17 Sep 2009

Oh, Africa!

By Tim O'Connor
Australian mining companies are being lured to Africa with a campaign that would make Tourism Australia proud, writes Tim O'Connor
Africa Downunder! No it's not the latest tortured attempt by our tourism industry to drum up a bit of business — it's the name of an industry conference just held in Perth. "The lights have come on in Africa, and you cannot afford to miss out" bleats the promo material calling all miners, investors and government ministers to get on the gravy train.

At first glance it may seem innocuous enough, but the message is pretty clear: Australia, a significant mining pit itself, is now looking to exploit Africa. In a big way.

Of course Africa needs all the economic help it can get — decades of underdevelopment and conflict have kept much of the continent mired in degrading poverty. But what Australian companies need to realise if they are going to heed the call to mine Africa's riches, is that most of the conflicts currently plaguing that continent are being fought over access to resources.

For instance, the Democratic Republic of Congo is home to at least 14 militia groups, waging a brutal conflict that has seen more than six million people perish in the last decade — that's the entire populations of Sydney and Melbourne dead in 10 years. Rape in Congo is also out of control. Lulu Mitshabu who hails from the troubled country and now works with Caritas Australia, says, "more than 1200 women were raped in the eastern provinces in the month of July alone. This rape is perpetuated by the struggle over mining. Everyone in the DRC is fighting over resources. Until there can be transparency in the mining sector in Congo, there will never be peace".

In Nigeria also, the ongoing violence relates directly to its oil wealth. The conflict in Sierra Leone is over its diamonds. The alleged genocide in Sudan has its roots in the battle for control over land and water. And the list, tragically, goes on and on.

Why do natural resources in poor countries continue to cause such conflict? The esteemed Oxford development economist, Paul Collier, probably says it best — he argues that mineral "rents" are too often the seeds of democratic failure. That is to say: mineral-rich governments don't need taxpayers as they receive so much money from the mining companies. Commonly, this results in a limited interest in providing for all their constituents.

Low income countries are most vulnerable to this problem as there are few, if any, other industries to provide the revenue that exploitation of natural resources can provide. In the struggle for resource rents, other state functions typically diminish and the supply of things like education and health declines.

Also, natural resources are usually concentrated in a contained area within a country. Local secessionists often use the argument "Our resources are being taken by this central government. We are getting no benefit". Hence the potential for civil war is much more likely around mineral repositories. The money that can be made from mining rents further perpetuates the arming and funding of militia groups — and the cycle continues.

Furthermore, when mining dominates, the rest of the export economy contracts, depressing the long term growth rate and making the economy vulnerable to shocks from volatile mineral prices.

But despite the troubles mining can cause, the truth is that leaving it in the ground is not an option. The economic reality in most African countries means we have to have mining, but we have to have mining that benefits whole communities — not just interest groups. Public scrutiny is crucial for transparency and accountability.

This is where countries like Australia can help. We need our companies, particularly our mining companies, to be accountable and transparent and not promoting the cycle of corruption that has lead to so much decay. The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), whereby companies sign on to publish the revenues they share with the governments of the countries they are operating in, is a practical way in which all our resource companies can do this. It gives communities on the ground the information they need to hold their governments to account, too.

This month's Africa Downunder! conference in Perth was worrying for what it did not address. When our Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, presented to the conference he made no mention of the transparency initiative or even the need for our mining companies to be socially responsible in their dealings with the war-torn continent. BHP-Billiton is a signatory to the EITI, but too few of the other Australian mining companies who fronted up to the conference have also signed up.

Australia's renewed engagement with Africa presents a great opportunity to really make a difference in the troubled continent, to build stronger community involvement on the ground and to bring together Australian interests in ensuring this development can be sustainable. This opportunity needs to be grasped as one that benefits not just our miners, but also makes a real effort to lift Africa out of extreme poverty.

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This user is a New Matilda supporter. dazza
Posted Thursday, September 17, 2009 - 20:41

Rip, rip, rip! The cry of the land and resource rapists.

Best of luck in trying to control the insane greed of rich capitalists and those that would seek to join them.

I know of nowhere where they have been controlled in any way. Everything is tainted with blood and suffering, and greed never sees this, it is only ever interested in rape and pillage, and never faces Justice.

Even here in Australia, the insane race to dig up and sell off every little grain of minerals, oil, gas, gold, coal, uranium is encouraged by the Krudd Government and every other Government in this land. No controls on them have ever succeeded. Greed has no ethics, no morals, no sense of any decency.

Our indecent race to sell off everything, even knowing that a lot of what we are selling is leading to the destruction of this Planet, is obscene.

Our Governments are obscene, our Companies are obscene. Any other country that allows these people access to their resources under present conditions are asking for terrible trouble down the line.
They know no boundaries, and respect no imagined controls.

And the 'ordinary punter', with his meat Pies, his Football and Holden Cars (more likely to be Tojo Utes these days), his mortgages, his fishing and hunting weekends is not interested in doing the 'right thing' by the world either, he/she is only interested in getting 'their share' of the perceived booty, and the Devil take the losers and the weak.

Poor fellow, my world!

rosross
Posted Friday, September 18, 2009 - 10:32

dazzam
something of an exaggeration. There are in fact quite a few controls over mining in Australia and have increasingly been for the past 30 years.
As to Africa, where I have lived for more than a decade, in a number of countries, the mining per se: is not the issue, it is the corruption of their governments and the lack of international action of any kind to do anything about that corruption other than huff and puff.
Resources will be mined. Surely the important thing is that they are mined as sensitively and responsibly as possible. The Chinese are very active in Africa and trust me, they have quite a different view of sensitivity and responsibility than Australian, European, British or American companies. The system is not perfect but these resources do provide an income for impoverished nations.
And, whether you like it or not, for our nation. We live in a mechanised world and minerals are crucial. The world, bar some catastrophe, will not go back to the stone age and as someone who has been closely exposed to various kinds of mining for a number of decades, there is far, far greater responsibility amongst mining companies, both here and overseas, than ever before in history.
Australian mining companies are now held responsible by our government legislation for actions overseas. That is a recent development.
No mining company, here, or in Africa, can go into business without becoming involved in community aid and issues, educational aid and issues, social aid and issues and regulations, both here and within the African country, to abide by certain standards and norms of behaviour.
However bad you think it is, trust me, it was far, far worse 40 years ago and even worse beyond that.
And I would add, any study of history would show quite clearly that the world is far, far better today for a greater percentage of people than it has ever been. You only have to open the curtain on the 1950's for instance to see the discrimination against women; the ignorance in regard to children; the discrimination and ignorance in regard to mental illness, Down's syndrome, the physically and intellectually disabled, and the general level of xenophobia in regard to immigrants and foreigners.
Just because you have a bleak view of the world does not make the world the way you see it.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. dazza
Posted Friday, September 18, 2009 - 18:57

Sorry, rosross, I am not enthused. Nor converted. Unlike you, I am not a born optimist.
I have never lived in Africa, but I have read a lot of what is occurring there, and has occurred there. Not encouraging.
Big Corporations find it so easy to actually OWN corrupt African (and pretty much all others, even ours) Governments, and always seem to manage to have rules and regulations either ignored to disposed of.
And even if Australia has some Rules applying to Australian Corporations operating overseas, most of them are not Australian, they are either owned by the Yanks or the Brits. or some other nationality. No such rules can apply. Most often, it is only long after the event that we become aware of depredations by these Corporations, no action is taken, none of them (all?) never face our courts, or any others.
The days that Nation States actually had any power in the world has long passed. Now it is more the norm that we are controlled by the Big Corporations and their unelected executives. They make the Rules.
The Chinese are utterly ruthless in their pursuit of resources. They have had some good examples, looking at France, Belgium, England, USA, over the years.
Nothing changes. The world is a bloody bleak place. Dog eat Dog, with the Larger and Most Ruthless Dog always winning.

dereklane
Posted Friday, September 18, 2009 - 19:23

Rosross,

You do speak some colonial nonsense. Firstly, for Australia, the 'controls' over mining are nearly non-existent, in terms of licensing, rights to destroy (both land/environmentl and homes), ways to circumvent very elementary environmental 'recommendations'. And, as Dazza points out, the spilling of blood, oppression, deprivation are all key elements of Australia's mining industry too - it makes me wonder why the writer of this articles believes that somehow AUstralia's mining corporations might exercise fairness and prudence in Africa.

