Posts Tagged ‘mining’

every thing you own was made by human hands

January 4, 2011

Or at least parts of it were and then they were assembled, packaged, transported, and sold by humans. And every thing you (and I) have in your possession required energy – extracted and refined fossil fuels which require energy – to extract, manufacture, and transport it. Likely, part if not all of these things were made in China. And likely, part if not all of these things will end up back in China in the form of waste to be taken apart by human hands. And the ships that transported them to and from their new home and eventual grave were made in China by humans. And those ships go to die in Bangladesh where they are disassembled by human hands (and often by barefoot men between the ages of 18 and twenty something).

This monotonously unfolding chain of events is the subject of the documentary Manufactured Landscapes, which I finally just watched (it had been on my list for a couple of years). It may sound boring, but it is visually stunning and truly eye-opening. With minimal dialogue, the film shows us the work of Edward Burtynsky who has been photographing landscapes since the 80s. In a sense, the film is a culmination of his work as he delved deeper from extraction of earth materials all the way to the end of the line for the products and ships created with them. Of course, through this culmination we see the real impact of these activities.

The film sure got the wheels in my brain turning about this world we’ve manufactured. We’ve not only physically changed the way the landscape looks, we’ve changed the quality of the air, water, and soil. It’s the type of film that motivates me to reconnect with nature, to stop supporting a destructive economy, and to keep talking about what we need to do to move humankind in a more positive direction. I hope you’ll get a chance to check it out.

In the meantime, here is Edward Burtynsky’s TED talk about the film and the trailer.

When will demand for virgin resources be exhausted?

February 19, 2010

This post can also be seen on Greenopolis.

Aluminum seems like a fairly innocuous and ubiquitous material. It has many applications: foil for wrapping food, take-out containers, soda cans, electronics components, appliances, cooking wares, car parts. It’s all around us. But how many of us stop to think about where metals like this are coming from?

The great thing about aluminum is that it is considerably easy to recycle, it uses less energy and is extremely less polluting than creating virgin aluminum. Plus recycling it is cheaper than extracting bauxite ore (the base for aluminum). So why are we still creating virgin aluminum? And at what cost?

Virgin materials for making metals like aluminum are often found right in the middle of someone’s homeland, their source of health, wealth, and livelihood. The extraction of these materials requires the removal of people from their land.

The Dongria Kondh people of Niyamgiri mountain in India know what will come of them if a British mining company gets their way. Vedanta Resources wants to mine bauxite ore for making aluminum from their sacred land. But the Dongria Kondh will not have any of this. They’ve seen the destruction that has ensued on neighboring villages from Vedanta’s refinery. The naturally abundant water that comes from mountain streams is used not so much for drinking, but to keep the refinery processes running. Giant toxic slurry pits are a blunt forboding of what could come of Niyamgiri mountain.

The type of mining that would occur on the mountain would involve open pit mines that would eventually completely destroy the mountain. Here’s an example of an exhausted open pit bauxite mine in Kosovo:

This short film gives us a small hint of what would be lost if the mine operation goes forward. After watching the film visit Survival International’s website. They’re the only international organization supporting tribal peoples worldwide.

Watch:

There are a few small actions you can take to prevent the destruction of people, cultures, and land.

Buy less: Simply keeping the things you have longer rather than buying new will help keep virgin resources from being extracted.

Buy used: Used cars, used appliances, used cooking ware – you get the idea.

Buy recycled: Support brands like If You Care, who make 100% recycled aluminum foil.

Close the loop, recycle: One of the reasons why the US is not a global leader in aluminum recycling is because its citizens are not recycling. Be sure to sort out your aluminum goods from your other trash, regardless of whether you’re at home, at work, at a picnic, on vacation, or on the road.

Post inspired by this one at Elephant Journal.

Photo sources:

  1. Wikipedia
  2. Survival International
  3. Independent Commission for Mines and Minerals

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