Last weekend, we had a reflection on the previous decades of blogging, and our ability to declare successes and failures with the war against global reuse, as waged in the press. There is a trifecta of 3 books - two of which the blog influenced, and one of which it was inspired by.
Three Most Important Re-Use Books of the Decade:
Reassembling Rubbish by Dr. Josh Lepawsky does an incredible job of surgically dismantling arguments widely cast by Basel Action Network and Greenpeace and other "do-gooders". He researched their IRS 990s, exposed the financial backing of Planned Obsolescence and Big Shred, and provides data to eyewitness the spray of filthy gossip about repairpeople in Asia, Africa and Latin America. While not an emotional read, that was not what we needed. If stoic in delivery, Lepawsky rubbed shoulders with #ownvoices. His team spent weeks living with emerging market recyclers and repairers, including several long visits to Las Chicas Bravas in Sonora Mexico (Retroworks de Mexico). Lepawsky re-thinks the incredible geographic scars of mining industry, comparing risks to the hand-wringing concerns over removing screws in slums like Agbogbloshie. It is incredibly well documented, footnoted, and sourced.
Secondhand by Adam Minter is about "Travels in the New Global Garage Sale". For a more visceral look at the "collateral damage"to the global good-enough markets, this is the best. Adam turns the corner from being an extremely well-regarded trade journal writer, covering the scrap industry (first book, Junkyard Planet 2013), and dives into the mosh pit of reuse diaspora in Secondhand. Cleverly written, he first makes the used possessions personal - estate sale by estate sale, Goodwill by Goodwill, and his own grandmothers' basement chachkas. He then follows the billion dollar trade to the tech sector in India, China, Mexico, Benin and Ghana, and introduces us, face to face, with the talented and inspiring "others", letting the people in the USA, Europe and Japan hear the #OwnVoices of the racially profiled "primitives" we've been told are too ignorant and stupid to do more than burn the devices they carefully select, test, and purchase. He is a great listener.
Remanufacturing In the Circular Economy is the newest release by Dr. Nabil Nasr of RIT in Golisano Institute for Sustainability (Rochester, NY). Unlike Lepawsky and Minter's books, I cannot say I've yet read Nasr's Remanufacturing, but I'm ordering a copy now. I have been a fan of Dr. Nasr for decades (though he probably barely knew me until the 2013 Fair Trade Recycling Summit in Middlebury). Some of the oldest Good Point Ideas blogs have hyperlinks to Dr. Nasr's stats on remanufacturing, the industrialized growth of scaleable repair (I remember having to learn "hyperlink" code, copy and pasting). As I applied principles in the 2007 Harvard Business Review article "The Battle for China's Good Enough Market" to explain what Asia's tech sector was really doing with the desktop SVGA CRT monitors that CBS 60 Minutes claimed were burned in acid in Guiyu, I could always find sanity in Dr. Nasr's data. Like Lepawsky, Nasr provides Datajournalists a place to fact-check "80%" of the slop sprayed at us in alarmist NGO press releases.
The team provides Super Bowl stature in the defense of reuse. The table is set for Fareed Zakaria (CNN Global Public Square) to invite these 3 authors and deliver the dagger to racial profiling. He may want to invite Dr. Grace Akese, who has just recently moved to take a position at Bayreuth University in Germany. Grace provided key insights to Reassembling Rubbish, in particular an "OwnVoices" fact check of characatured Agbogbloshie. Good luck, Grace, in turning Germany's (Kevin McElvaney's) "mirror on itself" back in the right direction. Emmanuel Nyaltey of Fair Trade Recycling would also be a good score. This morning I twitterwarned Fareed (a personal hero from "Foreign Affairs" editor days) that I'd be sending him snail mail to pitch the episode.