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Mine Your Own Business, er… Interest

| Wednesday October 4th, 2006 | 28 Comments

miniung.jpgThere has been a spate of strange anti-environmentalist propaganda hitting the internet and cinema lately, see the CEI ads and Al Gore’s Penguin Army for examples. But it seems these strange, highly funded attacks keep coming. Here’s one called “Mine your own business“. It’s a film that roughly claims that environmentalism is an evil force that wants to keep people in poverty, as “happy peasants”. It actually looks pretty funny.
I asked some Presidio students to come up with a response to this and Orion Fulton hit back with a nice piece of satire….

A documentary about George, a poor fellow from Romania who is having his dreams of working in a mine dashed by the likes of Greenpeace and other environmental groups. The film’s premise, “foreign environmentalists” wish to keep poor people down and force them to continue their “quaint,” albeit economically depressed, way of life in the name of protecting the earth, is a compelling drama that follows the protagonist while he travels the globe to find common ground with other poor people being robbed of the same opportunity to make a decent wage and support their family.
The film never veers far from its central question, which grips the viewer from open scene through the final credits: “What will George do if the mine doesn’t open?” Tactfully, this question is left largely up to the viewer who, given the evidence presented, eventually feels obliged to root for George’s cause. We often hear about environmentalists saving whales, cleaning up polluted waters, or planting trees, but we rarely hear about the dark side of environmentalism: when the rights of inanimate objects are taken more seriously than the human right to make a buck.
In the age of complacency, this movie couldn’t be more timely because it strikes at the fundamental question of choice. Laypersons will walk away from this movie disgusted with the perverse and insidious nature of mining companies, whereas the savvier individual will pick up on the deeper connection between raw resource extraction and choice. Building on sound historical evidence, the film demonstrates that economic and social opportunity is fostered when the oppressed are given the choice between working and starving, which, as the movie alludes to, is why activities like mining are a basic, fundamental part of delivering a democratic, free market society to the world.
In short, if you are an armchair environmentalist you need to see this film. While you may feel you have done your part to save the earth through email petitions to congress and buying fair trade chocolate online, you may not know the full extent of the impact of your donations. George’s life is depending on you.

I’ve no idea if the filmmakers behind this were paid by mining interests or if they just figured they could make a buck off the controversy, but some people will indeed take this kind of thing seriously. Would you shrug this off? Or is it worthy of concern?


▼▼▼      28 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • joe c

    I see you have nothing substantive to say about the film. Did this one hurt a little?

  • Nick Aster

    Hurt? Only in the sense that it’s sad to see filmmakers wasting their talents! We can only react to the trailer which is so silly it does not merit a ‘substantive’ response.

  • Kyle

    I’ve seen the film. I think it does shed some light on the Western World’s arrogance when dealing with the Third World. That “we” can’t allow “them” to destroy “their” environment through industrialization.

  • http://romania.ido.ro Roman

    Contacted by a Romanian news website, the producer Phelim McAleer said that the movie was financed by Gabriel Resources, but with no editorial pressure.
    Gabriel Resources have spended a lot of money trying to influence the public opinion and the Romanian authorities whom do not approve their Rosia Montana project. They say a huge lake with cyanure resulted from the gold extraction coudt not harm the environment.
    They have ads on Romanian TV showing the better life will have locals if the project is approved, they even had a sponsorship for a Romanian Film Festival and a Rosia Montana Photo exhibition, all their actions try to convince us that “Rosia Montana is poor, we’ll get you (not us) rich”.
    Now: do you think this movie has nothing to do with their INTEREST?

  • marion

    So, it’s impossible for the film to have a valid point because we know who financed it…
    How intellectually shallow is that?
    Everyone is funded by someone. Maybe the discussion ends there because no one can stand to see that some people become environmentalists, so that they can buy a boat…

  • Richard

    I haven’t seen the film but the fact that it is partly sponsored by Gabriel Resources (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/10/01/wgold01.xml), a large Canadian gold miner, raises questions about its impartiality. I come from the PR industry myself and the first word that came to mind when I heard about the film was “spin” The film is also a project of the Moving Pictures Institute, who in its own words “identifies and nurtures promising filmmakers who are committed to protecting and sustaining a free society.” It finances documentaries that at first appear to have liberal topics, such as human rights, but have thinly disguised pro-business, pro-development themes. I’m not sure who funds MPI, but it looks all the world like part of a conservative campaign to hijack the human rights/ environmentalist agenda now that climate change and its associated topics are clearly becoming public issue no1. And from I have been reading in conservative newspapers, blogs etc, is that it seems to be effective. Read the list of projects at http://www.thempi.org/cgi-local/content.cgi?id=5

  • H

    As I understand it, the MPI is libertarian not conservative.
    Anyway, to imply that free-marketers are somehow corrupted by business interests is asinine and a good indication that you don’t know many. Friedman was no less compassionate than you are, he just had different views on how the world works. Libertarians believe that in most cases, governement policies do more harm than good. They are not pro-business or even pro-development (for it’s own sake).

