Two Stories

One is in today's International Herald Tribune. In Senegal, the poorest slums are in the lowest, flood-prone areas. They accept garbage (delivered free, unlike earth or stone) to put in the floors of their homes. As a modern westerner, I'm shocked, but as an amateur historian, I recognize this is the way Back Bay in Boston was built.

The other is our story, about the ladies of Las Chicas Bravas, or Retroworks de Mexico. It aired on NPR's Marketplace last week, and is downloadable, with photos. The reporter, Ingrid Lobet, spent five days there living in Ms. Vicki Ponce's house.

Ingrid gets it.

Superficially, the electronics recycling work we want to bring down there is akin to the garbage dumpers in the first story. Westerners sending TVs to be taken apart down south. But why would a former Peace Corps volunteer embrace that? And why would the sparky ladies in the NPR story be so grateful for it?

They could be working in the metal mine 20 miles away. Hard rock mining generates 45% of all toxics released by all industry in the USA (where it's measured), surely it's a higher percentage in developing countries with copper mines. They could be working as illegals in the USA, at ewaste recycling plants, taking apart the same TVs.

Here they are co-owners.

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