#PhotoJournalism and the Tire Fire Mirror: The Vampire Class Can't Find Its Own Footprints

#PhotoJournalism and the Tire Fire Mirror:  The Vampire Class Can't Find Its Own Footprints

Poverty Porn photographers claiming to "hold up a mirror" to society fail to document the true value of reuse and maintenance is in saving the environmental expense of virgin material extraction and production. The vampires can't see themselves because they are holding the mirror facing forward, where goods go to be reused, instead of at our own extractive environmental footprint.

The perfect example? The tire fire. A fresh one appears today in the respected Council on Foreign Relations... even they use the African Tire Fire to lead their story.

African burning tires - Council on Foreign Relations

Council on Foreign Relations Gets Into the Act.

(This blog is summarized on my Twitter feed in 5 tweets plus 2 postscript, copied at bottom)

ENVIRONMENTALISM cannot be scatalogical. While waste analysis is as vital to earth environmental policy as a pap smear, urine sample, or colonoscopy sample, it isn't the cure for obesity, heart disease, disease exposure, or stupid behavior... all of which are bigger predictors of death than excrement.

PHOTOJOURNALISM likes to tell us (or themselves) that they make complicated science more understandable and relatable. Photos definitely stir a human empathy (nurture) or anger/fear reaction.

For years this blog has drummed about the danger of simple looking solutions which are in fact comically fictitious if the photo is given a time lapse treatment. In today's twitter feed, I use tires as an example of photojournalist "whistle blowing" to well-meaning environmentalists - triggering collateral damage via subconscious racial profiling.

To get your attention, I'll start with the guilty western pleasure of whacking off to an African burning a pile of tires.

Long term followers will recognize this 30 year old man as Awal Muhammed of Savelugu, used here to solicit hand-wringers to view "Welcome to Sodom", the most recent "documentary" to add to the pile of lies about Agbogbloshie, the auto scrapyard in central capital of Accra, Ghana. Here's another shot of Awal, from #SashaRainbow's glam-rock-band Placebo music video of the same vein of lies about Africa's waste being not African, but recently illegally imported externalized waste from OECD evil recyclers who refused to boycott Africa's Tech Sector entrepreneurs.

I don't credit the photographer, sorry. But the photographer didn't credit, or describe, Awal Muhamed, so call it even. In any case, after one more guilty pleasure shot of Awal's accelerant dowsed tire fire performance art, I will share an actual diagram of the life cycle of automobile tires, from rubber plant production to crumb rubber or cement kiln fate in the USA or Europe.

The entry point here is Sasha Rainbow and whatshisnameWelcometoSodom and Kevin McElvaney's re-treaded claim that they are not exploiting men like Awal, that their photo-economy is necessary to HOLD UP A MIRROR to wealthy societies who, they claim, are unaware that their OECD recyclers are faking it and dumping your electronics (as evidenced by tires) on Africa.

Universal Waste and the Fallacy of Failure

 Had a long and frustrating conversation with a pal of mine who is presenting to a council on CERCLA - the law enacted to clean up pollution disasters. CERCLA, or Superfund, is backward looking. It is not a seat belt or an air bag, it's a law to clean up the highway accidents by assigning cleanup costs to those who drove the car or fueled the tank.

First, here is the photojournalist take of a large failed warehouse.

Landlord warehouse in Columbus OH, courtesy of Resource Recycling magazine.

The pal called to present his recent takeaway from Closed Loop Refining and Recovery failure, an abandonment of CRTs and CRT glass at facilities CLRR rented in Arizona and Ohio. That highway accident was perhaps the biggest blemish on Electronics Recycling Programs across the country. Or perhaps, it's not. But owing to the landlord's use of CERCLA (Superfund Law) language to go after clients of the CRT Recycling company, CLRR certainly made the news, and elevated what was not the largest of CRT glass markets to become emblematic of the CRT recycling industry.

Cars driving the speed limit on the highway don't make the news. CRT recyclers who continually processed CRT glass, under the conditions of the EPA CRT Rule, were able to move far more material than CLRR - because they were moving it.

CLRR was driving twice the speed limit day after day by the end of the third quarter 2013. And by speed limit, I'm referring to limits on the conditional exemption to hazardous waste law - rules against speculative accumulation, and processing deadlines to produce "furnace ready cullet".

