The Forgotten Mammal
"Mine Your Own Business" tells story of the one
animal environmentalists forget by Mary Katharine
Ham January 26, 2007, Townhall.com
In Rosia Montana, Romania, George grew up in a
one-bedroom apartment with seven other family
members. Two thirds of the people in his village
have no running water. They venture outside in
brutal negative temperatures just to use the
bathroom. Many of them, George included, hope a
planned gold mine will bring jobs and a taste of
modernity to a town long-ago abandoned by
state-owned mines and gainful employment.
|Almost 500 miles away, from her home in
the prosperous, modern capital city of
Bucharest, Belgian environmentalist Francoise
Heidebroek says of Rosia Montana's poverty,
"It is part of the charm of Rosia Montana and
this lifestyle. You know, people will use
their horse and cart instead of using a car.
They are proud to have a horse."
In Fort Dauphin, Madagascar, a tiny harbor
town in one of the poorest countries on Earth,
Rasou Nirina Odette is waiting on a job in a
new ilmenite mine planned for the area.
"I would use the money for school fees for the
children and I would buy something at a low
price and resell it at a higher price for a
Many miles away from Fort Dauphin, in the
regional capital of Tulear, World Wildlife
Fund's Mark Fenn plans for a beachfront home
and sails his catamaran. He has different
priorities for the people of Fort Dauphin.
Greenpeace activists play dead in front of the
Turkish Parliament in Ankara November 14,
2006. Twenty-five activists were detained by
riot police as they protested against a draft
law on nuclear energy. REUTERS/Umit Bektas
"In Madagascar, the indicators of quality of
life are not housing. They're not nutrition,
specifically. They're not health in a lot of
cases. It's not education. A lot of children in
Fort Dauphin do not go to school because the
parents don't consider that to be important…
People are economically disadvantaged, people have
no jobs, but if I could put you with a family and
you could count how many times in a day that that
family smiles…then you tell me who is rich and who
is poor," Fenn said.
In Pascua Lama, Chile, Eduardo Ayolo is one of
27,000 residents who have applied and trained for
a job in a planned gold mine in his area.
"I'm not asking for much. Just a normal job," he
Another Pascua Lama resident said, "There are a
lot of poor people who need opportunities to make
their dreams come true."
Thousands of miles away in London, Roger Moody, an
environmentalist active in blocking the Pascua
Lama mine, explains his objections, despite never
having visited Pascua Lama: "A large part of
indigenous reality has to do with spiritual
connection to the earth with specific plots of
earth, with specific hills or mountain tops and so
The distance between the communities "defended" by
environmentalists against development and the
communities themselves is often large, both
philosophically and literally. Filmmakers and
journalists, Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney
have made a documentary that highlights these
environmental battles and the exaggerations, fibs,
and sometimes outright lies that keep some of the
world's poorest cultures from developing. "Mine
Your Own Business" is an entertaining, moving and
sometimes humorous look at a side of the
environmental movement we don't often see—the dark
McAleer traveled to Rosia Montana, Romania several
years ago to cover a story for the Financial
Times—the story of Toronto-based mining company
Gabriel Resources forcing people from their homes,
planning an environmentally destructive mine, and
ruining the pristine countryside of that remote
Romanian village, all against the wishes of its
residents. Only, when he got to Rosia Montana, he
found a different story.
"I pretty much found that everything the
environmentalists were saying was either false,
exaggerated, or just a plain lie," McAleer said in
a telephone interview Monday.
Residents told him they had sold their land for
good money. Mining company representatives told
him they planned to clean pollution left by
now-deserted state-run mines that were built
before environmental standards were in place and
modernize housing and plumbing for residents.
Locals told him the pristine rivers were actually
running with cadmium and zinc.
Environmentalists claim that 80 percent of the
people of Rosia Montana are opposed to the
building of the mine. When McAleer and his wife
toured the streets and homes of Rosia Montana,
they found many who spoke in favor of it, and who
wondered why so many outsiders were interested in
stopping it (a letter signed by the people of
Rosia Montana is here).
After their discoveries in Rosia Montana, McAleer
and McElhinney recruited George, a 23-year-old
unemployed miner, to travel with them to proposed
mine sites in Madagascar and Chile to interview
They also interviewed the environmentalists who
oppose the mining projects. The results were
revealing, condescending, and sometimes tinged
"They look at a mud village and they see something
worth preserving. They think these people are poor
and happy," McAleer said.