For over Ten Years, WR3A has been collecting video interviews, showing firsthand accounts by both the Second-hand tech sector and recycling (scrap) sector in places like Ghana, Senegal, China, Cameroon, Egypt, Peru, Mexico, Indonesia, etc etc. There is a new hashtag for this.
#OWNVOICES. It's about marginalized people telling their own story, especially when it differs from - or opposes - "their" story as told by big money and charity industrial complex "saviors".
It is Overdue. Marginalized reuse techs - labelled "collateral damage" (2013) by Jim Puckett of BAN.org - have to to take the mic.
Rather than talk about what the TechSector has to say about their own decisions to invest their own savings in purchasing goods from Europe, USA, Japan, and other OECD countries with surplus "homeused" or Secondhand electronics, I thought I'd remind everyone that this is what WR3A has done repeatedly since the organization was incorporated in 2007. Our Youtube Recycling Playlist is filled with unedited interviews of workers in the scrap sector and tech sector (DIFFERENT PEOPLE!) in the developing or emerging markets.
Example 1: Emmanuel Nyaletey (Ghanaian American) interview with Jaleel Mohamed in 2015. Two years later, Adam Minter left his Junkyard Planet laptop to Jaleel for repair. It required board-level chip replacement by another tech, but the laptop is now in use in Kumasi, Ghana. Adam payed attention to the #ownvoices in this video, asked to meet them and let them demonstrate what the Tech Sector can do.
Example 2: Hamdy Moussa of Egypt, a CRT monitor importer, allowed his processes to be filmed in 2008. He showed hundreds of pages documenting that 85% or the CRT monitors required no repair at all (the tubes work for 22 years, and Western countries were only using them for 3.5 years). German filmmaker Klaus Neuman used this footage in the 2013 short now on Vimeo
Example 3: Video interviews we had with the Ms Vicki and Dolores of Retroworks de Mexico, and other self-proclaimed "Las Chicas Bravas" wsa shared with NPR and PBS, and resulted in an #ownvoices moment captured by NPR Marketplace, Arizona PBS, and Living On Earth.
The #CharitableIndustrialComplex, #BigShred, and #PlannedObsolescence interests hijacked these peoples stories, and so widely disseminated a story about "primitive victims, orphans, dumping and pollution" that our attempts to relate these #techsector stories was drowned out in the media. At Joe Benson's sentencing, the barrister simply stated that it was (QUOTE) "common knowledge" that the majority of TVs Benson purchased (from hotel upgrades and ones he cherry picked from legal dumps, using his reuse license) would NOT be reused, but dumped.
Dr. Josh Lepawsky, Adam Minter, and Blame Game documentary filmmakers researched the UK's claims. We provided the researchers a smoking gun - the UK House of Parliament's own 2012 documentation that UK policy took into account that the majority of exports would be reused, but based its policy on retaining "strategic" or "critical metals" and minerals. Emmanuel Nyaletey, when shown the document, got really mad, noting that African hands mined most of that metal, and keeping Africans from reusing or repairing devices because Europeans wanted to keep the metal made a darn good example of "marginalization", even if Joe Benson had not been arrested and sentenced to 5 years of prison.
BBC's Raphael Rowe is a journalist of color, and made his name in the UK for having been profiled and falsely accused, a man who spent several years in UK prisons before being released. His refusal to revisit the Panorama documentary that falsely identified Joe Benson as a criminal, based on GPS transponders showing that TVs purchased by Nigerian expat Joe Benson were being resold in Ghana and Nigeria, has been recorded. I tried to share with him the documentation of Africa's electricity use and TV ownership from the 1990s. Rowe muted me, or at least stopped answering my tweets. He should imagine how Joe Benson felt about that, having been in the UK prison system himself.
I unleashed a twitter thread this morning explicitly calling out The Guardian, BBC, and other reporters for not bothering to interview any of the people accused of being "Waste Tourists" (a term shelved when INTERPOL realized it had been duped and mothballed "PROJECT EDEN", thanks in large part to our organization's investigations. But as my favorite author Bill Bryson described in A Short History of Nearly Everything, it is rare that a mistake is corrected by the person who made it - evidenced by Thomas Midgely, the man who gave us leaded ethyl gasoline that poisoned hundreds of millions of people for decades.
The idea of corporate "stewardship" of the environment was turned into a weapon against the #righttorepair, #goodenoughmarket, and #geeksofcolor. The story of ink catridge profit leading HP and AGMA to pay Chinese military to raid printer cartridge refillers was exposed by HP's own press release. It's not that different from Midgely's coverup.
