Friday, August 10, 2007

Mine Your Own Business

I've just finished watching the documentary film "Mine Your Own Business". It is made by the former Financial Times correspondent to Romania and Bulgaria and examines environmentalist campaigns against mining projects.

It restates a common complaint against environmentalists: that those who claim to be defending local interests have a deep arrogance in telling those locals what their interests are. However, it also illustrates how innacurate the picture presented to the world by the green campaigners often is.

He shows how the inhabitants of a Romanian village that is going to have a mining project built do not prefer horse and cart to cars and were not forced from their homes but gratefully sold; how the village is not a pristine environment risking destruction at the hands of greedy foreigners but an already damaged environment that needs investment to avoid becoming a wasteland and that claims that the villagers can do equally well out of tourism or farming are deeply spurious. It shows how the best friends of environmentalists fighting a mining project in Latin America are landowners worried that the new project will offer their workers an escape from poverty wages. In short, it shows that the claims of foreign environmentalists are often entirely disconnected from reality.

It is highly credible to me thanks to my own experience of this kind of thing in a different setting. When I was a fair bit younger, 17 I think, I went to Lake Baikal in Siberia on a programme with an organisation called Earthwatch. Essentially, it attached me as a helper to an expedition monitoring pollutants in the lake, one of the largest bodies of freshwater in the world.

While we were out there they showed us a Greenpeace film. It upset the woman who hosted us. It showed the lake dying, poisoned. However, the man leading our expedition, an amazing sixty year old who had smoked for decades but still outpaced a group of us many of whom were half his age, gave a different account. He had spent decades studying the lake and told us in a matter of fact tone that what was presented on the film was entirely untrue. While Lake Baikal is a lake one would expect to become polluted as most of Mongolia's industry discharges into a river that feeds it things have not turned out that way; it is incredibly clean. It is much purer than even bottled water in the West and I quickly got used to filling my water bottle straight from the lake. Some kind of natural filter operates to keep the lake so clean.

Our scientist was attempting to work out how that filter operated, and whether it would continue to function. Greenpeace were ignoring reality and communicating a fiction to the outside world. That other environmental activists will do the same in other situations seems entirely credible to me. Mine Your Own Business shows the consequences: communities needlessly denied the chance of a more comfortable and hopeful life.

1 comment:

Support MYOB said...

Gheorghe Luchian, a villager from Romania who was featured in "Mine Your Own Business", has some interesting comments that show just how disconnected the environmentalists are from reality. Check it out at www.reporfromrosia.com .