Systems Founded in Byproduct Management: Ingenuity 101

Lucid Energy, Stormwater X, Toilet 3.0, and Africa's Tech Sector and Scrap Sector might solve 4 problems with byproduct management.

If you are an agent of conscience, and choose to either be perfect, or become someone guided by perfect intent, you need maintenance. Like a regular teeth-cleaning or oil change, you need to regularly evaluate your interior motives, your pridefulness, your righteous indignation, and cognitive biases.  Preemium primum non nocere.

Like a machine that has been well maintained, you will, through the cumulative exposure and effort towards the improvements you've devoted yourselves to, be in the right place when the right time for an insight, inspiration, or opportunity occurs. If, for example, you care about people living in slums in emerging markets, you might spend years doing Mother Theresa one-on-several assistance, and begin to be inured to the scale of the problem. Keep your ego in check, and your eyes open, because someone else may have a good idea and never have your insight into an application that would "save the world", or your piece of it.

Where is this going? Downhill to the problem, whose byproduct is opportunity

Accept my premise that systems are founded in byproduct management. The flush toilets were at first a problem (see Dysentary on the Thames, or the Great Stink of London). But the byproduct of the flush toilet was modern sewage treatment system. Imagine you were at work on protecting wildlife in the Thames, already up to your eyeballs in urban pollution, and then Crapper scales sales of flush toilets. You might feel despondent, like a person trying to dry clothes on a line, suddenly caught by a monsoon rain. But systems - like wastewater treatment systems - are built upon byproduct. You might not be witnessing the death of the river you've devoted your life to, but instead be the person who becomes a catalyst for change, now able to harness a new problem to divine a new solution.  Had you not been caring about the Thames, how much longer would the problem have waited, and how many more children of London would have died of cholera or dysentary?

Today's case - and I'm seriously feeling this has huge potential - I'm inspired to seize an opportunity in Africa and other emerging markets, based on another person's idea. The original idea is Conduit 3 Hydroelectric Projectby Lucid Energy. I immediately thought of a likely problem. The turbines, which harness the downhill energy of water delivery, would get clogged up by debris if they were placed in stormwater. But earlier this year, I blogged about a net system which captures debris from urban water runoff in Australia. Capturing litter headed to the ocean faces a problem of human energy required to replace the nets. Conduit 3 HydroElectric Project captures energy, but would be constrained by the debris.

If you are walking through the slum of "Sodom and Gomorrah" (please understand I despise that moniker as used by ewaste SJWs), the sneering lip curled epithet hurled at the residents of Old Fadama by Accra Metro Association developers and German speaking ewaste saviors, you will see children defecating in the ditch, and women sweeping their yards into the ditch. If you are lucky, you may run across the poor guys at ZooLion Waste Management, who get hired to clean the miles of gutters by hand. What I observe is that the Zoomlion guys might tend to avoid the crannies and catchbasins, and avoid the spots where their waste bags would be filled in minutes.  If you are judged by kilometers of clean looking gutter, you start at the 80% of gutters which are already cleanest. If you are paid by the pound, you start where the plastic all coagulates in the stormwater artery.... which I'll talk about in a minute.

You don't want stormwater litter in the turbines of LucidEnergy

First, concentrate on this cool looking water energy system. It will be more profitable and function longer if it's placed at the clean water downhill delivery, where the turbines won't clog with waste. Portland Oregon would probably get faster ROI if they place the LucidEnergy turbines upstream, before the water gets to the homes and businesses (I don't know, maybe that's wrong, maybe there is a lubrication system that can't be exposed to drinking water).  At least, if it's on the downstream waste water side, it would have a lot of artery clogging problems and would require regular maintenance - i.e. labor.

If you care about urban slums, and you are open minded, you see where I'm going by mashing up the LucidEnergy Portland project with the Australian wastewater litter capture project by StormX.

1. I am not in the field of #CleanEnergy, though I'm aware of it and care about it (longtime readers may remember I started out at PASE, Peoples Action for Safe Energy, as the token high school student hanging out with anti-nuke hippies in Fayetteville Arkansas).

2. I am not in the field of sewage invention - Bill Gates focus in Africa - though I'm aware of it and care about it.  When I visited Agbogbloshie (because I cared about Africa's Tech Sector, Joe Benson, and the #EwasteHoax), we walked from there to the coast along a ditch. It was dry season, but at the beach I could see all the plastic debris (and other uglies) carried by the stormwater.  And I saw (and photographed) slum dwellers who were collecting plastic bags inside much larger plastic bags to sell for scrap. IF you are collecting plastic bags for money, you start your morning where they accumulate, which is in the twists, turns, and bottlenecks of the urban storm gutters (or thorny bushes in the Sahel).

