Piece that appeared in Investors Business Daily by Roy Innis - the civil rights leader.
If Only Greens Saw The Forest For The Trees
By ROY INNIS | Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007 4:30 PM PT
"People here have no jobs," Mark Fenn admitted, after taking documentary producers on a tour of his $35,000 catamaran and the site of his new coastal home. "But if you could count how many times they smile in a day, if you could measure stress" and compare that with "well-off people" in London or New York, "then tell me, who is rich and who is poor?"
Fenn is coordinator of the World Wildlife Fund's campaign against a proposed mining project near Fort Dauphin, Madagascar. The locals strongly support the project and want the jobs, development, improved living standards and environmental quality the state-of-the-art operation will bring.
People there live in abject poverty, along dirt roads, in dirt-floor shacks, and are hardly able to afford food on their $1,000-a-year average incomes. There is little power, no indoor plumbing. The local rain forest has been destroyed for firewood and slash-and-burn farming. People barely eke out a living.
But Fenn claims the mine will change the "quaint" village and harm the environment. He says he feels "like a resident," his children "were born and raised" there, and the locals "don't consider education to be important" and would just spend their money on parties, jeans and stereos.
Actually, Fenn lives 300 miles away and sends his children to school in South Africa. And the locals hardly conform to his insulting stereotypes. "If I had money, I would open a grocery store," said one. "Send my children to school," start a business, become a midwife, build a new house, said others.
You have to see the film, "Mine Your Own Business," to fully grasp the callous disdain these radicals have for the world's poor. Don Imus' intemperate remarks were insensitive. But Fenn's demeaning, even racist, statements perpetuate misery.
These enemies of the poor say they are "stakeholders" wishing to "preserve" indigenous people and villages. They never consider what's wanted by the real stakeholders — those who live in these communities and must endure the consequences of harmful campaigns waged all over the world.
The WWF, Greenpeace, Oxfam, Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network and other multinational activist groups battle mines in Romania, Peru, Chile, Ghana and Indonesia; electricity projects in Uganda, India and Nepal; biotechnology that could improve farm incomes and reduce malnutrition in Kenya, India, Brazil and the Philippines; and DDT that could slash malaria rates in Africa, where the disease kills 3,000 children a day.
They harp on technology's speculative hazards and ignore real, life-or-death dangers that modern mining, development and technology would reduce or prevent. They never mention the jobs, clinics, schools, roads, improved housing and small business opportunities — or the electricity, refrigeration, safe water, better nutrition, reduced disease and fewer dead children.
They pervert "sustainable development" to mean no development, and ignore how mines will lay the foundation that will sustain prosperity and better living standards for generations.
Agitators use global warming and "corporate social responsibility" to force companies to acquiesce to their agendas — and ignore human rights to energy and technology, and people's desperate cries for a chance to take their rightful places among the Earth's healthy and prosperous people.
They extol the virtues of microcredit, to support minimal family enterprises, and demand debt forgiveness and more foreign aid for corrupt dictators — but oppose economic development that would eliminate the need for international welfare. They blame Newmont Mining for accidents that killed five people over a two-year period in Ghana, but refuse to admit that their pressure campaigns cause millions of deaths every year.
One could justifiably call it eco-manslaughter — or a racist experiment on powerless, impoverished Third World families.
Yes, there are environmental impacts from mines, dams and other development. There are health and other risks. But the Industrial Revolution also brought those changes. Are we worse off for it? Do we want to return to the jobs, lifestyles and living standards of pre-industrial, pre-electric America, when 95% of Americans were farmers, cholera and malaria were ever-present, and the average life expectancy was 45?
Would any of the greens, politicians and celebrities who clamor to keep the world's poor "indigenous" (and thus impoverished, energy-deprived and diseased) care to live that lifestyle for even one month? Would they exchange their 10,000-square-foot mansions for a hovel, give up electricity and stop globe-trotting in private jets?
Why hasn't the United Nations criticized the institutional racism being perpetrated in the name of "saving the planet"? Where are U.S. civil rights groups, media, churches and these poor countries' leaders? This intolerable situation cannot continue. People of conscience must no longer remain silent.
Innis is national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, a civil rights group that promotes economic development rights for the poor worldwide.