The Thorny Distraction of Environmental Police / Malaysia Rhino Horn

It has been a couple of years now since WR3A's last meeting with INTERPOL in Lyon, France. After our first and second visit to Agbogbloshie, laughingling labelled the "world's largest e-waste dump", INTERPOL officials let me know that "Project Eden" was a misfire. They would sunset it silently.  This is what grown up environmentalists do.

The #ewastehoax launched by Jim Puckett of Seattle almost two decades ago has distracted environmental regulators, and has diluted their enforcement, from much more important concerns.  Like this.

Fifty rhino horns, worth $12M, seized by Malaysian environmental officials in Kuala Lumpur. This is a big news story. Yet it's been distracted from and diluted by Basel Action Network, and there's been no country more so distracted by BAN's war on repair than Malaysia DOE.

Last week, when this seizure was made, BAN was busy telling Canadian broadcasters that Bojan Paduh of ERA was "exporting e-waste", based on their #EarthEye GPS trackers. BAN presented two forms of evidence. One - that their GPS trackers showed the computers were sold to Pakistan (one of the highest shipping cost destinations from North America).  Two - that BAN claimed to have "cleverly" opened the devices, snipped apart wires to make them "non-working", and carefully reassembled them.

Bojan sells electronics for reuse, and employs people to screen out the junk. Like most Fair Trade Recycling members, he has long term relationships with people who pay for the electronics based on his reputation for not shipping "waste".  He isn't saying "so what?" to shipping waste... he wonders why BAN would say that his clients are willing to buy it, what BAN claims they could profitably do with it if they got it, and why on earth BAN would sabotage a working or repairable device, other than to trick his clients and make him look bad.

The first claim was that GPS-tracked devices were sold to "Pakistan".  Let me remind everyone of BAN's racist depictions of Faisalabad CRT display refurbishers in 2016.  Less than 3 blocks from one of the largest universities. I shared a Youtube video of a Faisalabad Tech Sector worker showing how to convert a CRT monitor, laptop, or LCD display into a cheap TV set with a DANY converter in 2016. Again, that was in Faisalabad, where BAN's GPS devices wound up.  "Primitive". Because all they have to tell reporters is that the Pakistanis are poor and brown, so obviously they cannot be using electronics. "They must be burning them".

The second Claim contains a bizzare admission. BAN can declares the devices Bojan Paduh's organization sold to Pakistan were "waste" because BAN had sabotaged them to make them waste.  BAN claims that Bojan is the criminal...

What the bloody hell?  Why can't BAN just put its GPS trackers in obvious junk, like old CRT TVs that cost the most to recycle (If "externalization" of environmental costs is ca ]the "driver", why does BAN always select electronics with the highest value?).  Oh, because no one is buying that junk, and the whole point of the GPS tracking is to cover up BAN's shocking admission that 80% of ewaste (their claim from past decades) is NOT exported after all.

BAN was, for over a decaded, basically distracting environmental police from rhino and elephant poaching, illegal timber harvesting, chemical waste dumping, conflict metal mining, mercury exports, etc.  The organization falsely claimed that Pakistanis cannot be trusted to buy used electronics because a) they are primitives, and b) BAN itself might have sabotaged the devices to make them unrepairable.  Since no Pakistani "waste importer" is buying junk CRT televisions or old Pentium 2 computers, BAN has to put their "tracker" into electronics that are almost always working or repairable, and then claim that they rendered them "non-working".

This is utterly galling.  When is a serious reporter going to look at this and raise the curtain on this shuckster? If I can get someone to cover it, maybe we would pay for #EarthEye trackers to be placed on the 90% of electronic waste which is NEVER exported... Except then #EarthEye's little lithium batteries will break out in flames at the shredding companies.  Maybe that's why BAN is trying to thread the needle with Bojan.

I've just gotten to know Bojan recently, by the way. He's a refugee from the 1990s Balkan wars. He moved to Canada from Sarajevo. I was in Bosnia and Croatia this week, same time as Bojan.  I visited the Mostar Bosnia Museum of War and Genocide Victims 1992-95 two days ago. (Our youngest son is lives at United World College in Mostar, about 500 meters on the same street, and about 25% of his classmates are Bosnians, Croats, and Serbs).

Basel Action Network has found a gullible bunch of reporters who believe that computer repair is somehow a crime.  Ask Bojan what a real crime looks like. Agbogbloshie is not the first place to turn sympathy into a tourist attraction.

Just find the data. It's at IMF, it's at World Bank, it's in published books.  80% of used electronics exports are not "waste", we caught the NGO who made up the statistic several years ago, and now they are planting GPS in good enough devices which they claim to be "waste" because they, the NGO, sneakily made them waste.  The environmental police should be focused on endangered species. But if they do have time, it seems to me the culprit in the "chain of custody" is the NGO that sabotaged the devices in the first place. Like tampering with a Tylenol bottle, it doesn't prove Bojan or Joe Benson or digital divide organizations did anything wrong.

One of my favorited tweets of the past week was posted by Swedish battery recycling guru Hans Eric Melin.  "Two ideas we seem to be primed not to believe: 1. That China makes more advanced products than we do. And if they do, we don't believe they can refurbish them, let alone recycle them. 2. That people in Africa use electronics. But if they do we think they don't know how to repair them".  (Pakistan fits in there swimmingly)

Someone needs to invoke the False Claims Act against organizations which profit by sending taxpayer funded enforcers on a wild goose chase. The NGO has admitted they, and they alone, sabotaged the devices (with a couple of MIT undergraduates participating in the sabotage and placement in 2015). BAN should take its millions of dollars in donations and refund INTERPOL for the costs of the cringeworthy "Project Eden" and cost of imprisoning (Jim Puckett's words here) "collateral damage" like Joseph Benson of BJ Electronics. Grown ups in the environmental community need to place the NGO in time out.  E-Stewards board of directors needs to meet with WR3A and the geeks of color, the representatives of Tech Sector in emerging markets, and pull the plug on Jim. You can fire him. It's time to do so.  Stop the madness.

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