Have you not read the detail of governmental legislation, plus company takeovers of *Aboriginal* land, in Australia, in Papua, in East Timor, and in Africa, by western (inc Australian) companies? Is it easier to pretend not to see the ramifications of capitalist 'rape' in our poorest (above ground) local and international places?

Before jumping in to Africa and blaming it on 'corrupt African governments' not held to account by western Gods (I know people who've lived there too - been there myself - but I can assure you that's no qualifier for telling it as it is. It seems local whites in their big mansions twist themselves in knots to assure everyone that the problems they blacks have are self-orchestrated - just as they do in Oz), you could maybe read this:

http://www.spinwatch.org.uk/reviews-mainmenu-24/book-reviews-mainmenu-23...

or this, on climate change (western driven) and its devastating effects on the poorests regions in the world, including large swathes of Africa.

http://www.medialens.org/alerts/05/051213_insane_society_climate_change.php

"You only have to open the curtain on the 1950’s for instance to see the discrimination against women; the ignorance in regard to children; the discrimination and ignorance in regard to mental illness, Down’s syndrome, the physically and intellectually disabled, and the general level of xenophobia in regard to immigrants and foreigners."

Then, women were expected to stay at home and look after the kids (depending on where/how you were brought up). Now, women are expected to hold down full time work, alongside their partner (how else can you bring a family up out of poverty?), *and* bring up the kids.

Then, we practised 'electrotherapy' on anyone not conforming to societal norms. Now we drug, from as young as 4, with harmful and often inadequately tested chemicals, not specifically because of their efficacy against mental disease, but because of the hold commercial pharmaceutical industry has on various governments. In so many cases, there are far more effective (proved) approaches to mental behaviour management than the application of drugs, but like ET, the drugs keep the offenders passified and the drug company management fat.

Then, we discrimininated against Down's kids/adults. Now, we offer termination of 'at risk' pregnancies to avoid that discrimination.

Then we castigated foreigners with racist put downs and kept/put them in jobs of low pay and social standing. Now we do all the same things (a little quieter), but also go to their foreign lands to kill them and take their resources, imprison them here for what amounts to thought crimes (we don't apply the same standards to the same thought crimes of whites), and by governmental example, we burn their mosques and make them fear for their lives. In rural settings, we continue to take the land and the communities away from the indigenous, and tell them its for their own good (in our inimitable colonial style).

Your colonial attitude, rosross, has no place in the 21st century western world you claim is so enlightened, but fits rather neatly in the one which actually exists.

But, back to the topic - you make a good point. China is there. So is the US, and France, and Britain, and Australia. They have been for a while. A large part of the reason African nations are so unstable is precisely because of the resource grabs by western nations that have been in action for several centuries, right to the present day. Less, not more involvment (of the colonial resource-grab style) is what is needed (in terms of the same resource-grabs).

Sadly, based on opinions such as yours, such a concept is unlikely to gather the consent needed to make it a world issue. Much easier to insist on taking their resources, but holding up our hands in denial to the problems *we* cause.

Derek

This user is a New Matilda supporter. dazza
Posted Saturday, September 19, 2009 - 11:51

derek, I essentially agree with everything you say, but you do come down a bit hard on rosross. In most of her/his articles/entries s/he comes across as a well balanced person , with an excellent knowledge and judgement of world affairs. But I have to admit that s/he is an indomitable optimist where humans are concerned, something which I disagree with entirely.

Maybe that is a particular gender attitude, I do not know. But I know enough, have experienced enough of human nature, to understand that nothing is too low, too vicious, too unutterably BAD, to be totally above most humans.

No one class or grouplng is exempt, although some individuals are.

Unfortunately, I see this attitude of giving latitude to people who do not deserve it far too prevalent in far too many places, by some people.

Far too many people (voters?) seem to give the benefit of the doubt to our pollies, where I am totally cynical. Perhaps they do not see, hear or read enough to get a proper understanding of what makes these generally utterly ruthless people 'tick'.

With the rare exception, desire for unmitigated and uncontrolled power, and greed, overwhelms every good moral or ethical attitude they may once have had in them.

I see some semblance of this 'give them the benefit of the doubt' attitude in the Editor of NM. Where this is applied to well-known and ruthless dictators, and murderous colonialists, plus land and resource raping miners etc. I get upset.

I see far too much leeway given to the Krudd Government in it's wishy-washy response to probably the greatest disaster to hit the Earth since the first four (or is it five) Mass Extinctions. This is the latest and probably the last Mass Extinction, CAUSED totally by rampant humanity in it's lust for private and corporate gains, by destroying our atmosphere. Far too many people want to give them the benefit of some doubt. Instead, they should be looking to BAD reasons for their lack of action. Greed, Corporate Control, Vested Interests, all these are more likely to be the reason. Not lack of political will. Krudd seems to have all the ruthless 'will' to do anything if he really wants to do it. As do all the State Premiers.

I sometimes also see this attitude in my good friends, The Greens. Gentle souls, they just do not seem to have the 'killer instinct' to always go for the jugular, something seemingly so necessary to make for 'successful' politicians in this 'dog eat dog' world. But, I guess, if they were like everyone else, they would NOT be friends of mine, and others.

And this is seen as a sign of weakness in them by the HARD people in the public, the media and the pollies. And running true to form, they all 'go for the jugular', particularly 'our' Corporate and Mogul Owned Mass Media.

Perhaps it is a response to growing old. I may have just seen far too much 'badness' happen in my life to retain even relative optimism.
But even the 'young' seem to be losing optimism early these days.
Maybe we are being overwhelmed by the daily 'feed' of bad news.

Best of luck, all!

rosross
Posted Saturday, September 19, 2009 - 12:58

dazza,
Well, I have lived in various African countries for more than a decade and on that count I think my experience counts for more than those who have not lived there or even those who have made a visit or two.
And I do know, firsthand, how rapacious business, and for that matter, aid organisations can be in Africa, but I also know how corrupt government is and how that corruption is aided and abetted, by omission or commission, by international governments.
But, having first gone to Africa in 1997 I can also say that over the ten years, many things have changed for the better. Wars have ended for instance, in Angola, where I lived for four years during the war and while the Government remains corrupt, and the big business is still there for oil and diamonds, I know from friends who live there still, that things are getting better.
And, exposed still to mining in the Third World, I can also see the advances made in approach: socially, ecologically, educationally, medically. These things are now absolute givens of anyone operating in Africa. For instance, while the Chinese still have lower safety operating standards for overseas operations, we have to remember that they also have them for themselves... but, they have built some absolutely fantastic roads in Zambia for instance as part of the demands African governments now make of international companies operating in their country.
Australian companies can now be 'charged' for offences committed overseas. Trust me, it is another impetus for good behaviour.
There has in fact been a change in mindset for all companies operating overseas and while it may be far from perfect, it is far, far better than it was 30 years ago.
One could argue that efforts made by mining companies are achieving far more than aid agencies but then aid agencies, or any experience I had of them in both Africa and India, is that they are badly run corporations where more money gets spent on the corporation than those in need. But that's another debate.

rosross
Posted Saturday, September 19, 2009 - 13:06

dereklane,
With all courtesy I don't think you know what you are talking about. Controls over mining are not nonexistent. As far back as the early 1980's, and even before, mining companies in Australia for instance, were highly monitored in terms of activity on land from indigenous and ecological perspectives. The days of digging a hole in the ground and leaving it behind are long gone.
One may be opposed to mining per se: but, the evidence is clear that miners are now required under legislation, to leave any land, once mining is finished, as good as they found it, if not better. Aborigines have, since the late 70's always been consulted prior to any mining and have received aid, royalties and educational and employment assistance. There would be few, if any, mining projects in Australia involving Aboriginal communities where employment, education, medical aid etc. are not part and parcel of the preparation, planning and execution of mining.
Of course one can argue that these activities have been less successful than one might hope but in truth, if a community asks for cash, you cannot tell them how to spend it. If you offer education and employment programmes and no-one accepts, you cannot force them. If you want to build a school and a medical clinic and the community wants 20 Toyotas you can try to reach a balance of say, 10 Toyotas and a medical clinic or school, but you cannot force them to do what you want.
I fail to see how my position is colonialist. If my position were colonialist I would wish to see a situation where mining companies could impose upon African nations and Aboriginal communities what they chose to give them, without consultation.
As a pragmatist and a believer in freedom, I think all one can do is consult and try to reach agreement on what is in the best interests of the community or the country.

