Right To Repair Act - Grandparent Tire Time

Since we are on the subject of passing big laws to save our soldiers, African children, or UK's circular eddy current economy from lost strategic metals, here's a reminder of another big law out there.  EFF and IFixit remain the champions of protecting consumers from "copyright" and "patent" laws taking away their right to tinker with their cars, electronics, and other stuff.

This was a major battleground - in my mind - in the 1990s.  I was raised (here in the Ozarks, where I'm visiting for an unrelated EOL issue with a relative) that the smartest farmers knew how to fix stuff, and could save their family a lot of money by buying broke stuff from rich people who didn't know how to repair (or just wanted "elective upgrade").  Every summer my grandpa had me under a car or truck, showing me how they were making the spark plugs harder and harder to replace.  "Why in the world would they design this motor so that you need hydraulic motor hoist to change he spark plugs!?!?"  His suspicion was that they did it on purpose.

Copyright and patent laws entered into a gray area with software.  The right to own and copy some software that an author wrote was protected by different laws than protect the consumer's property rights and warranty rights under the Magnusum - Moss Act of 1975. Below is a rare "5-mod-up" comment of mine on the subject of Right to Repair on Slashdot /. which is a forum I started following at MassDEP when the internet was new, and I was researching electronics repair.

I've written about that law because when I first went to college and  Minnesota PIRG had a negative-check-off to add a fee to my Carleton College tuition bill, I wanted to know who PIRG was.  I read up on it at the library (nothing online then), and saw they were associated with consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader, who I learned about in high school when "planned obsolescence" and Vance Packard came up in class.

Trends of Peace and Urbanization

Urbanization is making humans peaceful. Terrorists generally come from non-urban areas. Look it up. It makes sense. And we are getting safer and safer, statistically, because humans are becoming more and more urban.
Journalism reports on crimes, and urban people have more access to journals.
So while people are becoming safer and safer to be around, more and more of us are reading about the danger.

SEERA, HR 917 - A New Protectionist Message?

First let me say that there are several paying members of the Coalition for American Electronics Recycling (CAER) who I really respect.  We use several of them as subcontractors for our company. (My hunch is that they wouldn't want to be thanked here individually).

They haven't reached out to me directly, but appear to have taken serious note of admonishment on the blog.  They have dropped references to the "80% Dumping" claim (which was still on their website after Basel Action Network disavowed it).

The "perception - reality" logo, featuring the African guy carring a 1977 white Magnavox at Agbogbloshie is gone from the website.  "Primitive" Africans no longer feature in the press releases for the legislation that CAER was formed to promote...

But their interest is the same as any other heavy industry.  "Big Shred" are the companies with multi-million dollar investments in big heavy machines to automate electronics recycling.

Hans Rosling of Gapminder Recognized

A few years ago my son, then a student at United World College, sent me a link to "The Best Statistics You've Never Seen", a TED talk by Swedish doctor and statistician Hans Rosling.  I shared it pretty widely.  In recent years, Dr. Rosling (who still seemed quite young) was increasingly turning over presentations to his own adult son.  Last Friday, we learned Rosling had died of cancer [NYT Obituary]

Over Facebook and Twitter, Rosling has not exactly been a celebrity like Prince or Bowie, but you start to observe really really smart people are all noting his passing.

Here's a short 2015 interview with Rosling with Engish subtitles.   If you haven't seen it yet, go to one of his longer 2006 TED Talk video in English.

It isn't the 1970s.  It has not been the 1970s for over a decade.  The talk about "third world" and "lesser developed nations" and "primtive" and dystopian descriptions are being kept alive by a type of white nostalgia that seeks to leverage exoticism into a kind of nuture-instinct currency.  I do it even now - returning from Africa I find far more photos on my card of grass roofs than of metal ones.  We are attracted to documenting poverty, leveraging schadenfreude, gaining a fantasy of heroicism in the process.

 "Herrschaftskritischer Ansatz" is another good German expression to describe it.

