|He huffed and he puffed and he blew the Hoax down|
I'm really busy this month, in part due to the month away (Austria IERC conference, then 3 weeks in Ghana). And I was in the Ozarks all last week for my father's DNR and funeral, simultaneously dealing with a tornado that wiped out water, electricity, internet, and my mom and dad's barn in Arkansas. So... the blog's always poorly edited, but this month I've got really good excuses for it.
Here's what sticks with me from the January IERC Austria conference. I sat on a panel with Jim Puckett, the Executive Director of the E-Waste NGO Basel Action Network. We were speaking to a crowd of about 100 European WEEE delegates.
I opened by saying I used to be a teacher in Cameroon, Africa, from 1984-86. I'd recently been to Agbogbloshie, and was going back again immediately after the conference. I told the European audience that the junk they had seen photographed there was generated by African households and businesses, after decades of reuse. Yes, it was originally imported used, but almost always repaired and used for 10-20 years before Africans discarded it. I told them that 30 years ago my landlord had no running water but owned a (used) TV. I told them that there wasn't any mystery around the baseline data - the World Bank clearly says that MOST households in cities like Accra had TV or computer 20 years ago, and the assumption that junk captured by photo-journalists was "dumped" in hundreds of sea containers by unscrupulous recyclers was categorically false; I told them I had met Michael Anane, that he was not telling the truth about Agbogbloshie being a remote fishing village and he had certainly not been fishing and swimming there 20 years ago, that I was unable to find any newspaper that employed him, and that the people I asked in Agbogloshie said he worked for the AMA, the municipal land development group that forcibly evicted thousands of Old Fadama slum dwellers near the site, which they have a published plan to develop into shopping malls etc. The junk is collected in pushcarts from Accra city streets. I told them that the World Bank and IMF determined 15 years ago that used electronics in Africa were essential to creating the "critical mass of users" to fund TV stations and programming, cell phone towers, and internet cable. I told them that Africa's Tech Sector found "Project Eden" to be scary, a threat to their livelihood, and cringe-worthy as a moniker.
|E-waste Ebola Connection?|
"I will admit, exaggerations have been made."
It strikes me, 6 weeks later, as an incredible use of passive voice. Exaggerations "have been made" by someone.
Exaggerations have been made, indeed. Agbogbloshie photos have now disappeared from the CAER website, the conference speakers were now talking about keeping copper inside Europe's "circular economy", and Blacksmith Institute had changed its name. That NGO allegedly told journalists 2 years ago that Agbogbloshie was the "most polluted place in the world" - something Blacksmith then denied but wouldn't issue any clarifying statement, despite our sending evidence they were cited by the journalists as the source of the claims about Agbo. They did not tell me how much money they received to "transform" and "save" Agbogbloshie...
So back to my reflections on Europe's E-waste conference.
Some people owe Joseph "Hurricane" Benson a major apology, because the "common knowledge" described by his prosecutor, that 80% of the material he exported was dumped in African landfills, had already been disproven by SBC studies, was wildly different than the UK House of Commons "Strategic Materials" report that year, and was based on a phony statistic that BAN.org tried to abandon in haste the year before Benson's sentencing.
The feedback I got in Salzburg is that I was insulting people, and I was compared by one attendee to Donald Trump. That Jim Puckett had done "tremendous good" for their associations.
Which are funded based on exaggeration.
Exaggerations have been made. But not by me.
This is not a popularity contest and I'm not running for office. This is a matter of environmental injustice, or rather environmental malpractice, against Africa's Tech Sector. Black geeks have been arrested, and their livelihoods threatened, by a #charitableindustrialcomplex that tells European consumers lies about their e-waste and sends working and repairable electronics through shredders. Planned obsolescence has its finger on the scale of justice.
I'm going to die, like my Dad and his dads before him. But I feel like Huck Finn, not like Donald Trump. Huck was the poorest, the least educated, least sophisticated dude in Mark Twain's Missouri. But he could see that doing a good one for runaway slave (or 'immigrant') Jim felt better to him than turning him in as stolen property, as his privileged white society told him to do.
"Alright then, I'll go to hell."
If reporting on Ebola was Politifact's "Lie of the Year" in 2014, the "ewastehoax" about Agbogbloshie has to be the Lie of the Decade. Lots of privileged people are making money developing laws and procedures and witch hunts that put geeks of color in jail. And the difference between this decade and last is that they all know it, but say it anyway. A lot of people seriously believed the "exaggerations made" in 2007. In 2017, it's much crasser and opportunistic and selftish than that. It's making money off of other peoples false arrests and suffering. And it's going to give the environmental community a big, big black eye if we continue to refuse to correct it.
These kids live in the same village - Savelugu - as the three men we interviewed from Agbogbloshie. If they move to Agbo when they grow up, it's to be in the big city of Accra, where they think there are more opportunities to own cell phones, watch soccer matches, and buy nice clothes. There's no fishing village, no 500 containers of waste dumped per month, virtually nothing that any UK publication has printed about Agbogbloshie is accurate in any way. Lord Chris Smith has got a lot of 'splaining to do.