rosross
Posted Saturday, September 19, 2009 - 13:18

Derek,
The link to the Perkins article was interesting. I would like to know when he left Africa. The book was published in 2007. But if he left in 1985 then his 30 years cover the worst of times, not the beginning of better times. In addition, he has written a book from a particular perspective... and that is valid, but it is not a balanced view. We all 'select' articles which support our bias... this supports the worst case scenario position. I happen to believe life is mostly grey and there are bright spots in the deepest black.
As to the article on climate change, well, I don't strictly believe in it as it is posited. The archeological and scientific evidence is that the world has gone through these climatic changes in the past.
However, I do think that while hysteria seems to be the order of the day, and exaggeration and fear-mongering, the positive aspect of the global warming spin machine is that it does make people think about how they live on this planet and I think that is invaluable for us as human beings and for our world.
And yes, some of the excesses of the past have been replaced by other 'wrongs,.' but, I would argue, there are still less of them. When women were being lobotomised children were not given drugs to calm them down, but they were treated quite cruelly by family, society and the education system. Many things have improved in the past 50 years despite the fact that the world is not perfect and never will be.
more people, at this point in history, live safer, more harmonious, more pleasant lives than ever before. This was an observation I made living around the world, mostly in the Third World, for nearly 30 years, and through reading history and researching my own family history. My life and that of my sibilings and cousins is far, far, far better than that of our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and beyond. There are always exceptions, but, as a general rule, the life of the average person has improved immensely.

dereklane
Posted Sunday, September 20, 2009 - 05:20

Hi Dazza,

I've got great respect for you, because your views are uncompromising and realistic, based (it seems) on what you see around you rather than what you're taught by the propaganda our governments, and our employers, are busy feeding us.

However, I don't think I'm overly harsh on Rosross. While she does indeed defend the Palestinians (indigenous people of Palestine), her repulsion of colonial oppression seems rather limited, very pick and choose. I've had enough conversations with her on the subject of Indigenous Australia to see that the compassion she has for Palestine is not mirrored equally across the board. Why this is I can only guess at, but its neither logical nor consistent.

Perhaps you have more patience than me, but I've had enough of this 'outward looking' Australian attitude of holiness - where we're happy to condemn human rights abuse, oppression and colonial imperialism elsewhere, but refuse to find the motes in our own eyes. There are more in Australia with this inability to look inward than not, in my experience.

People like yourself are few and far between, but thankfully, they exist.

Rosross,

"With all courtesy I don’t think you know what you are talking about. Controls over mining are not nonexistent. As far back as the early 1980’s, and even before, mining companies in Australia for instance, were highly monitored in terms of activity on land from indigenous and ecological perspectives. The days of digging a hole in the ground and leaving it behind are long gone."

You can say it all you like, but the reality is out there for investigation for anyone who chooses it. Australian mining, at the very least Australian *coal* mining (of which I know from inside experience/information) *does* leave the hole. The last hole. By recommendations (and they vary from state to state - as you should know there is no broadly encompassing federal legislation on this), they are required to conduct environmental impact assessments (not worth the paper on which they are written), and they are expected to rejuvenate all the land behind an open cut seam, but when they done, they literally can (and do) pack up and go home.

That last hole, according to environmental impact studies, floods the surrounding countryside with the toxic slag and its heavy metals, and poisons the countryside. They *advise* (at least in QLD) that the last hole be filled, but its nothing more than that.

Similiarly, the land under the soil belongs (in terms of mineral deposits) to federal and state government, in terms of what and when it can be developed. Not the individual above it. Where mining exploration is allowed, and a positive result uncovered, the resultant mining nearly always goes ahead, regardless of risk/environmental impact assessments (jabiluka/ranger is a good example - jabiluka only on hold, as we surely know, until the ranger mine is depleted*). I know people who worked (for a long time) in the industry, both in mining itself, and the environmental aspect.

They left, eventually, disillusioned. Mainly, I think, because they were convinced at first that reason and evidence would sway their companies' decisions for the good of the people and the environment they were digging up (to rehabilitate the areas afterwards, properly). Eventually, they became aware of the fact that they weren't working 'inside' to make a poor situation better, because it wasn't going to change.

That of course is the nature of capitalist venture, particularly when it is endorsed by government and paths to interests are smoothed out by government for big business, whether in Oz or Africa. In all cases I am aware of, the people come out worse off, and a small select group of wealthy fat cats come out better off. The environment, and the people who have to live in it, suffer horribly, but worse so in foreign places, because the compensation schemes there are even less existent (to the individual).

The trouble, I believe, is that it takes a great deal of courage and fortitude to admit, once we learn, that the businesses for whom we work may not be working at ideals which are naturally our own. When we discover the truth, we are faced with 2 choices. To hide from it, and to cover those truths (from ourselves as much as from others), or to face it head on, and lose our security, and possibly our sense of self-righteousness, but to challenge big business against which we have almost no hope of besting.

Most people opt for the former (easy) option. I believe this is a large factor affecting ordinary Australians' reluctance to face the injustices we inflict on the indigenous population too. To admit to our ultimate wrongness in our position means that, if we are honest, we should also face the sacrifice of giving up what we see as ours, and returning it to its rightful owners. This is, of course, the sacrifice that many westerners are advocating Jewish Palestinians/Israelis commit for the sake of Palestine, and rightfully so.

Just that when the shoe is on the other foot, its a hell of a lot harder.

Regarding climate change - you don't surprise me with your rejection of this very standard science. It is strange that so many people place their faith so ultimately in science in so many other respects, but reject it when it scares them. It is, of course, no different a phenomenom as the way we face the other issues I've just discussed.

Derek

Just found this on wiki:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_mining_law#cite_note-1

gives an indication of the scant and tenous hold any mining legislation has on mining companies in Australia. Ticking boxes and stamping forms is not, by the way, ratifying an agreement. From those EI advisers I've met, it seems that if they don't like the result of one EIS, they are free to get another. Which they do.

*on the ranger mine:

"There have been more than 150 leaks, spills and licence breaches at the Ranger uranium mine since it opened in 1981. As of March 2009, the Ranger uranium mine is leaking 100,000 litres of contaminated water into the ground beneath the Kakadu National Park every day, according to a government appointed scientist. Energy Resources of Australia has been repeatedly warned about its management of the mine"
http://www.theage.com.au/national/polluted-water-leaking-into-kakadu-fro...

That doesn't sound like the style has changed all that much in the last 28 years. The licence breaches come and go. Some government department might be making money on them, but it isn't halting the mining operations due to such breaches. And that, I think, is at the heart of the issue. When the money is big enough, slaps on the wrist are revenue collection and flak resistance (ie, govt is doing something about it, mining companies are being made to 'suffer', so everything is as it should be), but its really lip service and nothing more. No doubt, the same goes on in Africa, and worse.

rosross
Posted Sunday, September 20, 2009 - 12:27

Derek,

No-one claims that everything is perfect. I merely state that things have improved greatly in the past thirty or forty years and they have.
Your experience of environmental impact assessments is that they are not worth the paper on which they are written while mine is that they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, take years to complete, do impact on the activity of the company and are considered to be of value by corporations, governments, ecologists and scientists alike.
You have a right to your view and I to mine.

The problem with this debate is that I have absolutely no way of knowing how much you know or do not know except from assessing the material that you post and the same for you. I have a sense that your views are fixed on many topics and that always 'colours' what we see. The same tendencies are at work in all of us and I try to remain open to new information.

When you tell personal stories about people you have known you are telling stories you have selected of a negative nature. I have no doubt your stories are true, as are mine, but you would reject that mine have any substance whereas I would accept yours as part of the story.

You said: That of course is the nature of capitalist venture, particularly when it is endorsed by government and paths to interests are smoothed out by government for big business, whether in Oz or Africa.

And I would argue that is no longer the case. Have you been to Africa? Have you been closely involved in mining in Africa? From memory on another forum you said you lived in the UK and had done so for many years. Is your experience of mining in Australia recent or is it drawn from ten, twenty, thirty or forty years ago? Answers to these questions give your position perspective.

I have lived in Africa, I have been involved in mining projects in Africa and I have been involved in mining projects in Australia over 30 years and still am.

If our experience is on the same ground then we have comparable positions.

You say: In all cases I am aware of, the people come out worse off, and a small select group of wealthy fat cats come out better off. The environment, and the people who have to live in it, suffer horribly, but worse so in foreign places, because the compensation schemes there are even less existent (to the individual).

