Saturday, February 3, 2007
IT WAS WEDNESDAY - IT MUST BE UCLA
Wednesday night saw us present Mine Your Own Business at UCLA. It was the biggest campus crowd we have had so far. It was also a (reasonably) friendly crowd.
In the Q&A after the documentary some of the audience who said they were environmentalists objected to being lumped in with the environmentalists featured in the film.
This then raised the question as to what is the definition of an environmentalist. It also raises a question about if environmentalists think their beliefs are not properly represented by their colleagues interviewed in the documentary have they publicly disassociated themselves from the comments.
To look at the first question first. What is the definition of an environmentalist?
Producer and director of Mine Your Own Business Ann McElhinney said that as there was no public and widely accepted definition of what constitutes an environmentalist one should, as a start, look at what its leaders say and what they say they believe.
This, very quickly, brings one to Mark Fenn, the country representative for Madagascar of the World Wildlife Fund. Mr Fenn is opposed to the proposed mine because he believes it will destroy the "quaintness" of the decrepit town of Fort Dauphin.
He also believes that the people of Madagascar do not want prosperity because he believes their current lifestyle means they have no stress and they really are rich because they smile a lot. He also states that the people of Madagascar do not value nutrition, housing or education.
Interviews with local people contradicted these strange beliefs.
Mine Your Own Business also exposes how prominent environmentalists mislead their supporters. Stephanie Roth, the Goldman Prize winner, when accepting the prize in Washington talks with much emotion and great length about forced resettlement of people in Rosia Montana. Her website Rosiamontana.org states on its front page "the illegal process of forced resettlement has already begun".
This is not true. There have been no forced resettlements. People have sold their houses for the large sums of money that the company has offered. They are delighted that someone is offering decent prices for their mostly run down properties. Two thirds of the house have no running water and still use outhouses.
So that is what senior and respected environmentalists are saying. These are some of the most respected and most quoted environmentalists in the world today. Their opinions have been aired in the Guardian, the BBC and the New York Times. One has won the Goldman Prize.
Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth protested when the documentary was shown. They called for National Geographic to cancel our booking but they did not call for Mark Fenn to explain and withdraw his comments. They did not ask Rosiamontana.org and Stephanie Roth to correct the record and remove the untruth about the house buying programme from their website.
So we have to take it that these views and behaviour are what the mainstream environmental movement supports and believes. If environmentalists who watch Mine Your Own Business believe they are being misrepresented by the four environmentalists featured - then they should disassociate themselves from them and ask the people and the organisations they represent to explain their actions and statements.
We, and the people of Rosia Montana, Madagascar and Chile are waiting.