The consulting pal said that the root cause of the failures was the EPA CRT Rule - which I helped write in 1999. He said that had the EPA instead classified the CRTs as "Universal (Hazardous) Waste", that CLRR would not have happened.

This thinking is typical of CERCLA, which only focuses on disasters. People can make up whatever they want about coulda-shoulda-woulda, and the disaster appears to be the evidence that if "mistakes were made", that the wording of the laws in place that didn't prevent this accident must be to blame.

This is like a call to lower the highway speed limit from 70 to 50 MPH, when CLRR was driving 140. The fact is that if any regulator, certifying body, landlord doubling rented space, or supplier doing normal due diligence on CLRR had examined the requirements of the existing CRT Rule, and mass balance records from CLRR, they could only draw one conclusion by the end of 2013. I know, because I did the diligence, and cut off shipments to CLRR in 2013 until and unless the company corrected the expired and exceeded requirements of my diligence.  And I cut them off despite them lowering their fees to my company, and despite it being the beginning of the worst year in the history of my company - the Vermont Opt Out Plan settlement of 2014.

Michael Shellenberger's Mad at Solar Panels. Too Cute Substack Fallacy.


Like flip phones, CRT monitors, hotel TVs, ex-boyfriends, and used cars, your decision to electively upgrade to a newer solar panel does not mean the ex-panel's life won't go on.

I was coached that people don't have time to read everything, so here's the jist... Shellenberger's thesis is that solar panels are being upgraded far sooner than their 30 year warranty or 40 year estimated lifespan would have buyers assume. That's true, I just gave a presentation on that at NERC.org.  But the reason for the upgrades is not that the used panels are failing or are waste... It's because 
  • the price and efficiency are falling, 
  • the number of roofs is finite, 
  • the cost of siting big solar fields near populated areas is skyrocketing
  • early adapters like to upgrade to something new
  • AND by 2028, virtually every older working will panel be cost-driven to replace
I have a whole presentation explaining this (Start at 2h 30min, NERC.org recorded session). Like desktop CRTs and Pentium 4 laptops, the solar panels are all going to get electively upgraded.

BUT  like those other items, the secondhand market is gobbling up replaced solar panels. And here's where the circular economy doesn't revolve around you, Michael Shellenberger - a 50% efficient panel replaced by a 100% efficient panel in Vermont GENERATES MORE KW IN AFRICA THAN THE NEW ONE DOES IN VERMONT.

Check out @AdamMinter's Twitter reply string to @ShellenbergerMD (he's not an MD, btw, he uses his first and middle initial).


Robin Ingenthron's "Pecha Kucha" presentation (2018)


For me, the rules of Pecha Kucha are a bit like Fight Club... I was so nervous after this 2018 presentation in Burlington, Vermont, that I have never told anyone about it, or mentioned that it's recorded online. I went home and resolved never to watch it.

But I just did... and really, it's not that bad.  *continued

Building A Solar Power Economy in Africa via Fair Trade Recycling and Secondhand markets: BossBaby Part 1

Building A Solar Power Economy in Africa via Fair Trade Recycling and Secondhand markets: BossBaby Part 1

There is a huge amount of solar panel recycling news occuring in 2021.  It has been challenging for me to blog any updates, it is such a moving target.

Today however I have to post a response to Uganda's President Yoweri K. Museveni's Wall Street Journal Op-Ed criticizing Solar and Wind power assistance.  I know the Editors write the headline, so they need to be called out for allowing him to bury the lead. 

Nowhere in the article does Museveni present any evidence of "backlash". He's asking for a handout. If we offer solar panels for free, but are silent to your request for a free coal fired utility, that's kind of a "Boss Baby" African Privileged Sector response.

BossBaby Museveni is demanding handouts for coal. Not to put too fine a point on my response - 
Go pound sand.


Solar and Wind Force Poverty on Africa
Letting us use reliable energy doesn’t mean a climate disaster.

By Yoweri K. Museveni Oct. 24, 2021 2:13 pm ET

@KagutaMuseveni twitter feed promoting his op-ed supports my suspicion that he had some help writing this... it has the fingerprints of Petrochemical Industry lobby seeding doubts about solar.

*linked to my comment at WSJ Comments section... but don't dive too deep, WSJ commenters are notoriously sharp elbows.