I would suggest that you either consciously or unconsciously only select the worst case circumstances or you lack a broad understanding and knowledge of mining in Australia and overseas. I have some understanding of mining projects in Australia, North America, Russia, various African countries and India.

You said:The trouble, I believe, is that it takes a great deal of courage and fortitude to admit, once we learn, that the businesses for whom we work may not be working at ideals which are naturally our own.

Yes it does and then, as has been the my experience, one leaves and finds companies which do work from the base of ideals and morality that one holds. I would add however that I understand why many cannot and do not judge them. Those who have children to support or who face the gutter do not have the luxury of choice when it comes to integrity. One would wish that they did.

As to Australia's aborigines, your position that we give up what is theirs is neither workable nor reasonable. By your criteria, every one of us would be heading for Africa, the evidence being that humans came originally from Africa, to claim our bit of land. You would depopulate and repopulate every nation on the planet because every nation exists through migration and colonisation.

You would be sending our Aborigines back to India where the new evidence is that they originated. It is, in short, impossible to right all of these ancient wrongs. All one can do is ensure that we do not create new wrongs and that we do what we can to ensure justice for all concerned... coloniser and colonised.

The average Australian has and does face the injustices inflicted on our indigenous people but feels frustrated that the billions of dollars spent have achieved so little.
None of us own the land, we are all custodians. There is nothing to give up, merely to share.

You said:Regarding climate change - you don’t surprise me with your rejection of this very standard science.

As with everything there are a variety of schools of thought on climate change. I choose to keep an open mind. so far I am not convinced that it is the result of human activity. Geological studies show quite clearly that similar climatic changes have taken place before. The Romans for instance grew vines for wine in southern England when they occupied it. Clearly it was much warmer then than now. Studying trees and rock sediment gives a very good indication of climate change.

However, I am the first to admit I may be wrong and it is the result of human activity. If you read what I wrote, I also said I am happy to see the focus put on human activity because even if it is not our fault it is good that we are being pushed to be more responsible.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. dazza
Posted Sunday, September 20, 2009 - 12:28

"One may be opposed to mining per se: but, the evidence is clear that miners are now required under legislation, to leave any land, once mining is finished, as good as they found it, if not better. Aborigines have, since the late 70’s always been consulted prior to any mining and have received aid, royalties and educational and employment assistance. There would be few, if any, mining projects in Australia involving Aboriginal communities where employment, education, medical aid etc. are not part and parcel of the preparation, planning and execution of mining."
rosross, I do not know what your experience is of Western Australia, but I do have some. I have travelled all over the deserts, through mining leases and Aboriginal lands.

Yes, there have been some wishy-washy laws governing mining companies in WA, but they all have almighty loop-holes. And holes they are, wherever you go over there, you see these massive holes in the ground. No work, just left. What happens is that instead of obeying laws, the particular shell company operating the particular mine declares bankruptcy, and lo and behold the Government is left with the repairs. Which they never do! So the holes are left to fill with toxic water to leach into aquifers. The same has applied in Queensland.

As for consultation with Indigenous Australians. HAH! Yeah, like the 'consulatation' entered into by the State Government and the Gas Miners over there in WA, intending to destroy the Kimberley.

They were simply told by the Government that the work was going ahead, no matter what they said, and they may as well 'agree' with it.

This same action is taken all the time, in all States and Territories, the Miners 'consult', the Government, always on the side of the Miners, says Go ahead!, and threats are made. Always, the Miners win, and very, very few Aboriginals are ever employed on the mine sites. The Argyle Diamond Mine is a rare exception to this, they do consult to some extent, they do employ, but does anyone really think that the Indigenous peoples could actually stop the work, or enforce work entitlements, if the WA Government was brought in. No way!!!

Remember that diversion of the Macarthur River in the NT? What consultations? The NT Government, a Labor one in name only, OK'ed the diversion over ALL Indigenous and Environmental objections. And in the Territory, and possibly other States, all mining royalties supposedly to be paid to the Indigenous peoples, are paid into a Fund, and the Governments dip into this to pay for normal everyday services to communities which should be the absolute right as citizens of Australia. How is it that Aboriginals have to pay for all services from this Fund, whereas you and I get them, as a right, from councils and Governments, as part of our paying Rates and Taxes?

Shonky, seems to me! So all this screaming in the Mass Media about all this taxpayers money going to Aboriginals is actually being paid for by them out of these Royalties. It is NOT taxpayers money. It is rightfully moneys that should be at the discretion of the particular indigenous groupings, not thieving and fact-bending Governments.

Mostly, also, the royalties agreed to are peanuts in relation to the profits to be made from the mines by the Companies and the Governments.

rossross, seeing things in rose-tinted glasses may be good for your soul, but it sure as Hell is doing nothing for people affected by these insults to intelligence, to people, to the World. Sorry!

rosross
Posted Sunday, September 20, 2009 - 14:51

dazza,
I have spent more than ten years living in WA spread across the 80's, 90's and today.

We all have our own experiences. I have never claimed that it is all perfect. Of course there are negative outcomes along with the positives but it is a fact that there is more regulation and monitoring and consultation than ever before in history.

You said: As for consultation with Indigenous Australians. HAH! Yeah, like the ‘consulatation’ entered into by the State Government and the Gas Miners over there in WA, intending to destroy the Kimberley.

I was referring to consultation once a project gets the go-ahead. Clearly there is some, but less in regard to whether or not they should go ahead. It is a different issue.

How is it going to destroy the Kimberley? It is a huge area. It will impact some of it but why will it destroy it? I would also prefer to see pristine wilderness remain so but it is not possible. You have to weigh up the needs of the people living in the country and the State, trying to balance negatives and positives.

You said: The Argyle Diamond Mine is a rare exception to this, they do consult to some extent, they do employ, but does anyone really think that the Indigenous peoples could actually stop the work, or enforce work entitlements, if the WA Government was brought in. No way!!!

I would argue that they are not as much of an exception as you think.

You said: How is it that Aboriginals have to pay for all services from this Fund, whereas you and I get them, as a right, from councils and Governments, as part of our paying Rates and Taxes?

Because, we live in serviced areas. Farmers who live in isolated communities do not get subsidised for their inconvenience as aboriginal communities do. The mistake is encouraging aboriginal communities to set up home wherever they choose and then seeking to provide them with the sort of facilities they would have in a developed area. And we pay rates and taxes because we purchase our homes and we are employed... aborigines in government supported communities, usually unemployed, don't.

You said: It is rightfully moneys that should be at the discretion of the particular indigenous groupings, not thieving and fact-bending Governments.

Except, you have put on the rose-tinted glasses. What about the thieving and fact-bending aboriginal organisations and leaders? What about the cultural pressure (not unique to aborigines) put on people to share everything? What about the cultural pressure (not unique to aborigines) to 'favour' members of one's family and or tribal community? There is more than enough thieving to go around and plenty of it comes from Aborigines themselves.

You said: Mostly, also, the royalties agreed to are peanuts in relation to the profits to be made from the mines by the Companies and the Governments.

Not when you take into account the fact that the royalties go to the communities to be spent on themselves. Profits made by companies and governments pay for the current and future projects; employ people, train people; provide services which the nation needs. On that count aboriginal royalties made from the nation's resources are selectively spent for the benefit of small communities whereas money made by governments and corporations is spread far and wide... even with large salaries for corporate heads.

One could argue, why can Aborogines claim royalties for resources found on land where they live when you and I cannot! If they find oil under my house it belongs to the country and there are no royalties for me.

You said: rossross, seeing things in rose-tinted glasses may be good for your soul, but it sure as Hell is doing nothing for people affected by these insults to intelligence, to people, to the World. Sorry!

I disagree. You see the worst in people while I look for the best. You send out mistrustful, negative energy and I send out trusting positive energy. You see a bleak future and send that thought into the cosmos and I see a bright future and send that thought into the cosmos. Thoughts have power. We all choose what we send out into the world. I simply choose to send positives not negatives.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. dazza
Posted Sunday, September 20, 2009 - 18:28

Hmmm! rosross, I see from your writings that you are involved in the Mining business, both in Australia, and in Africa. You have leanings to geology, may indeed be a geologist. For some reason, some geologists, who see time spread over eons, the fact of rapid climate change introduced by human activities is very hard to see. Maybe something like not seeing the trees for the forest.

Yes, over eons there has been climate change on Earth, sometimes quite massive, sometimes cataclysmic, sometimes slowly over geological time. No one can deny this. Or perhaps some are! But the changes over the past 200 years since the Industrial Revolution have indeed been fast and cataclysmic. Anyone with reasonable intelligence can see this.