Here is my observation about how Rosling's Gapminder can bring us together.  Yes, this is political.  The wealthier blue state democrat demographic and blue collar red state demographic are both guilty of portraying the rest of the world as seriously far more "other" than it is.

How To Pay For Africa E-Waste Cleanup? Part 3

Africans have a better idea about which view of Africa's the fine one

A month living with Africa's Tech Sector is like the opposite of the movie "The Matrix".  In the matrix all the humans think they are living in a normal world, but in reality dwell in torrid humid dystopic conditions.  Take the red pill, and you see the horror of reality...

Africa's Tech Sector has been described in halloweenish, dystopian, horrific terms by agents of the Charitable Industrial Complex, Big Shred, and Planned Obsolescence.  Take the blue pill, and you find a bunch of intelligent, happy, funny people living in a normal world of value added, growing standards of living, and healthy teledensity.

So just close your eyes, count backwards from Three, and when I snap my fingers, we'll solve Africa's real e-waste problems efficiently, fairly, and fairly quickly.

It's time for the good news!

Morpheus's "dirty little secret" isn't the truth.

The Truth in Africa isn't "Sodom and Gomorrah" or "Eden" either.  But it's a lot more like "Avatar" than it is "The Matrix".  Once you live here and see people are kind of the same, the solutions become easier to do.

There are simple and friendly and affordable solutions here.  (And the EU can still get all the unobtanium it wants.)  America is teaching Africa and Europe to "Dab" together, trade together, cooperate together.  With a little Interpol "community policing" we'll suffer less "collateral damage".

Dabbing to the Blue Pill!  Africa Dey FINE!

The Joy of Fair Trade Recycling, continued

How To Pay For Africa E-Waste Cleanup? Part II

So we've established that so far, "saving Africa from e-waste" has made a handsome profit for EU Policy makers, NGOs, Big Shred, and lazy photojournalists and prosecutors. 

We've established that like USA in the 1990s, Africans have a growing volume of junk televisions and computers.  Imported in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, the CRT televisions alone represent a modern "urban mining" project.

The kids at left - ALL of their grandparents had a TV when their parents were born.  This is not a "recent import" or "Basel Convention" disorder.

Here's the problem - Africa's Tech Sector, the repair and upgrade professionals, used to be able to sell third hand televisions and computers, collected from African consumers who traded them in or abandoned a repair after 'elective upgrade'.  They are increasingly finding it hard to resell 20, 30 and 40 year old "third hand" electronics.

Correctly diagnosing the problem is the first step to treatment.  Paying for the solution is the second step.

How to pay for the safe and effective recycling of used electronics abandoned at African repair shops - not by Europeans or Americans, but by African consumers who, eventually, decide not to pay for the repair of a 45 year old television set?

First, stop wasting money on environmental malpractice.

How To Pay For Africa E-Waste Cleanup?

15 years later, let's just ask what he imports
After 2 weeks back in Ghana, the #1 Finding of our research still stands.  E-Waste NGOs made up fictitious numbers about the percentage of imports to Africa that are "waste" and the percentage of waste in places like Agbogbloshie that come from faulty used good imports ("Exaggerations have been made" said Jim P. on our Salzburg panel).  Photojournalists flew to Accra (Agbogbloshie is about 20 minutes from the airport, 9 minutes from Accra's finest hotel), and took close-up photos of Africans in exotic poses.  And EU policymakers got project funding to "save" Africans from e-waste dumping.

Neither the NGOs, nor the journalists, nor the EU Policy funders checked out existing data on Accra stormwater runoff (the water quality at the Odaw Korle lagoon was hideous in the 1970s), the number of households with televisions in Accra 15 years ago, or the number of people employed in the scrap industry generally as compared to the number seen in Old Fadama slum of Accra. They didn't even find it on mapquest, which would show it's at the center of Accra, not a remote fishing village on the outskirts (as should have been suggested by the cab ride from the hotel). They would have found the phrase "Sodom and Gomorrah" appears in a 2002 AMA publication calling for razing the slum to build shopping malls and parking lots.

There was no basic secondary research.  No control group.  No null hypothesis.