Getting Back to the "Rare" Earth
Some members of TZM might think that the most important substance currently being extracted from and polluting the earth is oil, as corporations such as BP and Conoco Philips have various operations and drilling sites across the globe and will rally to send troops or other methods of persuasion to keep that drilling from expiring. But maybe we all need to take a closer look at other substances that demand extraction for products consumers find so popular and never think of where-from those substances come out of and how.
For instance, the next time you or someone you know is considering buying that very inexpensive flat screen monitor from that discount website or superstore, you should consider that the cobalt used in the creation of that product comes from Africa, and that the mining of that substance can sometimes, if not always, involves child labor at incredible risks. It is mined from under water, and divers, mostly underage divers, have to go down and get it, leaving them at risk of possibly drowning. Of course they are children, working for a very large corporation, and yet do not receive much in way of payment and benefits. You may have seen the reports about the Chilean minors that were trapped underground in a gold mine for some 70 days. They also do not have union paychecks and readily available health benefits. It took these miners to have a life threatening incident to get any acknowledgment from any one us.
Recently, it was reported that China blocked all rare earth metals from it's list of exports. This concerned everyone, especially the United States and Japan. While you may have been busy chatting on your new Android phone or waiting for an e-mail on your flat panel wide screen or watching the newest YouTube video, you may not have even noticed that replacing that product could get very sticky with just that one statement from China. China holds all of the rights to these rare earth metals that are used to produce cell phones and many of the electronics you buy, and if they so chose, China could stop production of these products, flat out. But, they won't as they have assured the U.S. Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton and Japan in a recent phone conversation. Because the U.S. is a large purchaser of those rare metals for the manufacturing of their popular models of cell phones and Japan is also a huge manufacturing hub, it is unlikely that China wants to create any more financial harm to themselves because of the healthy U.S. debt they hold. But think about how easy it would be for one country to settle your purchasing that cell phone or a new one again. Of course, China is very concerned with it's own economic standing in the world population. China saw a massive loss during the economic downfall in 2008. But, it is also a country that would very much like to see a more sustainable way of doing things throughout the world. China would be on the side of TZM in that it sees how blood thirsty entrepreneurs are to get in the game, and make as many copy cat or cheap electronics for Internet websites that they can sell to rich countries at discount prices.
Consider that the website you might purchase this product from is owned by a particular outfit that operates over 20 websites with the same intent and that it may be owned by the very large corporations that are ravaging the earth in the first place. The Internet has allowed for such practices to be done with ease. Discount stores or sites, all with different names, but carrying some of the same products and each are priced too low to cover the cost of the child deep diving to mine that cobalt. You might have to pull back a little and think, do I really need a new flat screen or that more popular phone? You definitely do not, if you already have one or two, and a laptop, and a cell phone that has Internet access. In a Resource Based Economy, it is preferred that you have the very best of what you need, so the idea of having to replace something that is designed to break down too soon, wouldn't happen. If you are a member of this movement, trying to help others, you should understand why we need a Resource Based Economy; this is one particularly good reason.
The word "rare" should be taken very literally and seriously. China is the only country with these metals so far as we know and they are not interested in running out, neither should you be; and that is a terrifying fact for northern countries, who are very dependent on these minerals to produce such products. When speaking to people about TZM and TVP, you might want to give them these facts by asking if they have a cell phone, and, how many cell phones have they purchased in the last decade? How many computers? How many monitors and wide screen TV's? And then tell them about these rare earth metals and where they come from and how they are secured or not secured, for your use, in the future. This could be a huge advantage to you in representing a Resourced Based Economy. It might also urge you and your family to donate older products to someone who is looking to purchase them, and due to financial constraints, they might opt to buy it at a discount price. Discount for who?
From the reports released, it may seem as though China is using it's rare earth rights as leverage against abuses by other seemingly powerful countries. One might like to remember that China has to struggle to sustain itself as much as everyone else and in last years COP 15* China's representatives made it very clear to those present, that China needs to be greener. So anyone out there thinking that China is the bad guy, could be seriously misinformed. The "bad guy" could just be you. But, be aware that as China has made these statements, the corporations will not stop searching for other mining opportunities, maybe in your backyard, in as many places as can be obtained, for the continuation of producing such products for profit as long as the consumer is still there. The only way to curb this incessant pilfering of the earth's resources is to watch your purchasing habits and inform as many others to also watch theirs. It is also recommended that letters written to these corporations, telling them why you are not purchasing this product or that one.
It might also be a good idea to have a TZM chapter meeting that involves planning a donation bin for old electronics to others less fortunate or for recycling.