Just reading the Monthly magazine, article on Richard Dawkins new book.
The writer makes the point that denial of Global Warming as a human induced disaster in the making is very akin to people denying Evolution, and 'religiously' sticking to their 'feel good' beliefs of a God who made Earth and the Universe under 10,000 years ago, ergo, all science is crap! How could an intelligent being, a geologist even, possibly believe this? Totally beyond me. But this 'religious belief' makes them feel good, and they would prefer to look through their dark glasses (rose tinted?) at the world, instead of seeing clearly, because it makes them uncomfortable to see what they do not want to see.

It would appear that you also have a myopic view of indigenous peoples. Sad! But as you say, you have your views, and I have mine. I believe that always, always, the dominant group (whites) in all time, have have done their very bests to rip off, destroy, rape, plunder black peoples. Yes, black peoples have do the same to black peoples. Whites have done it to whites. But this situation, in supposedly more enlightened times, with British invaders, both here and in USA, in India, in Africa, In Arab lands, this trend continues unabated, and the dumb millions sit at home watching their large screen plasma TVs, their minds blank, and do not give a stuff!

I can not see this with rose tinted glasses as you seem to do. Yes, you stick up for the Palestinians, as indeed I do, but at the same time I think you are thinking that the only solution is a two-state solution. This is total garbage, any sane person can see this, and the only real solution to the overall mess is a totally de-religionised Palestine, where all persons who can live together in relative peace can live there, with the same rights as each other. A religious State is an Apartheid State.

Where those who are not of the approved religion are not accepted as citizens with equal rights. This is the situation today in israel, and would continue to be so in a two-state 'solution' if that were at all possible, which it is not, and is not desired by either local party to the conflict. So all the hype of the USA and it's lolly-lickers is just that, hype and garbage, for the right ears, for political purposes.

I know of quite a few people who, like you, see all through those softly shaded rose tinted glasses. I feel for them in a way, but this does not overcome my deep feelings of utter frustration that too many such people are not doing the right thing by the world, and are holding up action needed fast and very badly to save our poor benighted, pillaged, poisoned, raped, overused and exhausted planet.

And the worst of those who are threatening our future are Corporations with mining interests, such as coal and gas and ore, plus the parasites in Government who feed off them, and are owned by them, and those (the ordinary people) who sit back and watch with equanimity. Gahhhh!

rosross
Posted Sunday, September 20, 2009 - 19:42

dazza
I am not a geologist.
And I don't deny global warming per se: I just don't accept at this point, the official explanation for its cause.

Richard Dawkins is an interesting person to quote. He has turned atheism into a religion and is guilty of exactly the same one-eyed views and fixed beliefs as the religions he decries.

I don't deny evolution. I think much of it makes sense, but not all of it. In the same way that I can see beliefs in religion and spirituality which make sense. Evolution has also been turned into a 'religion,' used as propaganda by various zealots in ways that Charles Darwin never intended nor imagined. Darwin had a much more open mind than that. He gave evolution as an explanation for many anomalies but never claimed it was an explanation for everything.

There is absolutely no reason why evolution can not exist alongside and combined with religious and spiritual beliefs. The trick is to take out of each what makes sense.

It is a patriarchal and conservative mindset that an answer must be either/or; yes/no or black and white when the answer is most likely to be both, yes and no, black, white and grey.

By the way, having studied most religions I have absolutely no time for any of them but I do have a great deal of time for God as a purposeful force or energy, intelligence at work in the world. Even science, spearheaded by quantum physics is beginning to see links with ancient spiritual teachings.

It is your right to say I have a myopic view of indigenous peoples and you are entitled to your opinion, but you provide no evidence for your claim.

you believe that the dominant group, in all times, have done their very best to exploit blacks although you have a somewhat myopic view in defining all dominant groups as white. The Indians who colonised down through what is now Indonesia were not white; neither were the Mongol armies who conquered their way across Europe and Asia; neither were the Arab and black kings and traders who first created the slave trade; neither were the numerous African tribes who invaded, dispossessed and colonised their way across the continent at various times; neither were the Egyptians; neither were the Aboriginal people who are now believed to have come down from India and to have killed and dispossessed earlier inhabitants ... I could go on, but you see my point. You have a very recent historical view. And you are right, in recent history it has been the 'white' tribes which held sway but not completely and not always.

I think it is somewhat patronising to continually refer to people as having 'blank minds.' Having travelled widely and lived overseas for many years I have never met anyone with a blank mind. some of the most intelligent people I have met have been illiterate; some of the most stupid have Phd's.

My experience of human beings is that everyone has their story and unless mentally damaged, varying levels of common sense and intelligence, combined always with varying levels of resilience, resourcefullness and compassion.

I think we have done great harm to indigenous peoples in recent historical times by not doing what had always been done in the past, encouraging assimilation. Every nation on earth exists because of assimilation. Trying to keep people locked into some fantasy of political correctness with a way of life which is doomed in the modern age is quite simply cruel.

I'm not sure why you think I think the solution to Palestine is a two-state solution. I have often said I think the only sensible thing is one state with equal rights for all. However, I accept and respect the need in the Jewish religion for a religiously defined state even though such a state, as an anachronism in the modern world, could not ultimately last. But if it helps Israelis to have a Jewish state for a few decades more then why not? Yes a religious state is racist and could only exist if Israel returned to UN mandated borders with all non-Jews living in Palestine, but, if that is what they want and they are happy to do so and give the Palestinians back the rest of their country, then so be it.

You said: And the worst of those who are threatening our future are Corporations with mining interests, such as coal and gas and ore, plus the parasites in Government who feed off them, and are owned by them, and those (the ordinary people) who sit back and watch with equanimity. Gahhhh!

You have, from what I can see, a very bleak view of human nature, our world and the future. I do not. There are corporations and mining companies which provide vital jobs, resources and money for our nation and they leave the world a better place. Ditto for Government. No-one would deny that there are those who do not act with integrity and who need to be monitored and disciplined. But that applies to every field and every issue. I would say the same of the Global warming movement; the Greenpeace movement; the Aid organisations ... any movement, corporation, organisation and government is equally capable of negative acts or positive.

You have singled out certain groups and certain people for criticism and in the doing, made yourself sound like the bigot I doubt you are.

We can agree to disagree. You care deeply and I respect that.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. dazza
Posted Monday, September 21, 2009 - 10:40

rosross, we have argued enough. We do indeed have to agree to disagree on so many things. I was not aware until this minute just how many. That is a personal disappointment, as I generally enjoyed your informed articles.

But you say..."neither were the Aboriginal people who are now believed to have come down from India and to have killed and dispossessed earlier inhabitants …" Crikey! Whey did you get that one from. There may indeed have been up to three waves of humanity that entered Australia from the North over about 100,000 years, some indications of this from palaeontology in Cow Swamp, Lake Mungo and in the Kimberleys (the so-called Bradshaw figures) but nothing has been proved, there is just not enough evidence to make that statement.

Certainly, the evidence of more robust humans found in Lake Mungo may indicate a closer relationship to Homo Erectus than the present indigenous peoples, but there may be other explanations for this. No other traces of them have been found, although the original Tasmanian populations showed mixed heritage from something. The sometimes red and fuzzy hair showed that.

Some explantion for the so-called Bradshaw figures may well be a temporary influx of a North African derived people, but the more recent occupants of that area have no knowledge of them even from 'dreamtime' and they generally treat the figures on the walls of caves as 'rubbish'. Who knows what happened here? We will probably never know, unless we develop time travel.

DNA tracing will probably give some evidence of the derivation of the present Australian Aboriginals, who may indeed have been here up to 60,000 years. But they certainly have been traced back to Africa at this stage. As have all of us. There is no surviving DNA from other possible occupants of this island, so there can be no tracing there.

But certainly, invaders, of whatever creed or color, always seem to treat existing populations with some ruthlessness. Even the Cro-Magnons, from whom we come, dispossessed the Neanderthals, but no one knows if this was an extermination or a slow process where the one strain (the Neanderthals) failed to cope with the changing climate at the time and circumstances of availability of food animals.

You also state, somehow, that I was in my entry above denying that other than whites have acted badly in dispossessing and treating badly fellow colored peoples. Re-read my entry, please, I was doing no such thing. I particularly stated that blacks had indeed acted against other blacks many times through recorded history. We are all, unfortunately or otherwise, very flawed human animals.

