Investors of all sizes have for several years now been pouring savings and borrowed money into a growing range of metals, commodities markets and a variety of related investments. Lack of investment during previous decades of relatively low commodity prices and faced with diminishing supply of existing resources, energy and mineral resources companies are now trying to ride the wave and cast their nets farther afield in search of prospects. Rapid growth of the Chinese economy, which has continued pretty much unabated for two decades now, has added a lot of fuel to the fire.
The damaging environmental effects of mining activities and the socio-economic costs and benefits of developing energy and mineral resources have long been a concern and area of focus for the companies involved, as well as governments, environmental and humanitarian groups, and rightfully so. Coincidentally, growing concerns about, and action to mitigate, greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation is again focusing attention on these industries’ environmental, human health and safety records, policies and actions.
This is a contentious area and one that is stereotypically portrayed as pitting crusading human rights and environmental organizations against the evils of corporate-political conspiracy and greed. This may make good Hollywood fare, but the reality isn’t nearly so simple or neat. If real positive change is to be made, it’s going to require participants from all sides to make greater efforts to better understand all facets of the associated challenges and problems, as well as each others’ goals and motivations.
A Healthy System of Checks and Balances
Natural resource and economic development, international trade and environmental health are inextricably entwined – and they transcend national boundaries. Government and economic leaders have yet to devise the agreements, processes and organizational capabilities to address them to the extent necessary–domestically or internationally–although that’s the way things have been moving ever since Woodrow Wilson was able to push through his plans to build a League of Nations and labor, human rights and environmental groups won their first battles against abuses that money, power and privilege were able to impose and sustain.
Developing organizations and institutions that provide substantive checks and balances across all spheres of public activity in which politics and economics, where greed and lust for power, play a part is a key to building any effective and just society. Blind, deaf, unfettered partisanship and antagonism at the end of the day only serve to polarize society and break down the mechanisms by which these checks and balances can work– human inclinations with which America’s Founding Fathers were all too familiar.
Greetings from an American in South Africa
Like many people, I’ve had an interest in the earth and natural sciences since I was a kid. I managed to get my BA in geology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, just “up the road” from the Colorado School of Mines and Amory Lovins and the Aspen Institute in a state blessed with abundant natural resources and all the benefits they confer at a time when the effects of the OPEC crisis were still fresh in mind. I’ve worked for a major Japanese bank. I got an MBA. And I’ve traveled around the world, earning my living as a journalist and EFL teacher.
I’ve been working as a journalist, on staff and more recently freelance, in a variety of developed and developing countries for the better part of ten years now. Most of my work has focused on IT and business, but during the past year or so, I’ve been doing more and more in the area of mineral and energy resources development, renewable energy and clean technology.
It’s been particularly interesting to see the crossover of many in Silicon Valley and the Internet/IT world – entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in particular – now focusing their attention, and capital, on alternative energy resource development and clean technology, adding some much needed impetus, new blood and new ways of thinking into what were up until recently moribund, underappreciated areas. And how technological advances and heightened public interest are providing the substance for a revival of programs and initiatives aimed at developing and making use of a diverse range of energy resources and cleaner technologies, as well as raising our consciousness as to how we use them, where they come from and how they are produced.
One other revival I think worthy of mention has to with that of ethics, in business schools as well as the presence, or lack thereof, in individuals and in every organization, private and public. Having witnessed and been a part of one of the longest periods of economic growth and relative prosperity, as well as rapid technological change, in history, I’ve seen and lived through the excesses and the hangovers. I’ve experienced them as both beneficiary and casualty, as willing and grudging participant and observer. Not having a strong sense of right and wrong is a great human failing; not knowing when, how and how much it needs to be exercised is intolerance. And that’s a great challenge for every individual, one that we make, in lesser or greater degrees, just about every day.
It’s encouraging to see new ways of exploring, developing, managing and making use of a wide range of alternative energy and other natural resources come to the fore. It’s also encouraging to see things like corporate social responsibility, socially responsible investing and the Kyoto Protocol take root and develop, to see “businesspeople” more seriously considering the environmental and societal effects of their policies and actions and taking substantive actions to address them. And to see a younger generation emerge that appears to be taking to heart the three pillars that support Triple Pundit’s reason for being.