Mark Fonseca Rendeiro
In Boston on one of the last mornings of 2017
Chris Lydon is a journalist, radio host, and observer of human behavior. He also has a deep love for jazz, books, and a good bowl of oatmeal. Chris and I became friends some ten years ago because of his legendary radio show and podcast, Radio Open Source. The first podcaster in the history of the medium, a former reporter for the NY Times, Chris cares a great deal about where we’ve been, as citizens of planet earth, and where we are going.
Over the years it has become a tradition that I come spend some days in Boston, talking with him and participating in his daily life. A tradition that has had a massive impact on my life, a pilgrimage that I dare not miss. At Chris’s kitchen table, eating oatmeal, talking about the world… thats where I love to be. So what better way to start a 2018 of restoration and rebirth…. it’s Chris Lydon and myself.. looking back at 2017 and finding clues about 2018.
As a designer, at some point David Kousemaker became interested in finding where our old phones and electronics in general end up once we in the western world throw them away. His interest took him to parts of Indonesia, China, Brazil and Thailand, among other places. There he observed not only how things like mobile phones are broken down, recycled, rebuilt etc, he also saw how entire industries and ecosystems form around these practices.
Through his photos and blog entries you can follow his travels and see some of the highlights. David Kousemaker met up with me here in Amsterdam to talk about how he got into this subject and what he learned from the journey about just how big an impact our love of gadgets is having on this world.
This week I will meet up with David Kousemaker of TechTravels to interview him about his work on the issue of where our old gadgets end up. More specifically we will delve into a topic that the mainstream world only occasionally alludes to when they mention how “somewhere in China” our old computers and phones are painstakingly recycled in the most horrendous of conditions. Amazingly such an alarming statement is taken as almost cliché when you look at how rarely media outlets get deeper into this issue.
But over the past few years, David Kousemaker has done just that. In fact, he has gone beyond what most any other newspaper or reporter has ever uncovered in places like China, Indonesia, and Brazil, delving into not only what gets recycled but who does the recycling, how they live, where different phases of the process take place and so on. His findings have been documented in text and photos on his website, Techtravels.
The idea behind meeting David, besides learning first hand details about these people, places, and activities, is to also get a better picture of the global game of electronics disposal. With all the devices we have gone through and will go through as we upgrade, replace, and go for the next thing, what happens to all these gadgets? What impact are we who buy these devices and later get rid of them, having on society and the planet? This week, we get more answers to these and other questions…
In the 90’s there was the big collapse of coffee prices, and the millions of farmers whose lives were ruined while their story was barely covered in the mainstream.
Today I’ve been reading more and more about the collapse of tea prices in the last 10 years; ruining the lives of tea farmers in India. Between 1998 and 2004 the price of tea dropped dramatically, and now the major tea companies are buying each other up… once again.. leaving tea farmers to pick up the pieces.
It is yet another one of those stories we never hear about. We drink coffee, tea, expect dirt cheap prices, and put little more thought into how it gets to us.
This will be a topic for an upcoming podcast, just as soon as I get a hold of some people with some experience or knowledge related to this topic. In the meantime it reminds me of a recent post about the Development of India by Dilip over at Death Ends Fun.