Enough. We could possibly continue in this vein for many moons, with no positive result for either of us. Been interesting, if not sustaining.
Catch ya on the blogs.

rosross
Posted Monday, September 21, 2009 - 12:07

dazza,
Just one brief final response re: aboriginal ancestry. I read this recently:
http://www.creationresearch.net/items%20subjects/Australian_Aborigines_I...
Genetic research indicates that Aborigines came to Australia via India ... given that they, like all of us, originally came out of Africa it is believed. This fits with the other 'evidence' which you also cite and which has been touted for some years but not actively proven. One of the reasons why it has not been actively proven is because such information is 'resisted' by many Aborigines and their supporters as 'weakening' their case as indigene. It doesn't of course but the resistance is strong.

What I found interesting was that when I lived in India... for four years ... I was struck by how southern Indians looked like Aborigines. I thought at the time that either Indians became Aborigines or Aborigines became Indians. It has to be one or the other. They are the same people in terms of looks and now, it seems, in terms of genetics.

I raise this issue only to make the point regarding 'ownership' of land in terms of topics we discussed. Who comes from where and who has rights to where is a somewhat fanciful thing given that we all came from somewhere else once. How far does one go back? Not far I think.

I have also wondered, having studied geology and paleontology at times, if instead of Africa, the origin of humanity was Australia .... we do have some of the oldest land on the planet. But I digress. It doesn't matter and is merely interesting. We share the world.
Take care.

dereklane
Posted Monday, September 21, 2009 - 16:59

"We share the world."

If that were true, Rosross, I would have no argument. I suspect, however, that you would, since you wouldn't have the lifestyle you seem to think has improved so greatly over the last hundred years. (Try dividing what you have with close to 2.5B people living in China and across the Indian subcontinent, who live, on average, on probably a hundredth of what you do. *That* would be sharing).

We don't share, *we* (westerners) take it, and then, when we give a little back to the victims of our theivery, rape and genocide, declare them ungrateful when they don't say thanks.

I'm glad Dazza's got a little dose of your imperialist thinking - he's now even less 'myopic' than he was before - and he often seems to be the only contributor here with a strong measure of clarity. If you're in mining, and haven't turned your back on it yet for humanity or environment, I'd say you're hopelessly compromised.

I'll leave it (and you) there.

Derek

rosross
Posted Monday, September 21, 2009 - 17:23

Derek,
'We share the world' is a comment made in context with the post. You have taken it out of context. In context, 'we share the world' means that none of us have any given rights to anywhere in essence, since, we probably all originated in the same place. To that end, all of the world, symbolically and spiritually 'belongs' to all of us. We are all custodians for the world as a whole.

Now, since you have taken my comment out of context and applied it elsewhere let's deal with that. The world may not be equally shared, it never was, but we all share space on this planet and have varying degrees, depending on our wealth, age, circumstance and freedom, of responsibility for this planet.

A world in which everyone has exactly the same as everyone else is neither possible nor advisable. A world where everyone has the chance to live a decent, secure life, is something to pursue. We are not all born equal and never will be but we can strive, as people have done for millenia, to look after those in need: the old, the young, the sick, the disabled, the poor. We in fact look after these people today, or rather, more of them, than ever before. One needs to only go back in history 50 years to see the truth of that.

You appear to have read little history. The rape and plunder of the planet was far, far worse in times past. It is worse in Third World countries today, particularly those which are not democratic, like China, and which are desperate to drag their people out of poverty. Do we have a right to deny them that? I don't think so.

You have fixed views and in those views, it seems, Westerners are evil and non-westerners are not; those who live in the First World are bad and those who live in the Third World are not. Having spent as I have said, close to one and a half decades living in the Third World I can assure you, I found as much thievery, rape, genocide and general cruelty there than in the First. Probably more in fact because such societies are suffering from illeracy, poverty and lack of development and that does not bring out the best of human nature. My first experience of the Third World was India and there, because of the caste system and the poverty, I encountered greater 'inhumanity to man'(particularly to women and children) than I had ever believed possible.

It is patronising, and 'racist' to believe that the poor are somehow kinder, better, wiser than the rich. They are no worse or better than the rest of us and trust me, they want what we have and I for one believe they should have it.

Which brings us to mining. Hatred of mining, like hatred of corporations, has become a form of religion. Surely moderation in all things is a mantra. Or do you advise that all mining of any kind anywhere on the earth stops and we would all be better off in a world without iron, steel, diamonds (crucial in high technology) .... all of those gifts of the earth which have taken people from mud huts, primitive medicine, no ships, cars, trains, boats (unless made from leaves and timber .... although perhaps we can't cut down trees either so no mud huts, you need branches for that.... no pottery (you have to dig the clay); no plastic (you need oil for that); nothing really, apart from whatever shelter can be scrabbled together from fallen branches and reeds, unless we find a cave, and no medical treatment except from herbs .... ooops, except we have to burn wood and carry water to turn those herbs into medicine!
Just exactly would your world be like where there is NO MINING?
More to the point, if you and some others like you decide to stop all mining, which army do you use to do so? Oh, but then you would need swords and arrows!!!
Surely, in a mature, sane world, we accept that mining is a necessity and we strive, as many have done, and continue to do, to ensure that when mining is carried out it is done with sensitivity to the environment, the population and the planet.

dereklane
Posted Monday, September 21, 2009 - 19:48

"A world in which everyone has exactly the same as everyone else is neither possible nor advisable."

Sorry, why not?

Derek

dereklane
Posted Monday, September 21, 2009 - 20:04

"Or do you advise that all mining of any kind anywhere on the earth stops and we would all be better off in a world without iron, steel, diamonds (crucial in high technology) …. all of those gifts of the earth which have taken people from mud huts, primitive medicine, no ships, cars, trains, boats (unless made from leaves and timber …. although perhaps we can’t cut down trees either so no mud huts, you need branches for that…. no pottery (you have to dig the clay); no plastic (you need oil for that); nothing really, apart from whatever shelter can be scrabbled together from fallen branches and reeds, unless we find a cave, and no medical treatment except from herbs …. ooops, except we have to burn wood and carry water to turn those herbs into medicine!
Just exactly would your world be like where there is NO MINING?"

Two things. The first is, I didn't say there should be no mining. But mining (in the modern, capitalist world) is infinitely destructive. It always has been, and always will be. The only thing that makes it easier to bear is good PR, which some fall for, but thankfully, many don't.

Secondly, what you've described (in your 'doomsaying' argument), interestingly, is a world much like the ones that many Aboriginal nations (inc in Australia) inhabited for eons. If you believe anthropologists, they didn't just live this way, they *thrived* this way - evidenced by strong statures, large physiques, and, well, health. There was also good social cohesion, something that in the west we've always struggled with and never managed.

It is a misconception to say that historically, we are better off with modern technology and medicine. We are not. We look two hundred years past (at our depths of ill-conceived bondage) and declare with confidence that the scale has been steadily rising since the birth of humanity. It is not only foolish to do it, it is profoundly ignorant. You need to plot a far longer graph than than to come to sane conclusions.

Firstly, your argument regarding population as a corollary to health, wealth and abundance. This is nonsense. If you take a look at the mathematics, you'll see that exponential growth has the illusion of small change for 9/10 of such growth (particularly when the degree is small). The explosion *always* happens at (as mathematicians are fond of saying) 1 minute to midnight.

It has naught to do with better healthcare or industrial farming. It has to do with mathematics, coupled with deprivation (biological imperative proves that populations grow faster, in terms of exponential growth, the higher the mortality rate). So the more we kill and deprive (courtesy of resource (or mining) wars), the faster the rate of growth.

Sorry to say, Ros, that towards the end of your argument, its turned from a compassionate one wholly to one of victors and victims. That has always been my argument from the outset. You can dress it up as 'responsible' or 'righteous' or enlightened, but when push comes to shove, the real argument surfaces:

(I quote you)
"if you and some others like you decide to stop all mining, which army do you use to do so? Oh, but then you would need swords and arrows!!!"

Exactly. Its not about good motive, responsible mining, etc, and never was. It is about who has the power. You answer my case for me.

It also is not about maturity. Maturity would involve admitting that our professed aims and our real aims are different, when we cater to establishment practise (like mining).

Good luck with those demons...

Derek

dereklane
Posted Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - 00:04

"You have fixed views and in those views, it seems, Westerners are evil and non-westerners are not; those who live in the First World are bad and those who live in the Third World are not."

