Open Letter to WR3A / Fair Trade Recycling Interns 2007-2019

Hello summer 2019 team, and past WR3A interns

Thought you'd appreciate this coverage of Adam Minter's new book, Secondhand.  He has already been interviewed by NPR OnPoint and Marketplace, and will be on Fresh Air on Cyber Monday.  The concluding chapters of his book focus on our work, at Good Point, and in Ghana, on Fair Trade Recycling.

This has been a long and steady slog. Adam's research was enormously supported by interns from 2007 thru 2019.  Adam was inspired to write this book at the 2013 Middlebury College Fair Trade Recycling Summit, and the research by interns at Memorial University, Univesidad Pontifica Catholica (Peru), USC, MIT, Middlebury, U of Amsterdam, U de Paul Cezanne, Univ Monterrey de Guadalajara, developed a tome of documentation and research (much of which was consolidated in the excellent 2018 MIT Press publication Reassembling Rubbish by Dr. Josh Lepawsky).

On Adam Minter's second trip to Ghana, he followed up on the fate of the laptop "Junkyard Planet" was written on

Jaleel of Chendiba Enterprises identified a bad video chip, 

Lepawsky's citations, documentation, and assembled research were enormously valuable to Adam Minter, who has the luxury of knowing there is documentation of what he - and some of you - was seeing with his own eyes. 

Sometimes it's difficult to see how much we have accomplished in 10 years. In 2013 and 2015, I was able to meet with INTERPOL, who quietly ended "Project Eden" (with support from Italian journalist Jacopo Ottaviano's 2015 datajournalism in Agbogbloshie, which we guided). The new Amazon Prime documentary, Blame Game, may not be perfect, but the directors Juan Solera and Albert Julia made a significant effort to tell both sides of the story - including ours. 

There are many other key bricks in the history of our protective wall, contributions by important interns. Brenda Wijnen's Masters thesis, Adelaide Rivereau francophone-directed film and articles, Morgan Whittemore's parts database (which Adam Minter spent time with but it didn't make it to print), Morgan Ingenthron and Conor Fox's video footage of Ghana Tech Sector TV repair, Camila's investigation of SKD operations in Peru, Oscar A. Orta and Emmanuel Nyaletey's presentations in USA, Austria, and Kenya, John Bosco's successful effort getting FTR Offset permission from Ghana EPA, and of course the countless hours of interviews - many filmed - with dozens of Geeks and Technicians in 15 countries (some film paid for by CEA in a 2010 grant). And I know I'm forgetting some (Hi, Jinex!).

Fred Fahiri Somda of Burkina Faso, Oscar Adrian Orta, Nathan Hill, and Colin Davis have remained on the Board of Directors, and continue to support bylaws.  Our battle against what Basel Action Network tried to brush aside as "collateral damage" - the racial profiling of Joe "Hurricane" Benson, Hamdy Mousa, Yadji Moussa, Wahab Odoi, Su Fung Ow Young, Allen Liu, Mariano Huchim and others - was asymmetrical. We could not get the funding BAN got, because journalism goes towards a "story", and anti-defamation groups like WR3A are in a position of stating there was no story.

Adam has been able to synthesize this as a message of empowerment. He is giving thanks to us, and by us, I want to pass it along to everyone.

When Adam came to Vermont last week to kick off the tour for this book (thanks to Corey Berman at UVM Recycling), what he emphasized is #Ownvoices - that he was most impressed by our organization's emphasis on forcing journalists to listen to people who do the repair. We don't tell their stories for them if we don't have to. This is his message in the last 2 chapters of Secondhand. 


If there's anything I can do to help, letters of recommendation, etc., don't hesitate.

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