Friday, June 26, 2009

Diamonds still bloody: 200 killed at Zimbabwean mine, certification collapsing

200+ killed by troops in Zimbabwean mine

Human Rights Watch said Friday that Zimbabwe's armed forces have taken over diamond fields in the east and killed more than 200 people, forcing children to search for the gems and beating villagers who get in the way.

See AP / Rights group: Abuse in Zimbabwe diamond fields and Telegrahp / Zanu-PF and Zimbabwe military 'profiting from diamond massacre'. The articles are essentially based on this Human Rights Watch report: Diamonds in the Rough. It describes how Robert Mugabe's regime in one case attacked mine workers with three military helicopters.

"I first heard the sound and then saw three helicopters above us in the field. I was not worried, I just assumed it was a team of buyers who had come for business in helicopters as they sometimes did. However, soldiers in the helicopters started firing live ammunition and tear gas at us. We all stopped digging and began to run towards the hills to hide."

Quote an anonymous survivor.

Army units are given turns overseeing the mine in an effort to keep troop morale from disintegrating along with the rest of the country.

Blood spilled over diamonds is far from a new thing. In fact, it was the theme of a 2006 Hollywood movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly.

Blood Diamond - the movie entry | Official site

Although, for my taste, it has a bit too much of Leonardo running right ahead of mortar explosions and mad gunfire it is a good movie in itself on top of highlighting an important issue. Good acting by Leonardo, Jennifer and not least by Djimon Hounsou who is playing the fisherman / mine slave. Theatrical, yes, but first of all gruesomely blunt in its violence.

From the final scrolling titles though we are given relief:
In January 2003, forty nations signed "The Kimberley Process" [...] It is up to the consumer to insist that a diamond is conflict-free.

2009: The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme collapsing

It might have worked for some years but now it's under serious pressure. Some in the industry argues Zimbabwean diamonds aren't blood diamonds as they fund a government. And 100% of Venezuela's diamonds are being smuggled, Guinea has reported an impossible 500% increase in diamond production year on year, in Angola thousands of small-scale Congolese miners were beaten and expelled and Lebanon is exporting more rough diamonds than it imports despite having no mines. No action has been taken against any of these countries still operating with Kimberley certification.

If the Kimberley Process collapses entirely?
The diamond trade would go back to its criminal past and rebel armies would have no problem finding buyers for their blood diamonds. The potential for diamonds fuelling conflict would be back.

Quote Ian Smillie, Kimberley Process initiative person - who left in anger

See The Huffington Post / The Return Of Blood Diamonds, / Partnership Africa Canada's Smillie casts final "no confidence" vote in Kimberley Process and goes home and The Globe and Mail / The failing battle against blood diamonds.

Throughout the history about Africa: whenever a substance a value is found, the locals died in great number, in misery. And this was truth of ivory, rubber, gold, and oils and is now true of diamond. According to a devastating report by Global Witness the stones are being used to process arm and finance civil war. We must act to prohibit the direct or indirect import of all of diamonds from conflict Zones

Quote G8 politician in Blood Diamond

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Drop of Life: Short film about water conflict

"As I became aware of the mounting global water crisis, I realized that it represented a clash of cultures – between a culture that values water as a shared sacred source of all life and a corporate culture that regards water as a commodity to be bought and sold."

Quote Shalini Kantayya, director of A Drop of Life - a futuristic sci-fi flick about the mounting water crisis winning Best Short Film at Palm Beach International as well as the Audience Choice Award at the IUOW Film competition. Will check it out some time (two years late anyway).

Who controls water controls life

Found at Shalini Kantayyas website. A Drop of Life at

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Freshwater industrialization, privatization and pollution

Two links for this blogs 20th post tagged 'water'.

Depraved Injustice and the Privatization of the Global Freshwater Commons by Frank Joseph Smecker is a critical look at the increasing privatization of the worlds freshwater resources.

Privatization is the preferred solution from those who brought us into this situation of scarcity and escalating conflict: traditional capitalist believers in growth seemingly unaware of the fact our ecosystem is finite. Smecker lists cases from around the world - USA, Canada, Belize, Argentina, The Philippines, Bolivia, Bolivia, Indonesia, South Africa, Australia, Sudan, Mexico, China, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Syria, India, North and South Korea, Israel and Palestine, Egypt, Ethiopia and The United Kingdom - and sum up the adverse effects which are left unsaid by the privatization people; the observed cons rather than the imagined pros:
  • Prices go up. Especially problematic to poor people in developing countries who cannot afford the extra cost and are particularly dependend on water.
  • Pollution go up. Distribution by plastic bottles - preferred for monetization - is ridiculously polluting compared to locally extracted tap water plus the private water companies have poor environment track records.
  • Private water companies are multinational not local. Profits do not develop the exploited areas.
  • Water quality declines as it is only taken care of to a profitable minimum.
  • Ecological destruction of downstream habitat as ecosystems are derived of their water. Including threats to animal species populations (including salmon, steelhead and trout).
  • Failure to protect public ownership of water and water rights.
  • Wasted water and neglect of conservation.
The article does not solely blame industrialization, capitalism and privatization - climate change (itself a side effect of industrialization and population growth) is also pointed out.

