Boogeyman E-Waste: Stats the Charitable Industrial Complex Won't Share

Well, in another week I may or may not be in Championsgate (Orlando) Florida for the next E-Scrap Conference.  I've long made peace with not speaking or presenting at the Resource Recycling conference... speaking to groups of peers who mostly feel they know what you know is a more thankless task than many realize.

This blog is inspired by Max Rosers 2017 paper, "Our World in Data."

If the conference isn't cancelled due to Hurricane Irma (there will be about a week to clean up the airports), I'll go to attend the E-Life documentary screening, and to make the usual noise about the boogeyman approach to environmental awareness.

The bullyboys sent out to witch hunt the e-waste boogeyman are fed by a rather small Seattle NGO that has been putting out false statistics, combined with pics of kids at dumps, for almost 2 decades.  From review of the NGO's IRS 990 forms, they've easily grossed $10,000,000 or more to "save the third world" from "e-waste".

Nothing goes to the kids in the pictures, or their families.  It's a rather insane approach to "changing" the world for the worse.

Because meanwhile, during the two decades, the world has gotten progressively better.  Here is a solid bunch of charts and facts to prove the case.  Max Roser has put together a briefing which tells the story Gapminder (Hans Rosling) has been telling for the past decade.

Suffering third world poor still exist, but the rate at which they are disappearing is certainly no thanks to the E-Waste Industrial Charitable Complex.  It's mostly thanks to globalization and trade.
  • Extreme poverty?  disappearing.
  • Basic education?  growing
  • Literacy?  lifting off
  • Democracy? climbing
  • Vaccination? nearly universal
  • Child mortality? shrinking
When Basel Action Network and others throw around words like "shantytown" and "rice paddy" and "primitive conditions" and show 20 year old photos of kids sitting on "cyber junk", they get a reward, in dollars, which they use to impugn the very trade that is making everyones lives better.

It's a rather sick and disgusting "sizzle" to the steak of e-waste marketing.  But the good news is that the reason it's so irritating is that the world is getting so much better.

E-waste Boogeyman 
Here's something I've learned about the trade in used electronics.  Reuse markets and repair markets disappear on their own, constantly.   And the reason is that the "critical mass of users" initially supplied with used electronics succeeds in providing teledensity and mobile phone towers and satellite and internet cables, and people get richer, and eventually don't need to import used stuff any more.

Most of the "waste" shown at places like Agbogbloshie was imported decades ago, when Ghana households were watching FIFA and World Cup games in record numbers on TVs they imported in the 1990s.  They don't import the kinds of TVs (CRTs) their parents and grandparents imported.  They tell me so on Whatsapp and Facebook and Instagram, because even the poorest people in the direst slums have smartphones.  Someone calls me daily from a place I used to export to.  Two weeks ago an Agbogbloshie scrapper video-called me to introduce me to a Russian documentary filmmaker with cameras at the wire burning site.  Everyone is connected in ways we were not when BAN first proclaimed the fake news about 80% of reuse exports being junk.... because they weren't junk.  Poor Sasha Rainbow found out the hard way, you just can't broadcast a lie without someone on the site finding out about it in hours.

I highly recommend remaining friends with former export markets.  The friends I kept in old markets I used to export to are some of the finest and most successful people the "third world" has ever produced.  They no longer need CRT in Egypt or Malaysia or Peru, etc... if they need them, they can find someone in a large city who is upgrading to an LED television.

The world is getting better, and insulting it and racially profiling it and waving boogeyman photos can't stop it.  It's not bad news, so it doesn't make the front page.  But my kids are off in colleges in East Europe and South America, and doing internships in Africa, which would be unimaginable when I was in high school.  They live the "Star Trek" life.  And they will face other problems.  They don't need us codgers to create fake boogeymen problems for them.

Max Roser (2017) – ‘The short history of global living conditions and why it matters that we know it’. Published online at Retrieved from: [Online Resource]

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