Saturday, September 23, 2006

Environmentalists vs. the World’s Poor

From the Rocky Mountain News, a seasoned reporter on a shocking discovery:
. . . in my more recent journalism, I have discovered there is a new threat to miners, their families and their wider communities.

This threat is not from cigar-sucking, champagne-swilling robber barons. Mining is now one of the most regulated businesses in the world. Banks will not lend to, insurance companies will not cover and governments will not give licenses to companies that want to open unsafe or polluting mines.

Instead I have discovered that the biggest threat to miners and their families comes from upper-class Western environmentalists.

The discovery has been particularly shocking because at heart I have always been an environmentalist. I want to protect the planet for future generations. I want to ensure that industry cleans up its messes and does more good than harm.

My admiration for environmentalists started to decline when I was lucky enough to be posted to Romania as a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times. There I covered a campaign by Western environmentalists against a proposed mine at Rosia Montana in the Transylvania region of the country.

It was the usual story. The environmentalists told how Gabriel Resources, a Canadian mining company, was going to pollute the environment and forcibly resettle locals before destroying a pristine wilderness.

But when I went to see the village for myself I found that almost everything the environmentalists were saying about the project was misleading, exaggerated or quite simply false.

Rosia Montana was already a heavily polluted village because of the 2,000 years of mining in the area. The mining company actually planned to clean up the existing mess.

And the locals, rather than being forcibly resettled as the environmentalists claimed, were queuing up to sell their decrepit houses to the company which was paying well over the market rate.

It was surprising that environmentalists would lie, but the most shocking part was yet to come. As I spoke to the Western environmentalists it quickly emerged that they wanted to stop the mine because they felt that development and prosperity will ruin the rural “idyllic” lifestyle of these happy peasants.

This “lifestyle” includes 70 percent unemployment, two-thirds of the people having no running water and using an outhouse in winters where the temperature can plummet to 20 degrees below zero centigrade.

One environmentalist (foreign of course) tried to persuade me that villagers actually preferred riding a horse and cart to driving a car.

Of course the Rosia Montana villagers wanted a modern life - just like the rest of us. They wanted indoor bathrooms and the good schools and medical care that the large investment would bring.

When I left the Financial Times, the plight of these villagers never really left me. I have come across a lot of tragedies and hard-luck stories as a journalist, but I had never covered a situation where the solution to poverty is being opposed by educated Westerners who think that people really are “poor but happy.”
We have seen this exact attitude among some of our left-leaning students, and they have gotten it from their left-leaning professors or left-leaning parents.

It basically involves the desire to use the lives of poor people to serve their own anti-western, anti-capitalist and anti-materialist sensibilities. They would rather see poor people live in squalor than see the advance of capitalism.


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