This is what is called a 'straw man' argument. You need to pay closer attention to what is said, as opposed to what you wish were said.

cheers,

Derek

rosross
Posted Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - 11:59

Derek,
Just as you cannot be half pregnant you cannot 'half' mine. You agree there needs to be mining. I merely made the point it needs to be monitored, disciplined and regulated. Mining is not infinitely destructive or we would be destroyed. But you have your vision fixed and have every right to do so.

You said:If you believe anthropologists, they didn’t just live this way, they *thrived* this way - evidenced by strong statures, large physiques, and, well, health. There was also good social cohesion, something that in the west we’ve always struggled with and never managed.

Well, we have read different anthropologists. These nomadic societies did not thrive, they survived and they survived by allowing the old to die, the sick to be left behind, the second twin to be left to die and in times of drought, the old and weak to be sacrificed for the survival of the strong. That is all perfectly understandable. The reason they turned away from the nomadic life, which Aborigines continued to practice because there were few of them on a great deal of land, was because establishing settlements which then became towns and then cities, made sense.

As soon as the nomads settled down their needs changed and so did their circumstances and thence began what we would call mining.

You do not believe the West has social cohesion. How is it then that everything works more efficiently and harmoniously in the West? Sit down with a group of Aboriginal elders, a group of Indian or African women or men, any group in the Third World and tell me how cohesive they are and how easy it is to reach any sort of agreement. It isn't because they are divided by tribe, family, religion, colour, sex and all of the sorts of things which used to divide the West, the modern world, before it developed.

The 'cohesion' in Indian and African society comes from a lack of choice. That is partly the patriarchal and tribal nature of those societies but it is also religion and it is also poverty. Indians keep old family members with them. Why? Because they have no choice. In all my years living there I heard countless women (because all the work falls to the women) say how much they hated living with their in-laws. The Indian newspapers, which are in fact quite open and honest, are awash with the mistreatment of the elderly in India. Let's forget about the barbaric treatment of women where baby girls are still aborted and murdered; young women drenched in kerosene and burned and women beaten and raped constantly by a society which believes women are evil.

It is things like mining which drags these people out of poverty and as far as I am concerned, it is worth it, despite the clear and present negatives which we have seen in the past and continue to see to a lesser degree today.

And you misquote and misinterpret. When I said:
"if you and some others like you decide to stop all mining, which army do you use to do so? Oh, but then you would need swords and arrows!!!"

You interpret it as support for power to make mining so much more evil.

My point was, if you decide to stop all mining how do you do it? If as you say, you support some mining how do you choose and how do you stop people from mining? You cannot because you cannot control the world. The only way people have controlled the world is through armies. Your approach to mining therefore would create a power-play which would (sadly) only be resolved through power and violence.

My approach to mining, which is to regulate, discipline, moderate and call to account does not lead to power and violence. It supports the status quo but demands that governments become involved in how mining is done.

You did not answer my questions as to when you last lived in Australia and whether or not you had ever been to Africa, India or anywhere in the Third World. Whether or not you have actually been to a mine!

But I wish you well. Wherever you are at you are true to your cause and I respect that. We can agree to disagree.

dereklane
Posted Tuesday, September 22, 2009 - 20:29

"These nomadic societies did not thrive, they survived and they survived by allowing the old to die, the sick to be left behind, the second twin to be left to die and in times of drought, the old and weak to be sacrificed for the survival of the strong."

I t might be perfectly understandable, but its a windshuttle-esque interpretation. I've read observations dating back to the 19th century that show (with the shock of disbelief) the reverse custom, that is, completely *unlike* western culture, which does exactly that. At least in the nations and cultures I read about, *none* were left behind. It is possible that customs varied greatly between different nations of Aborigines in Australia, but one of the key elements to such arguments, that I've seen, is that people who generally extol the baseless accusations like those you've voiced are willing to forget that an Aboriginal nation in a part of South Australia is about as similiar to one in North QLD as the English are to the Greeks. It seems many people are happy to homogenise Aboriginal culture all into one, find the worst traits you can dig up (true or false) and then apply liberally to the whole bundle.

It would seem you prefer to read things which fit your attitudes.

"How is it then that everything works more efficiently and harmoniously in the West? Sit down with a group of Aboriginal elders, a group of Indian or African women or men, any group in the Third World and tell me how cohesive they are and how easy it is to reach any sort of agreement."

Social cohesion, Rosross, is cohesion socially, not hierarchically, in terms of power play. The west is great at building power hierarchy, which makes for easy decision making. Oligarchic rule works a hell of a lot more efficiently than democratic rule, which is what the west runs by. But that is not in a social context, not at all.

The very fact that Aboriginal elders thresh out a problem by talking and shouting, and sometimes coming to no decisions at all shows that hierarchy is less important than wisdom, and the final rule of a superior is far more unlikely in a socially cohesive, but far less hierarchical culture. The fact you have trouble grasping this concept shows exactly how far from socially interactive and respectful society westerners really are. We have very little concept of real democracy, or real place (in terms of what niche we occupy in any remnant social groups we maintain) we have. Most anthropologists appear to agree that Aboriginal culture had (and has) a high degree of social cohesion - part of that was being aware of your position in that culture, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses we all have. In the west, we've been conditioned into seeing those things as negatives, as though we're all naturally the best at everything. In reality, what it does is puts people good at gaining power in statesman/women positions, when people better fitting such roles lose out. It is, in the west, a power play, not a socially cohesive one.

Many pyschologists (Fromm is one prominent one) and counsellors agree that in the west, we have vast gaps of social cohesion, which is evidenced by a very high degree (comparatively) of mental illness. If noone knows where they fit, only the greedy and rapacious find their place (because the grab of resource and territory and hierarchical positioning works in that sense). The rest tend to suffer.

These are not surprising or contestable points, except where you prefer to ignore the evidence.

I didn't see your question. I lived in Australia right up until I left about 8 years ago. I've been back twice since. I'm not sure the relevance of the question, aside from for you to fall back on the old 'You don't know how it really is here' line that seems to spill from mouths so often when the challenge of racism or colonialism is proferred. Those things, however, look the same no matter the setting, they're just harder to spot when you're in the thick of it.

As to mines, I've visited several. One of them occupies part of the land I grew up on, so I have had a strong interest in viewing the landscape there before and after. That land is poisoned and dead now, as are the many others (mostly north and central QLD, coal) that I spent time at. My father, and most of his friends (so friends of family) were in the mining industry for a number of years.

I've been to Africa, and I've seen the condos of the rich white and the shanty towns of the poor blacks. I haven't been to India, but I have a few Indian friends, and Bangladeshi friends. I've visited a few remote Aboriginal communities in QLD. I grew up in the bush in Australia, and have family dotted around the state of QLD. Often, their perspective of things is similiar to yours. In many cases, the colonialism is far more rampant.

But ros, even if I hadn't, what I could *read* about these things would be more than enough for me to see the picture you cannot see. Moreso, because my judgement would not be clouded by attempts to rationalise the greed of the west by the knowledge that my own friends and family (and me) have contributed to that.

The argument that because you haven't seen it you don't understand it is, in my experience, the last ditch attempt of many imperialists to justify their positions. Its as hollow an argument as the many straw men you've thrown up during the course of this argument (the latest being that one can't half mine, as though that were my suggestion). Of course, if this isn't your argument, then I won't attribute it to you.

Derek

rosross
Posted Wednesday, September 23, 2009 - 12:25

dereklane,

I have no doubt you have read other versions of the lifestyles of primitive cultures. Across the spectrum one always finds diversity. However, most of the archeological and anthropological evidence for these societies, including European because we all began in exactly the same place, reveals the sort of life reflected as I have suggested rather than what you have suggested. No doubt there were exceptions but humanity grew beyond the lifestyle because of its limitations and hardship.

There is no aspect of Aboriginal life and culture as it was when the country was colonised which could not be found in European life and culture at the same stage of development.

As to diversity in Aboriginal culture, no-one would deny that. It is not the point. The point is that the traditional way of life has no place in a modern world. Just as the Greek immigrant, and I know, I had one, who came to Australia as a peasant fisherman had to change the way he lived and had to watch his children change even more, not to mention his grandchildren, so that they could become a part of the modern world, far, far removed from his cultural roots, beliefs and attitudes, so must Aborigines and any indigenous peoples. Those who do not are doomed to the sort of lives we see in indigenous communities throughout the world. Australia, Canada, the US and New Zealand have the same stories to tell and that suggests they are all getting it wrong. Sad as you may find it, the most successfull (as in least dysfunctional) indigenous communities in North America are the ones that run casinos. they maintain their community but not traditionally. They cannot. They make money out of the modern world and use it to educate their children and maintain their community.

