MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Letter No. 6.

Published by MAC on 2004-08-15

Letter No. 6.

Dear Mark,

Condoning BP’s strategy in exchange for token mitigations seems like a bad deal to me. Nor have I seen good evidence that Rio Tinto was improving things in West Papua – besides ‘though they sold their 12% share of Freeport McRoRan, they retain their 40% interest in the Grasberg mine expansion. A reality check is certainly needed.

The world I live in is suffering: the highest rates of habitat loss and ecosystem degradation for 65 million years ago; a corresponding mass erosion of biodiversity; and destruction of more sustainable human societies. This is caused by exponential increases in consumption and the concentration of power in the hands of trans-national corporations. These are barely accountable to any but shareholders, whose interests the corporations are legally obliged to prioritise. The same corporations spend billions of dollars a year on advertising, to persuade people their happiness depends on buying more of their products. And, just in case any of these consumers get worried that their materialist lifestyles are contributing to global destruction, they also spend of few millions window-dressing their activities to show that they are greener than the other guys. Don’t kid yourself: they are more worried about promoting a better ‘investment climate’ than addressing climate change, more concerned to shape their ‘operating environment’ than caring for our environment.

Your approach reads to me as: ‘well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’. In assuming that we can’t beat ‘em, you assume we have already lost. You also argue ‘better the devil you know…’ The trouble with such Faustian pacts with the devil is that they tend to cost more than you bargained for. The political and environmental costs of legitimising corporate unsustainability are being paid now and far into the future in terms of trashed ecosystems, exploited peoples, disempowered voices of protest and entrenched corporate hegemony.

Voices of protest need your support, not dismissal for being unrealistic. A realistic response to corporate domination is to make businesses accountable for their impacts. The forces to demand that change can only come from a wider mobilisation of civil society. The longer conservation organisations choose to be part of the business-dominated establishment, rather than identified with the forces for social and political protest and reform, the less hope we have for an environmentally secure future.

Marcus

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