Western civilization's saving grace is, as compared to many other cultures (though the Aztec library did not get a chance to vote) admitting historical mistakes and educating ourselves about those mistakes. I'm grateful for free speech, and our ability to blow the whistle on the press, manufacturers, and charitable industrial complex. But that history is written a generation later. BAN and Greenpeace and HP and INTERPOL and the UK Barrister won't publicly admit their mistakes. It is up to students researching the topic, and professors like Memorial University's Josh Lepawsky and USC's Josh Goldstein to provide those students with good leads. And it is up to the jury of everyday readers - the people who Adam Minter is so, so good at communicating with, to realize they've been misinformed about what Africans, Asians, and South Americans do with Secondhand stuff.
New rule: Person with the most knowledge about repair of, and demand for, the device gets to define if it is waste to her/him. Basel definition of waste originally recognized this, but rich countries exploited power to define it. - WR3A Tweet Nov 2019
Call these raw video clips a Firsthand Account of Secondhand Trade.
Today's blog is a reminder of our raw footage in the WR3A library, some of it more than a decade old, that the TechSector was being marginalized, to the financial benefit of racketeers in Seattle. As people begin to research the concept of OwnVoices and the marginalized tech sector valedictorians #geeksofcolor, that we have dozens of literal inverviews, like the ones below, of Africans interviewing Africans, Mexicans interviewing Mexicans, Peruvians interviewing Peruvians, Indonesians interviewing Indonesians, etc., going back to WR3A's first grant (from Consumer Electronis Association in 2008, when we mailed out 10 Flip Cameras to Fair Trade Recycling members around the world).
The "white savior" angle of the #ewaste reporting is on the record. And there is ample evidence, thanks to WR3A, that the record overlooked the most knowledgeable and important people in the industry, and allowed them to be labelled as "Primitive" Recyclers.
If you are researching or doing a thesis or term paper on Otherization, Profiling, Marginalization, and Discrimination by liberal media, contact me. I'm a liberal, but if I turn out to have a wrong idea, I want to know about it. If I have stubbornly refused to apologize for the collateral damage I created, I want to be called out. That is part of what made Western Civilization great... not failing to make mistakes, but we are pretty good at documenting our mistakes and recording them.
I honestly think there is a Pulitzer Prize waiting out there for a young journalist who examines the fact that 15 years ago a couple of NGOs (Greenpeace and BAN) produced an utterly fake statistic... that 80% of what Africans (and Chinese and South Americans) import secondhand is actually dumped and burned. And that 80% of what photojournalists film being dumped and burned was imported (to quote Jim Puckett) "days earlier". They labelled people who traded with Joe Benson etc. as "sham recyclers", or maintained that "80% of recyclers" were paying to send junk by boat to avoid recycling fees. The fact is that anyone could see in Joe Benson's documentation that he had a) PURCHASED the TVs in the UK (often from hotels upgrading to newer flat TVs), b) that he sorted out bad ones and had a zero cost to return bad ones in the UK, c) that he paid thousands of dollars to ship the TVs and route them through tight customs in Africa, d) that he was paid on a factor of 10x to 40x the "scrap value" of the TVs when they landed. That the barrister said at his sentencing that "common knowledge" dictated that the vast majority were being dumped... that common knowledge being a press corps that repeated the fake 80% statistic without bothering to check easily available World Bank data on the number of TVs per household in Africa 2 decades earlier, and how much "ewaste" Africa dumps should be receiving as a result. Going back now to the Greenpeace videos, the Kevin McElvaney and Sasha Rainbow and Delvaney and Pieter Hugo "photojournalism", the clearly biased sampling of GPS trackers, etc., what is stunning is that no one interviews an African (other than Mike "Fishing as a Boy" Anane), much less one of the buyers, consumers, or Benson himself. These reporters claim to be reporting Africa's #ownvoices, but clearly through the use of fake statistics and fake narratives about how the obsolete computers got to Agbogbloshie (by pushcarts in the early morning runs of scavengers on the streets of 3M population greater Accra), they are not asking. The number of sea containers dumping there is not 500 per month. It is zero per year. If you post a photo and report that you saw a sea container, you are lying. If you post a photo and say you didn't see a sea container, then how many hours were you there if there are 500 per month (16-17 per day!) being dumped there.
Juan Solera and Albert Julia (Blame Game) spent weeks there, and when they never saw a sea container, they did research, and that is how they learned about Fair Trade Recycling, and how they got perhaps the first ever interviews of importers in their documentary. Josh Lepawsky, Reed Miller, Adam Minter, etc. asked the same question, and were all startled at how little time it took (minutes) to discredit a decade of "reporting".
It is a critical lack of #ownvoices in the reporting that will be seen as the flaw of Ptolemaic "circular economy" plans in which the rich white countries write the definition of non-"waste" to mean "a white person tested it and confirmed it to be tested working". Of all people, Raphael Rowe @areporter should understand this, but I tried to get his attention 10 years ago and he seemed more concerned about damage to his byline than the collateral damage done to the geeks and nerds and techies of West Africa.
If you are one of the people who asks why I am blogging less often, I'm finding it's easier to write pithy short things, and links, on Twitter, where smart people use the "search box" (rather than read long random posts on the main feed).