The only reason I argue that indigenous communities must leave most of their traditional ways behind is because it is the only way for these people to have a future. Just as it was the only way that our ancestors could have a future.

You said:Social cohesion, Rosross, is cohesion socially, not hierarchically, in terms of power play.

Are you seriously suggesting there is no power play or hierarchy in Aboriginal communities? It is all about power play, but between men and women, 'blood' family and tribes. The hierarchy is not only entrenched it is sexist. The reason why it is so hard to reach agreement is not because it is democratic but because it is the opposite. If it were democratic then a group of Aboriginal people in a community living on land where someone wants to mine would all have equal rights in terms of saying what they think and what they need. They most certainly do not have equal rights or equal opportunities. A few Elders do the talking. That is not democratic. That is tribal and that is the way that all of the world once worked until it developed.

If oligarchic rule works so well, why is it that so many Aboriginal projects fail miserably? They have the power to run things for themselves and usually they fail. It is not because they are less able, less intelligent or less mature but because their societies are hampered by rules of behavior relating to sex, age, 'blood' and tribe.

You said:The very fact that Aboriginal elders thresh out a problem by talking and shouting, and sometimes coming to no decisions at all shows that hierarchy is less important than wisdom, and the final rule of a superior is far more unlikely in a socially cohesive, but far less hierarchical culture.

Okay, then show the ratio of successful Aboriginal projects, where clearly then can make decisions as they wish, compared to the ratio of failed projects. The proof has to be in the pudding.

You said:Most anthropologists appear to agree that Aboriginal culture had (and has) a high degree of social cohesion - part of that was being aware of your position in that culture, and understanding the strengths and weaknesses we all have.

It depends on the anthropologist. No culture has social cohesion when there is dysfunction. When one is 'aware' of one's position in a culture one is not free. Women and children in Australia 50-100 years ago were very aware of their position in culture and children were abused and women were too and many women went mad because of it. Any concept that one is 'aware' of position in a culture is utterly discriminatory and has no place in a modern world.

I thank god that unlike my ancestors I am most definitely not aware of my position in any culture and neither are my children and grandchildren.

The best people may not succeed in the West but neither do they succeed in less developed societies. Aboriginal familial powerplays and dynamics are well known. You find the same thing in India and Africa along with bribery and corruption. And why do you find such things... because any culture which is based upon 'position' or tribe, or family, or community, or any such definition, is not open and is not free and is therefore more likely to be corrupted.

You said: Many pyschologists (Fromm is one prominent one) and counsellors agree that in the west, we have vast gaps of social cohesion, which is evidenced by a very high degree (comparatively) of mental illness.

Is there more mental illness or is it just admitted? In many less developed societies the mentally ill are hidden away or their condition is denied. Just as it was in our society in the past.

Why do people have to have a place to fit? I have no need to fit anywhere. I am myself and I live in my world to the best of my ability. I don't want to fit anywhere. Except in myself.

Thankyou for the explanations in regard to your exposure to Australia, mining and Aboriginal communities. And clearly you read a great deal. There is no doubt that we all speak from our own perspective and we all 'see' the world through our own eyes. My 'eyes' see things which yours do not and vice-versa. In truth, most of life is grey and across the spectrum both of us are partially right.

You said:(the latest being that one can’t half mine, as though that were my suggestion). Of course, if this isn’t your argument, then I won’t attribute it to you.

I did not claim it was your suggestion. I made the comment because you seemed to suggest no mining and then you said there could be some mining but it seems to me that is like being 'half pregnant,' you either are or you are not. If you allow mining then how do you decide who does it and how much is done? You cannot. If you allow mining (and in fact no-one could stop it so it is a given) then you allow all mining. The best you can do is work to ensure that governments across the world monitor, discipline and legislate to ensure best practice.

Mining is as natural as food production. We need such things. We just need to be responsible, on both counts, as to how it is done.

dereklane
Posted Thursday, September 24, 2009 - 08:39

"The point is that the traditional way of life has no place in a modern world."

What rubbish, and how insultingly colonial! If we don't start paying some serious attention to traditional ways of life, Rosross, we won't have any kind of lifestyles, not even in the pampered parts of the west.

And, despite the fact you won't believe global warming is a reality until (maybe not even then) it hits you, personally, in the face, Australia has other concurrent problems, caused directly by 'modern' living. The murray darling system is dying, and with it, the eastern chunk of Oz. That wasn't caused by traditional lifestyles, nor will it be fixed by the 'more' culture of modern western lifestyles (fixed in large part on capitalist grab, which reduces the rights of many while it increases the benefit to few - that's your 'better life' you keep referring to). It has a remote chance of being fixed if we start to pay some serious attention to the land we (you) live in, not, primarily, from the perspective of what we can get out of it, but how we can best preserve it for more than 1 or 2 extra generations, and the traditional custodians still have some of the best means of looking after it.

I say that from personal experience, by the way; following western (European) methods of farming leads quickly to erosion and salination, following pointers based on Aboriginal methods (not specifically farming, but definitely land preservation) makes for healthy land for indeterminate periods of time. If we draw on other indigenous methods from around the world, we find the crop yields increase as they *give* to the soil, rather than *take* from it. Traditional methods, as NPK fertilisers escalate in prices (even as they continue to destroy the soil biodiversity) are the way of the future, not the past. The ignorance that rejects this is the ignorance of people not regularly sticking their fists into the soil and traversing the land itself. Its also the ignorance of people not well read on sustainable land management.

"Mining is as natural as food production. We need such things."

No, we need food . Mining is one means of achieving that, but there are plenty of other which reduce drastically that need, or remove it entirely (in terms of *commercial* mining). Evidence of this is the various indigenous cultures around the world which have tackled the issues of food gathering in vastly different ways, all effective, but some more prone to longevity than others. Our way, our 'modern' way is fast proving to be the least capable of longevity. I suggest you read up on it, and the various crises facing modern farming and its techniques.

Other than that, I won't convince you of the inherent flaws of your colonial (and deeply offensive) position, so I'll leave it there. What it shows me is that education is no substitute for wisdom and compassion (the subject of another post of yours, on Aborigines and education. For the record, state education is not, so far as I know, compulsory, but home schooling requirements must be satisfied. The regulations on that are, or were, an entirely different kettle of fish).

I won't be reading this thread again, so feel free to write on this thread, but it will be for the benefit (?) of others, rather than me.

Derek

rosross
Posted Thursday, September 24, 2009 - 17:29

Derek,
Thankyou for your reply. It's okay to agree to disagree. The greatest likelihood is that we are both partly right or at least right, some of the time.
I am sorry you are offended but the reality is we all see the world in different ways and it is better to not take a differing opinion personally. You attribute a variety of motives and categorisations to comments with which you disagree and that is hardly fair. When I used the term traditional I meant nomadic and nomadic lives in the traditional sense, have no place in the modern world. And that is simply because it is impossible to live them in any true way. Modern medicine, the Flying Doctor, modern communication all make the traditional Aboriginal way of life impossible. You may not like the reality but it is a reality all the same. Life is change, constant and irrevocable. The trick is to try to ensure that the change is as least painful as possible and that is not always easy.
Take care.

tobeornot
Posted Friday, October 2, 2009 - 18:28

Thank you for this lively debate. It is true you both see partly eye to eye and you both care a great deal in your own ways but there is no black or white. I wish we had a few more people as informed/ passionate and actively participating to create a fair life for all, no matter where, as you are. One point I would like to mention is;Why is there not an independent body in place to monitor exploration and mining companies and impose the loss of license to mine if corporations or companies are not upholding and committed to rehabilitation and environmental/social responsibility.
This body (non governmental, though in consultation with local and Australian Gov)
acts like a green policing group which reports on monthly or weekly basis to the community where the mining is taking place and the community reports to the subsequent Governments. In Africa the current Government is not trust worthy enough to display honest transparency to the community, there fore a triangle situation would make it more difficult to mislead the people to whom the land belongs. I also liked the idea of imposing how the community should spend the money made through mining. At least partially and with community consultation.
Health, Solar panels and other forms renewable energy, schools and trained teachers with programs such as permaculture/ musical/arts education and sports events between different religious groups are all ways to over come some of the many layers of difficulty the third world communities face in todays world and the relationship we seek to have with them.