I am in the field of tech sector and scrap recycling employment (and the gulf between them) in Africa. And that brings me close to crap in the gutter, expensive energy, ingenuity-opportunity and underemployment.  Before I bury the lead in meta-analysis, here's the new idea.

It's a clean energy idea. In Portland, Oregon, LucidEnergy is putting a turbine into city waste water pipes to capture the energy of gravity as water goes downhill. In Australia, StormX is capturing debris in nets which require a lot of energy to unload and swap. In Accra, government paid ZoomLion litter pickers are picking up litter in the 80% of gutters with 20% of the litter (and avoiding the clogged artery points, perhaps). In Accra, Dagomba slum dwellers are gathering plastic litter in big bags, at the congestion points  And in West Africa, Bill Gates is putting out a request for proposals to address the problems with water-based sewage and toilet systems in countries without a lot of water (or where water arrives all at once during a monsoon season).

Mike "beautiful paradise" Anane

By being an open minded agent of conscience, you not only find yourself in a position to scream bloody internet murder when Interpol's Project Eden invites Mike "Fishing as a Boy" Anane and Jim "Never ever said 80%" Puckett to train Lord Chris Smith and EPA enforcement agents on "ewaste export" and "Agbogbloshie". Yes, my main task has been to exonerate Joe "Hurricane" Benson and Africa's Tech Repair Sector. But by visiting the slum, and remembering my first impressions of slums (Zaire 1984), I'm reminded  of the immediate problem of litter collection and kids crapping in the street gutter.

I see an opportunity. For example, "Teach kids to shit in the ubiquitous plastic bag litter before they put it in the gutter, and then put up a StormX type of collector at the end, powered by a LucidEnergy water-powered turbine, which will carry the bagged waste and other litter to a high point to dry, and be hauled by Dagomba slum dwellers paid by ZoomLion by the pound."

This. Is. A. Tire.
Back at a meta-level, I hope to illustrate how you don't waste your time by caring unless you make it about how shiny your conscience is. If all you care about is the shine on your own conscience, then you will be a photojournalist like SashaRainbow or KevinMcElevaney. In just a few weeks, you can memorialize your trips to the slum, your passion, say you held up a mirror to society, and strut off to your next project. Like ZoomLion litter pickers, you place yourself not where you solve the greatest problem, but where you can be seen doing your good work.

If you take a more professional, long term approach to saving the planet, and keep your integrity maintenance program with humility and open mindedness and note-taking over years of observation, listening, etc., you might get discouraged by a downpour. But if not for you, who would put the StormX and LucidEnergy and SlumPower project together? LucidEnergy would be prioritizing the cleanest downflows, StormX would be targeting the richest cities, and Bill Gates would be seeing kids crapping over street gutters as something less than an opportunity.

My insight isn't in any of those projects. My insight comes from living in Africa long enough to see the Fixers as people like my grandparents in the Ozarks, who are making the most value they can out of the knowledge, time and energy they have available.  I see people like Joe Benson not as a problem, but as the people who created a critical mass of users so that cell phone towers, internet cable, TV station and satellite investments, etc, would be scaleable. I see Olu Orga picking up junk that Benson exported 20 years earlier as an opportunity, not a problem.

And here's the big payoff.  I like Olu, I like being around him, more than I like being around SmugLords of the Charitable Industrial Complex.

Chendiba Enterprises, the internet computer geek store brightening Tamale Ghana, was established thanks to Olu Orga, the cousin who went to Agbogbloshie to pick up junk e-waste from Accra businesses. He found he could upgrade, refurb, take-two-make-one, and send them to his cousins in the poorer north of Ghana.

If you were only focused on "ewaste in Accra", you'd see that Olu was only able to reuse and repair 20% of what he collected in his city cart.

Maybe by being around smart people like Wahab, Evans Quaye, Nyalete, Benson, Karim, Awudu, Chendiba, etc., who are not yet focused on clean energy and waste collection, you can introduce them to opportunities in Africa's waste and energy challenges, and partner with them. That's what Fair Trade Recycling Waste Offset program proposes to do. I wish I had a million dollars to kick it off.

Go to a place to be an agent of conscience. But learn and study it, like Dagna Rams, don't shower yourself in the glory of fake stats and burning tires.

When you spend enough time at a project, unlike fly-by waste tourist photographers of Europe, your "eyes adjust to the dark". You see Benson as a solution, and Anane as a problem.  And the SmugLords of the Charitable Industrial Complex will mark you down as an "apologist" for recording their bloody "collateral damage". I wish I was more talented at sharing my insights and information.  I feel like I'm trying to pick litter out of a stream of misinformation, like I'm some self-appointed referee of the internet (banned from viewing @ScottAdamsSays twitter posts now, btw, for trying to talk him off the ledge of his ego-tirade vs. Google algorithms).

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