  • Laura

    What gets me, is that this film is logically unsafe. This is from someone without oppertunity to watch the whole film for a complete judgement keep in mind.
    It assumes
    1- All environmentalists are like the people in green peace
    2- There are no other economic oppertunities for developing countries
    3- Someone want to spend money on developing this country and not their own buisness
    4- The environmentally related disasters will not affect the people just the quaintness
    Really many countries who have turned to the mining solution ended up with less clean water supply than beginning, less money than beginning after the parent companies left, loss of control of their land resources to another country.
    These mining people do not have to pay to build hospitals and schools like in most countries. They do not offer benifits or decent wages. Do not offer to help take care of the people that get sick (look at mercury poisoning, cyanide poisoning, black lung disease) and most of these countries do not have the resources or technology to help their people with these problems.
    Besides, paying all the poor people more and not giving them a vertical economic spread (none of these poor people will be in higher positions than foreman) will not increase their wealth but decrease the value of their dollar.
    This is not an environmental disicion like this film begs the question of, but an economic one. Economics now have to look at the effects on the environment. Many of these poor countries have many mines and still retain the poor people already (coal, diamonds, gold, ore) because they lack government and social infrastructure that makes the freemarket work in developed countries.
    This film shows ignorance and appathetic position of the film makers. The premise of the movie is not deep, it does not scratch the surface.
    If you want to see a great documentary that digs deep into the surface of poverty in western influenced poor countries that have been “blessed” with the presence of mining and other outsourced companies check out favela rising. It was completely amazing, awe inspiring, and brutally true. Very little political over tones.
    And yes, I beleive that the market and government of USA and ohter countries can affect propaganda material. Hitler did take over the whole of europe on it and Bush took over america with it and his war.
    If you just look at the surface of this problem you dont see that land and water are not the only resources being exploited. People are the most valuable resource being exploited. Do not stop at just seeing this film for its spin and hype, look up more information on it. I am not saying to beleive in one side or the other, just look are real true data that encompasses a total view of the issue.
    Do not let your mind be exploited by weak arguments and pictures of innocent poor people who might do anything for a buck.

  • Laura

    Keep in mind the sarcasm of the poor people and a buck thing. Really more of irony I suppose.

  • Anonymous

    If you can’t attack the substance, then attack the people backing it. Why wouldn’t a mining company want to subsidize a film that supports their interests? Does that prove that the filmmakers were biased, or that they went to the obvious place to raise money for their project? Who else is going to fund a movie like this? Rich environmentalist organizations like Greenpeace or The Sierra Club? Are you suggesting that the films, books, etc. that those groups subsidize are impartial?
    Sadly typical for those on the Left, you’ve already made up your mind which side debate is right, and rather than engaging in debate and providing evidence to support your side, at the risk of having to think for yourself and reevaluate your own conclusions, you’ve just shut your mind and rejected out of hand anything that doesn’t jibe with your preconceived ideas.

  • Paul

    Dear anonymous,
    I think that the previous post clearly, and intelligently outlined the flaws of the argument at hand without an attack of any kind.
    Do you have any insight related to Laura’s argument – the potential that there might alternate development opportunites that are better for the people, the reality that companies of any sorts act in their own interests first and there is no guarantee that they will act in the people’s interests (although some do, but it’s probably an exception), and the trade-off that the people might be coerced into making by accepting the attractive choice prosperity now in exchange for potentially being stripped of their resources and left with other hazardous environmental damage in the future?
    I don’t see where the liberal bias, lack of engagement, and predetermined conclusions are that you speak of at this point in the discussion.

  • http://give-n-go.blogspot.com Joe Martini

    I saw the film last night and had a brief conversation with the film’s writer/narrator.
    When it comes to human rights he is an unabashed fundamentalist. People have a right to self determination without meddling from well-to-do westerners who seek to maintain the quaint lifestyles of the Third World while they themselve live in the comfort and security of London, Los Angeles and Chappaqua.
    I recommend it without reservation, and yes they did speak with environmentalists who offered alternative economic development suggestions like sheep herding and tourism. How many environmentalist have spent their vacations in Allentown?