Industrialized Farming Endangers World Food Supply by Karin Friedemann is a short, aggressive attack on multinationals and their taking over of not just the worlds water but its soils, sun, gene pools and political systems too.
The Oil-for-Food program in Iraq forced the large-scale importation of food after the first Gulf War. Devastated Iraqi farmers then became the victims of USAID. [..] Under US occupation, Iraqi farmers must pay a “technology fee” plus an annual license fee to agribusinesses supplying the seeds and equipment. [...] The war provides these corporations with both a lucrative short-term market in the blossoming “reconstruction” industry and an opportunity to integrate Afghanistan into their global production networks and markets in the long term.
In other words an example of 'disaster capitalism'. Essentially another route of aggravating our water issues as the top-down multinational approach to agriculture is based upon highly industrialized, export oriented mono-cultural farming.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Let's go HOME - to a sustainable carbon cycle

The world spends
12 times more on military expenditures
than on aid to developing countries
Quote Home, the new environmental film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand which I just watched. The film is available for free on YouTube for some time and I'd generally recommend it. Rather than detailing one or a couple of issues or projects this is a "big picture" approach that starts out explaining how life came to be on the piece of rock we call Earth and how we have disrupted this phenomenal emergence of an ecosystem. A fine educational movie with plenty of slow motion bird perspective scenery. To the average ecologist it's a bit romantic at times - which will probably also turn-off the typical in-denial fossil fuel lover.

The scenery - of both nature and civilization - is at many times throughout the film so beautiful I'd like to see it again in an IMAX cinema. If it is shown in Copenhagen I'd try and drag along some friends. Because more people need to see this. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it would have benefited from a pinch of simple chemical formulas to nail home the carbon cycle disruption point.

The quote I put at the top of this page is of course mostly a thought provoker. We can't reverse the situation just like that, but it's a healthy little fantasy to think of. And it underlines the fact that we increasingly protect the resources we have with costly force rather than make efforts to help others sustain themselves.

(Official poster. Also see the Official website of Home | entry)

Home does not mention wars or conflicts except indirectly like in the quote. But as it illustrates a wide range of issues - lack of water, deforestation, climate change, you name it - and how they are connected it isn't exactly a quantum leap to see it's subject in relation to possible conflicts. The finishing quarter of an hour is a "positive" segment. We get to see gigantic windmill and solar cell parks, ocean wave harvesting "snakes" and more.

You want more free stuff from the Internet? How about moving on from something informational to something that helps? Here are a couple of suggestions:

Free rice is a little English vocabulary game that makes you score and donate grains of rice for the hungry by each correct word.

Fight World Hunger

Or study, interact and support the UN World Food Programme Students And Teachers section.

Fight World Hunger

People who are not starving are less likely to go out and exploit more of our dwindling resources or fight each other over spoils. That's not rocket science.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Indigenous Peruvians and police in deadly clashes at oil and mining protests

Sometimes researchers are blamed of being alarmists stirring up fears of a fictional dystopia by the business-as-usual crowd. But it seems a forewarning of conflict over oil in Peru is proceeding according to exactly such a warning. The news first...

40+ dead at protest

In extension of free trade agreements the Peruvian government has plans for 'developing' the Amazon homelands of many indigenous communities - opening it for oil, mineral, logging, and agricultural exploitation. Locals have been protesting some of these initiatives claiming they are unconstitutional and in violation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. When police intervened fighting erupted. Body counts wary; one is as high as 81.

President Alan Garcia Perez is claimed to have been behind a massacre on suspects of being Maoist guerrillas in 1986. A former army colonel turned politician is siding with the protesters. An arrest warrant has been issued on protest leader Alberto Pizango who has gone into hiding.

Sources: Upside Down World / 50 Days of Protest and One Massacre in the Peruvian Amazon | Peruanista blog | The New York Times / 9 Hostage Officers Killed at Peruvian Oil Facility | AP / 9 more police killed in Amazon protests in Peru | AP / At least 31 killed in Peru Amazon clashes | Mongobay / Oil or Death in the Amazon

Peer reviewed prophesies

A 2008 paper on PLoS ONE discussed this ongoing and accelerating exploitation in "the most species-rich part of the Amazon". From the paper:

Without improved policies, the increasing scope and magnitude of planned extraction means that environmental and social impacts are likely to intensify. [... We] consider the conflicts where the blocks overlap indigenous peoples' territories.

Oil and gas development in the western Amazon has already caused major environmental and social impacts. Direct impacts include deforestation for access roads, drilling platforms, and pipelines, and contamination from oil spills and wastewater discharges.

In Peru, hydrocarbon blocks now overlap 20 protected areas. Thirteen of these protected areas preceded creation of the oil blocks and lack compatibility studies required by the Protected Areas Law.

the history of oil and gas extraction in the western Amazon is one of massive ecological and social disruption, the future need not repeat the past.

No, it need not. But it just did. Heed the warnings of those who reason with statistics and logic.
Finer, M., Jenkins, C., Pimm, S., Keane, B., & Ross, C. (2008). Oil and Gas Projects in the Western Amazon: Threats to Wilderness, Biodiversity, and Indigenous Peoples PLoS ONE, 3 (8) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002932

Vis stort kort
The lands of the Incas are endowed with copper, silver, gold, petroleum, timber, fish, iron ore, coal, phosphate, potash, hydropower and natural gas while troubled by deforestation, illegal logging, overgrazing, soil erosion, desertification, air and water pollution (including pollution from mining wastes). (Source: CIA Factbook)

Search This Blog