August 22, 2007

Poverty is not Charming

John Fund writes of the efforts of wealthy activist busybodies like billionaire George Soros and Vanessa Redgrave to dictate to impoverished Romanians how they ought to live.

Tonight, PBS will air "Gold Futures," a film by Hungary's Tibor Kocsis. The film focuses on residents in Romania's Rosia Montana, a rural Transylvanian town, who are divided over the benefits of a proposed gold mine. It also features Gabriel Resources, the Canadian mining company trying to convince them to relocate so it can dig for a huge gold deposit estimated at 14.6 million ounces, worth almost $10 billion. PBS describes the film as a "David-and-Goliath story."

While the film gives time to supporters and opponents of the mine, it leaves unsaid that half of the villagers voicing opposition have now either sold their homes or will not have to move, because they live in a protected area where the village's historic structures and churches will be preserved. Viewers who see pristine shots of the Rosia valley won't realize the hills hide a huge, abandoned communist-era mine, leaking toxic heavy metals into local streams--or that while the modern mining project will level four hills to create an open pit, it will also clean up the old mess at no cost to the Romanian treasury.

The other side to the controversy is told in a new film that will never be shown on PBS, but is nonetheless rattling the environmental community. "Mine Your Own Business" is a documentary by Irish filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney. They conclude that the biggest threat to the people of Rosia Montana "comes from upper-class Western environmentalism that seeks to keep them poor and unable to clean up the horrific pollution caused by Ceausescu's mining."

75% of the people of Rosia Montana lack indoor plumbing, and unemployment there is 70%. Rich environmental activists, who will presumably be parked on a flush toilet next time they have to go, think this lifestyle is quaint, and mustn't be sullied with things like factories or jobs, much less anything so blatantly (and symbolically) materialistic as a gold mine.

The environmental arguments for opposing the mine seem weak. I can't help but wonder if Soros has personal financial motives. Does he have holdings in gold? What would productive new mines coming on stream do to prices? Yes, he's an ideologue and a committed socialist. We're well aware of the billionaire's distaste for free market capitalism. He's got his, after all. And he obviously has some guilt issues. Great wealth, it seems, has made George Soros miserable. And now, like other guilt-ridden rich outsiders, he's on a mission. This time the goal is to put the people of Rosia Montana out of his misery.

When asked by an interviewer about the abject poverty that can only be addressed by economic development, one of the "activists" in the trailer for "Mine Your Own Business" asked in reply...

"How do we perceive what is rich and what is poor, who is rich and who is poor?"

Sounds like twaddle from a man without a coherent answer to the question, first of all. And spoken like a well-to-do Westerner who's never been hungry a day in his life, or shit in an outhouse, but has been convinced that mining gold is "raping the planet", and that by injecting himself into the business affairs of a foreign country, and impeding a small town's path to economic growth, he is righteous. The human costs be damned. They're worth paying when you're saving the world. People are the problem. Omelettes...eggs, you know.

Their anti-capitalist agenda is transparent, even as it is draped in environmentalist garb. By trying to prevent the showing of the film "Mine Your Own Business", they acknowledge that their argument amounts to yelling "Shut up!"

And these people have the crust to rail about their political opponents "imposing their values" on others.

Posted by dan at August 22, 2007 9:07 PM