  • John Dinn

    Please check out http://www.earthworksaction.org. We were actually protesting the movie as it was about to be shown in the auditorium of the National Geographic building here in D.C.
    The director and his wife and a troupe of camera-carrying goons tried in vain to goad us into being “frenzied enviros” but were unable to.
    They talk about the people’s right to self-determination, but the fact is that 80% of the people in Rosia Montana oppose the mine.
    When I asked the director how much Gabriel Resources had paid him to make the film, he would say.
    Gabriel Resources was the main funder of this film and they did not even bother to talk to many, if any of the people who are well-versed in the topic. They didn’t even bother to visit communities that have been affected by cyanide-leach process mines.
    Mining isn’t even one of Greenpeace’s main concerns.
    Anyhoo, check it out!

  • Anonymous

    Please check out http://www.earthworksaction.org. We were actually protesting the movie as it was about to be shown in the auditorium of the National Geographic building here in D.C.
    The director and his wife and a troupe of camera-carrying goons tried in vain to goad us into being “frenzied enviros” but were unable to.
    They talk about the people’s right to self-determination, but the fact is that 80% of the people in Rosia Montana oppose the mine.
    When I asked the director how much Gabriel Resources had paid him to make the film, he would say.
    Gabriel Resources was the main funder of this film and they did not even bother to talk to many, if any of the people who are well-versed in the topic. They didn’t even bother to visit communities that have been affected by cyanide-leach process mines.
    Mining isn’t even one of Greenpeace’s main concerns.
    Anyhoo, check it out!

  • John Dinn

    The director’s previous documentary is calle “Happy Hookers” in which he dispels the notion of a white slavery trade by insisting that none of these women are actually coerced into their situation.
    Including the eight Eastern European hooker found in a bordello in Cambodia!
    Now that is a country I would want to ply my trade if I were a prostitute!

  • Anonymous

    I saw the film at its DC screening last night at the National Geographic building. I saw the protesters there and had a good laugh about that. It’s always interesting to attend an event that is being protested.
    Did you know that one of the major environmentalist organizations (I think it was Green Peace) actually wrote to National Geographic and tried to get them to ban the screening? I think it is interesting that these
    “environmentalists” want to practice the politics of personal desctruction, discrimination, and censorship rather than engaging in a real and civil discussion of the relevant facts.
    Why are they so afraid of this film as to try and squelch it from the beginning? Are they afraid that people might hear an alternative view?
    How can they prove that 80% of people in Rosia Montana oppose the mining operation? Do they know that in the last elections there 90% of voters cast their ballot for pro-mining candidates?
    Why do people who live lives of comfort in the West get to tell local people in foriegn lands how to live their lives? Why do we get to tell people in remote parts of Romania, Madagascar, and Chile how they shall live, what job they are entitled to, and what level of poverty they shall remain in? Why is it that we should tell them they must stay in their shacks without indoor plumbing? Why should we force them to keep using their outhouse in sub-freezing temperatures while we enjoy the privilege of indoor plumbing?
    Do those who claim to be against mining support their claims by shunning all mined materials? Do they wear gold jewelry? If so, where do they think it came from? Do they ride in cars made with metal componants? Do they use electronic equipment? Do they travel in air planes?
    Yes, they do? Well then what business have they telling the impoverished in the Third World that they may not?
    The hypocracy of the radical environmentalist movement is utterly surreal.
    Let me tell you something. Everyone, even conservatives, (yes, I said even conservatives) want a clean environment. No one wants trees eliminated, water and air polluted, and species wiped out. No one.
    The fact is that mining can be done in a way that promotes growth, creates wealth, gets people out of poverty, and maintains a clean environment. Actually in the case of Rosia Montana the environment will probably be better off. The old state owned mines in the area operated for years with little or no environmental regulations. Rivers and lakes are already polluted. Soil is already degraded. A proper mining operation will stop those things from happening AND provide the funding to turn things around and reverse damage already done.
    Any time an “environmentalist” group wants to shut down debate and censure the opposition we must all take a step back and ask why.

  • J.R.

    To those who have asked ‘why?’ some environmentalists treat those in less developed countries as ‘happy idiots’ (my words). It is purely about power. This attitude allows them to feel superior. I lived in a developing Eastern European country for five years and the place was rife with foreigners and this attitude. Those that “knew what was best for the locals” were really seeking power over the locals. This is not to say a mining company isn’t doing the same thing but at least they haven’t deluded themselves into thinking their only concern is the good of the people and environment.

