp'd me while I was composing this).

To say I don't care about their health and their future is insulting.  It makes me mad. Let's compare how hard the documentary people worked (spoiler, they do work hard but they all seem to think it's harder and smarter than anyone else) and compare that the Africa's Tech Sector and the USA recyclers willing to stand against RACIAL PROFILING and sell them what their country needs.  Which is NOT 40 year old crap.  They NEVER, EVER buy that and never did.  And if they didn't there's a pretty good explanation for what's at the dump.  Because my landlord had a TV when I lived in Africa from 1984-87, and it may be at a dump now.  But I'm not going to blame Joe Benson.

Finally, let me repeat I have not seen the whole documentary, just the trailer.  I would not expect a trailer or teaser to present more than the "Horror Movie Logic" (Alicia Elliott · CBC Arts ·  that propels too many Colonialist Guilt Documentaries.

When I see a Volkswagen in a Vermont scrapyard, it does not occur to me that a wicked German paid someone to ship it here to avoid recycling fees. I immediately assume there is a "backstory" to the VW, someone who bought it new, who traded it in, someone who drove it used, had it repaired.  I assumed it lived a longer life than it would have had with a single owner, and that each owner benefited from owning the car, at least up to the point they traded it in or discarded it.   An old car on  a USA scrap pile doesn't exoticize or emotionalize our relationship with Germany.  Hopefully, 5-10 years from now, Ed Scott-Clarke will appreciate the nuance and won't feel attacked by my defense of Africa's Tech Sector, who bear the full brunt of EU enforcement.

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