NI 475 - Gold trouble - September, 2014

NI 475 - September, 2014

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Gold trouble

A note from the editor

Richard Swift

Bling is not in

Call me old school but I’ve never liked the new and the shiny.

Not for me glitz and bling, whether it’s jewellery or luminous leather. The whole world of bright surfaces feels superficial and deluding.

So I guess I was a natural to be editor of an issue on the price we pay for our obsession with gold.

Don’t get me wrong: people should be free to like what they like. But in these days of ecological crisis the consequences of extraction and end use of everything we consume needs to become part of the equation. This issue raises questions at both the production and consumption stage of gold.

Since almost the dawn of Homo sapiens’ history we have been drawn to the yellow metal. As a sign I once saw in downtown Manhattan proudly proclaimed, ‘Enough is never enough’. But if it’s in the DNA of some to rush about on lucrative treasure hunts, why not search for something more benign and sustainable like wild mushrooms or berries? Both are tasty and will grow back – and you can make a tidy sum out of selling mushrooms. The search for and the hoarding of gold is just too destructive of the environment and disruptive of convivial human society. Which is why this edition makes the case for ending the gold rush entirely.

The struggle to preserve the sanctity of the environment is highlighted in our story from New Zealand/Aotearoa on the granting of legal status to a river. Meanwhile, the not so charitable side of Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity order in India is questioned in a first-hand account.

Richard Swift for the New Internationalist co-operative.

The big story

Hey, big spender! China’s first gold vending machine – it dispenses coins and bars – landed in busy Wangfujing Street, Beijing, in 2011. Each withdrawal is capped at a million yuan (about US$162,000) worth of gold.  Imagechina/Corbis

Hey, big spender! China’s first gold vending machine – it dispenses coins and bars – landed in busy Wangfujing Street, Beijing, in 2011. Each withdrawal is capped at a million yuan (about US$162,000) worth of gold.


Stop the gold rush

Richard Swift argues that our appetite for the shiny metal is both pointless and dangerous.

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Gold production in tonnes, 2011 1

Gold - the facts

Where does it come from? Who buys it? What do they do with it? What do they do with it? And the impacts of it.

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Community activist Rosa Sara HuamánPhoto by Roxana Olivera

Churning up the cloud forest

Roxana Olivera on a Peruvian community's struggles to defend its rights against a mining corporation's dirty tricks.

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Sleep soft: a memorial for baby Andini, who died after suffering an extensive skin rash, in Buyat Bay, Indonesia. Locals accuse the Newmont gold&mining corporation of contaminating the bay with heavy metals. Many children have been born with birth defects here.Earthworks

The myth of ethical gold

Certification schemes notwithstanding, clean gold is a bit of a scam, says Stephanie Boyd.

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Dazzle or bust: a billboard model for a jewellery shop advertises the buckling-under-gold bridal look aimed for the status conscious, while the street market outside bustles with more humdrum wares, in Chennai, India.Randy Olson/©National Geographic Image Collection /Alamy

A tale of two Indias

How sinking cash into gold is rocking the country's economy and deepening the wealth divide, by Jaideep Hardikar.

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Precious blue: water is a treasured resource, but under threat from proposed mining, in the author’s northern Californian community.Jane Theobald

View from the ridge

Jewellery designer Jane Theobald's meditation on the true price of the shiny stuff.

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Dominic Bugatto

Bunker economics

Phillip Pilkington on the delusion of worshipping the gold standard.

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No friend of the poor? Mother Teresa once said they should ‘accept their lot’.AP Photo/Bikas Das

How Mother Teresa is torturing Kolkata

S Bedford exposes horrific negligence at a Missionaries of Charity centre in India – and asks when the order will be brought to book.

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Ko au te awa kote awa ko au.
I am the river, and the river is me.Maori proverb

An indivisible and living whole, from the mountains to the sea

A New Zealand river has been granted unprecedented legal rights after a century of Maori pressure. Jen Wilton reports.

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YES: Adam Ramsay is co-editor of OurKingdom, the UK section of openDemocracy, and author of the forthcoming ebook 42 reasons to support Scottish independence. Before this, he worked for student activist network People & Planet.

Would Scottish independence be good for radical politics?

Writer and activist Adam Ramsay and professor and author Jim Gallagher go head to head.

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Illustration: Sarah John

Time stops in Obo

Traumatized by the ravages of a violent militia, a town is still holding its breath. Ruby Diamonde visits.

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Open Window: Pavel Constantin

Pavel Constantin from Romania with ‘Virtual World’.

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Country profile: Mauritania

Facts, figures and photos from Mauritania.

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Photo: Courtesy of the Goldman Environmental Prize

Making Waves: Desmond D'Sa

The South African environmental justice crusader has taken on the industrial giants despoiling his community. He tells Veronique Mistiaen of the strength of a people united behind a cause.

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‘This image, while deeply disturbing, is also hauntingly beautiful. An embrace in death, its tenderness rises above the rubble to touch us where we are most vulnerable. By making it personal, it refuses to let go. This is a photograph that will torment us in our dreams. Quietly it tells us: never again.’ Taslima Akhter, a former student and current teacher at Pathshala. A labour activist, Taslima has been involved with the garments movement for many years.Taslima Akhter/Drik

Southern Exposure Special: Telling our own stories

Twenty-five years ago, the founders of Drik photo agency had a vision: ‘to bring positive change through the professional and effective use of multimedia communication’. As they celebrate their quarter-century, Shahidul Alam recalls the early days, and offers some iconic photographs from their files.

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Photo by Giles Smith

And finally... Josie Long

The comedian and activist has no time for monarchs, politicians or estate agents. But, as she tells Jo Lateu, positive people get her heart racing.

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Film, Book & Music Reviews

Mixed media: film

Mixed media: film

Mystery Road, directed by Ivan Sen; Two Days, One Night, directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

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Mixed media: Music

Mixed media: Music

Bloody Rain by Sarah-Jane Morris; The Island of Dr Electrico by The Bombay Royale.

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Mixed media: Books

Mixed media: Books

S Street Rising by Ruben Castaneda; Nowhere People by Paulo Scott; How to be Alone by Sara Maitland; Adventures in the Anthropocene by Gaia Vince.

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