  • Chad

    This film appears to be a devastating rebuke to rabid environmentalism. It hits enviros where they live – in the emotional rather than the intellectual realm. When you lose the battle for people’s emotions you’re in real trouble because that’s all you ever had.
    The more intelligent among you will attack this movie through labeling it ‘anti-environment’ or by criticizing its funding. Of course, this has already begun. Those who respond with incoherent intellectual arguments (see above) will do environmentalism a huge disservice. There really is no compelling intellectual argument for *rabid* environmentalism, so I would advise you to focus on character assassination and intimidation. This has worked very well for the global warming crusade.

  • Fuzzy D

    The best thing that’s been said so far in this discussion is what Laura said above. Greenpeace propaganda is bad, but so is this.

  • Donny

    There’s a big difference between being a “rabid environmentalist” and having logical concerns about the mining industry – hardly an industry with a responsible record any way you measure it!

  • TSeeker

    I think I might try and get my hand on it. If it has created this must controversy there must be some shred of truth in the film. I am a conservattive, but I want to help maitain a sustainable environment. However, as a conservative, I believe that the local authorities can and should make those decision. Environmental wacko’s like Greenpeace and such waste tons of fuel and wreck private property all in the name of their ideology. I think they have done far more to hurt the environment than any corporation, in my opinion

  • Paul

    Indeed – Greenpeace needs a serious makeover…

  • David

    A simple reality is that despite what you may believe about Laura’s questions and arguments, in order to have alternative development you need INVESTORS! So, where are they? So far, the only source of real money is the mining company.

  • camus

    Is it even remotely possible that the Environmentalists might be wrong? After all, the current Global Warming hysteria originated from those same “experts” who adamently proclaimed an imminent Ice Age in the 1970s. There is overwhelming scientific and economic evidence that current society is light-years ahead, in every important respect, than at any other time in human history … read “The Sceptical Environmentalist – The Real State of the World” by Bjorn Lomborg. He’s just one of many educated and objective observers of the so-called “Global Warming” issue (Lomborg’s also an ex-Greenpeace activist). But, NO, the current Environmental Movement, so arroant and certain of the correctness of its cause, dismisses any and all discussion that even remotely challenges its self-serving political agenda. This is not just ant-democratic, it is close-minded demagogy and intellectual dishonesty of the worst kind. The greatest threat to any demagogue is the existence of people of free-will who are unafraid to use their intellect to weigh the merits of both sides of any issue. After all, if education is the process of turning an empty mind into an open mind, why are the Environmentalists so afraid of ideas that challenge their self-righteous orthodoxy?

  • Andrey

    I’m from Bulgaria. We have similar problems with gold mining projects planning to involve cyanide extraction of gold. In two of cases, villages included in NATURA 2000 all local people are against. They simply do not believe to the big promises given by the companies. And they believe they still have other alterntaive related to tourism and biological production of food. A little bit different is situation in the other area, where there is working mine similar to Rosa Montana. One of the villages, directly profiting from the mine, is for enlarging the mine and involving cyanides in the processing. But the next village is completely against – they see only negatives and risk from pollution for them.
    Otherwise the movie is obviously part of PR campaign and is not independent. As I know population in Rosa Montana initially was against the project, but the gold mining company is investing serious money to convince locals in the opposite.
    Andrey, Sofia, Bulgaria

  • Anonymous

    The author of this piece, and for that matter everyone, needs to learn about informal logical fallacies. I am tired of the argument of “A was payed by group X to make B, there for B is not true”. This is what is known as a Circumstantial Ad Hominem argument. Meaning, it does not matter who payed for what, you must deal with the ideas presented and not to dismiss them off hand. Lets put it this way, if you can dismiss all studies payed for by “Industry” can the other side dismiss all studies paid for by environmental groups? If so what studies are left?

  • el Minero

    I don’t see why the debate of over cyanide. Its use is in accord with EU regulations and if you have ever been there, the area is destroyed from centuries of unregulated mining.
    The mayor won on a pro mining platform. I guess the rich intellectuals can continue to bully the little guy. Stay poor in your beautiful village! Who cares if can’t drink the water, have no job, nor indoor plumbing, and your house is a shack that is falling apart.

  • el Minero

    I don’t see why the debate of over cyanide. Its use is in accord with EU regulations and if you have ever been there, the area is destroyed from centuries of unregulated mining.
    The mayor won on a pro mining platform. I guess the rich intellectuals can continue to bully the little guy. Stay poor in your beautiful village! Who cares if can’t drink the water, have no job, nor indoor plumbing, and your house is a shack that is falling apart.