The evening of Friday, January 19th found The Stiletto at the Directors Guild Theater in Manhattan for a screening of Mine Your Own Business, a 2006 documentary that reveals “the dark side of environmentalism.” The film takes on Western environmental activists who parachute into developing nations to orchestrate well-funded campaigns against mining companies that want to renovate obsolete mines, provide desperately needed jobs and improve the roads, housing and water supply for the local populace. The environmentalists get quoted in the MSM, and this documentary is meant to give the impoverished people who would have benefited from the mining projects equal time. You can watch the trailer here.
Phelim McAleer, formerly the Romania/Bulgaria correspondent for the Financial Times, wrote “Mine Your Own Business.” He and his wife, journalist, broadcaster and producer Ann McElhinney, co-directed and co-produced the documentary.
Spoiler alert: This film is being screened at college campuses and other venues nationwide. If you plan to attend a screening or to purchase the DVD and don’t want to know any details† ahead of time, stop reading now.
The story begins in Rosia Montana, a bleak town of just 600 in Transylvania where most of the homes lack indoor plumbing. The area is rich in gold, which had been mined since the Roman era. The European Union has demanded that Romania shutter its obsolete, polluting and money losing state-run mines as a condition for accession, leaving most of the working-age residents of Rosia Montana jobless. Canadian mining company Gabriel Resources wants to build a state-of-the-art, environmentally sound gold mine - and to clean up the toxic waste still pouring from the old, Communist-era mine. Environmentalists want to preserve the “quaintness” of the town.
Belgian environmental activist Francoise Heidebroek, who lives in the prosperous, cosmopolitan city of Bucharest, describes Rosia Montana as a bucolic paradise: “Everybody has animals in his backyard. It is part of the charm of Rosia Montana and this life style. You know people will use their horse cart instead of using a car. They are proud to have a horse.”
The townsfolk are incredulous. One man asks: “How can we feed the horse?” another takes umbrage: “It’s a very old fashioned concept. We are human beings and we need to develop.”
Early on, McAleer encounters George, a 23 year old unemployed miner, who shows him around town - and who eventually becomes his stalwart travel companion to check out organized environmental opposition to other mining projects in Madagascar and in Chile.
They head to Fort Dauphin, an impoverished fishing village, in southern Madagascar - the fourth poorest country in the world, but fortunate enough to have sand rich in ilmunite, a pigment used in paint and paper. British mining company Rio Tinto has been battling environmentalists for 15 years to develop a $6 million mine that will create 2,000 badly needed jobs. The company also plans to build a new port and upgrade the roads so that it is easier to ship foodstuffs and other staples to Fort Dauphin - making such items more affordable for the locals who earn $100 a month on average.
McAleer and George meet up with Mark Fenn, Madagascar’s representative of the World Wide Fund for Nature, who has long been trying to stop the mining project. George points out that the people are very poor and would welcome steady jobs. Fenn, who keeps a $35,000 luxury catamaran on the island counters:
“How do we perceive what is rich and what is poor? … if I could put you with a family and you count how many times in a day that that family smiles … and I put you with a family well off or in New York or London and you count how many times people smile … then you tell me who is rich and who is poor.”
George couldn’t believe that Fenn was explaining poverty to him. But hypocrisy soon gives way to rank racism. As Fenn tells it:
“[I]f somebody finds a sapphire and gets like 20 million or two million ariari for that sapphire … they’ll buy cases of beer invite their friends they’ll throw a party, they’ll just buy their stereo, they’ll buy their jeans. Three, four days the money’s gone. In Madagascar the indicators of quality of life are not housing … It’s not education. A lot of children in Fort Dauphin do not go to school, because the parents don’t consider that to be important.”
One parent, Georgine Bekely, flatly contradicts this ridiculous statement: “We do not have enough money and we have not been able to afford to send some of the children to school. And I would like them to become midwives, doctors or engineers.”
Global environmentalists seek to discredit this work by pointing out that McAleer received financing from Gabriel Resources – funny how lefties do not make an issue of where Michael Moore’s funding comes from. McAleer tells The Stiletto that:
“’Mine Your Own Business’ is the first documentary we have made where the funders have had no control over the content. It is in fact the most independent documentary we have ever made. All our previous documentaries have been funded by national broadcasters - for example BBC, CBC in Canada and RTE in Ireland. In all these cases the commissioning editors interfered and changed the documentary from what we wanted to put out.”
McAleer explains that at the start of the project, Gabriel Resources financial backing accounted for 80 percent of the film’s budget; the Moving Picture Institute, a non- profit “dedicated to advancing liberty through the medium of film,” kicked in the rest. But MPI is assuming all the costs associated with promoting the film, which means that over time its share of the financing will increase and the mining company’s share will decrease.
The bottom line: “No one has ever credibly challenged the journalism contained in ‘Mine Your Own Business,’” says McAleer.
† McAleer andMcElhinney kindly provided The Stiletto with a copy of the script so she wouldn’t have to rely completely on her memory when quoting dialogue.
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