"People here have no jobs," Mark Fenn admitted, after taking documentary producers on a tour of his $35,000 catamaran and the site of his new coastal home. "But if you could count how many times they smile in a day, if you could measure stress" and compare that with "well-off people" in London or New York, "then tell me, who is rich and who is poor?"
Fenn is coordinator of the World Wildlife Fund's campaign against a proposed mining project near Fort Dauphin, Madagascar. The locals strongly support the project and want the jobs, development, improved living standards and environmental quality the state-of-the-art operation will bring.
People there live in abject poverty, along dirt roads, in dirt-floor shacks, and are hardly able to afford food on their $1,000-a-year average incomes. There is little power, no indoor plumbing. The local rain forest has been destroyed for firewood and slash-and-burn farming. People barely eke out a living.
But Fenn claims the mine will change the "quaint" village and harm the environment. He says he feels "like a resident," his children "were born and raised" there, and the locals "don't consider education to be important" and would just spend their money on parties, jeans and stereos.
Actually, Fenn lives 300 miles away and sends his children to school in South Africa. And the locals hardly conform to his insulting stereotypes. "If I had money, I would open a grocery store," said one. "Send my children to school," start a business, become a midwife, build a new house, said others....
These enemies of the poor say they are "stakeholders" wishing to "preserve" indigenous people and villages. They never consider what's wanted by the real stakeholders — those who live in these communities and must endure the consequences of harmful campaigns waged all over the world.
The WWF, Greenpeace, Oxfam, Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network and other multinational activist groups battle mines in Romania, Peru, Chile, Ghana and Indonesia; electricity projects in Uganda, India and Nepal; biotechnology that could improve farm incomes and reduce malnutrition in Kenya, India, Brazil and the Philippines; and DDT that could slash malaria rates in Africa, where the disease kills 3,000 children a day.
They harp on technology's speculative hazards and ignore real, life-or-death dangers that modern mining, development and technology would reduce or prevent. They never mention the jobs, clinics, schools, roads, improved housing and small business opportunities — or the electricity, refrigeration, safe water, better nutrition, reduced disease and fewer dead children.
They pervert "sustainable development" to mean no development, and ignore how mines will lay the foundation that will sustain prosperity and better living standards for generations.
Agitators use global warming and "corporate social responsibility" to force companies to acquiesce to their agendas — and ignore human rights to energy and technology, and people's desperate cries for a chance to take their rightful places among the Earth's healthy and prosperous people.
They extol the virtues of microcredit, to support minimal family enterprises, and demand debt forgiveness and more foreign aid for corrupt dictators — but oppose economic development that would eliminate the need for international welfare. They blame Newmont Mining for accidents that killed five people over a two-year period in Ghana, but refuse to admit that their pressure campaigns cause millions of deaths every year. ...