Saturday, September 10, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

My green wheels

I celebrated Earth Day, April 22, not by getting me a hybrid car (I am not at all convinced by these) but at least by getting me some green wheels… and fortunately for me, as that color would not match the car's, the green is on the inside.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Ecuador has been marketing for about three years a truly revolutionary proposal, Yasuní-ITT, consisting in asking the world for some of the resources it could obtain exploiting some important oil reserves so as not to have to exploit these, as they lie in a forest reserve that contains an extremely rich and valuable biodiversity. The proposal does not seem to be receiving as favorable response as it merits and I think I suspect some of reasons for that, besides that of having perhaps unnecessarily complicated the proposal with some technicalities.

During the 2009 UN conference on environment in Copenhagen I got upset seeing environmentalists from rich countries announcing that because the rich countries were the ones most to blame, they should and would assume the responsibility and pay for protecting the environment… which sounded just like global leftwing politicking, and effectively negated the poor the right to participate as human and equals in confronting something which from all perspectives would be a challenge to the human race.

In that respect it seems to me that the Yasuní-ITT proposal, because of its immense importance, should never have been presented as a government to government proposal, or one extended only to groups with environmental concerns, but should have been tabled as a proposal from the Ecuadorian citizens to all other indigenous people of the earth, meaning us, 1all other citizens. If the possible ecological damages of exploiting the oil in Yasuní-ITT are as serious as we are told, we cannot afford that the fight against these gets sequestered by other interests, agendas, or green Taliban.

Also, because the world needs oil and if not extracted in Yasuní-ITT it will do so elsewhere it would be good to have a study of the marginal environmental costs of exploiting oil in many different places. This would also be extremely important information if we later would like to replicate Yasuní-ITT.

The proposal was presented as having to select between a ferociously irresponsible oil extraction and a marvelous conservation of a habitat, and the truth is never that clear. It would be very important to know the cost and the significance of exploiting the oil in Yasuní-ITT in the most environmentally friendly way possible, so to also give the world the chance of accepting something that might sound more reasonable, or at least of knowing that this possibility has been analyzed. Since in Europe, the European taxman, by means of the taxes on its consumption derives more income from it than the country that gives up that resource for ever, it would seem quite reasonable that the European citizen could ask that at least a part of those taxes should go to help extract the oil in the best way possible. (Where is the oil company that specializes in green oil exploitation?)

But, more than anything, since no one likes to pay taxes to its own government much less would they like to pay a sort of an environmental tax to other governments, much less if these are rich in oil resources… the proposal should include that all funds, up to the last cent, should be given directly to the citizens of Ecuador… or in equal parts in cash, o through conditional cash transfer programs… for instance to all Ecuadorian children that go to school.

And I say this because as a Venezuelan I know very well that too much oil money in the hands of a government is bad… not only because it gets wasted, but mostly because, one way or another, involuntary or on purpose, that money ends up subjugating the citizens.

Translated from El Universal

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New-Klondike; a Green Five Star Resort

A Canadian Company, Greystar Resources Ltd, wishes to exploit some important gold reserves in the region of Angostura in the northeast of Colombia and to that effect has already invested some important resources. The initial project considered an open pit mine, but that proposal was withdrawn because of environmental considerations and now an underground mine is being considered.

Not that I know too much of these issues but over the last weeks I have received emails from environmentalist that wish to make sure the project is correctly executed.

One of them informed about an alternative project that included “supporting artisanal mining and local agriculture; payment for ecosystem services (from private businesses and public water users); and carefully developing ecotourism.”

When I heard the words “artisanal mining” it made my hair stand on end, as I remembered that when a couple of years ago I went to Tanzania I heard of a million of small artisanal miners doing their thing in that country and deforesting about 300.000 hectares per year. Of course to see the disasters of artisanal mining you do not have to travel that far… to our El Callao suffices (Venezuela)

Without doubt the larger mining organizations count, at least on paper, with more resources and organization to give us some more comfort about the environment being considered… of course always based on the spirit of trust but verify… and of course always with trustworthy and capable verifiers.

But the previous has not to block the opportunities entirely for the artisanal miners. Nonetheless thatr requires new ways or forms to capacitate and supervise the small independent miners. In this respect let me throw out some crazy ideas and that might very well have been raised before:

Though there are standards, type ISO, for large scale mining, it would be important to design some standards for artisanal small scale mining. But since it does not suffice with good standards if these are not complied with, perhaps we could start thinking in terms of an artisanal mining franchise, to which the independent miner should affiliate with and that should supervise the mining activities; and which could be held responsible by the world about that these activities were carried out in the best possible way considering the environment… and, why not, also considering their social impact.

One of the problems with mining, especially in the case of valuable mineral like diamonds and gold, is that the largest part of its value is frequently realized, and spent, far away from the area of extraction, which would make it important to find means of how to increase the possibilities of the local economies to capture a larger share of its formal and not illegal value. Ecotourism? Not a bad option but it does not on its own seem to carry sufficient punch so as to turn into a self-sustainable mining supervision tool.

Diamond cutting and minting might be somewhat extreme, not necessarily, but what could perhaps help the most is requiring from all concessions that five percent of all gold and diamond should be extracted directly by rich tourists from developed countries and who want to practice a sustainable artisan mining tourism… and that way see to that close to our mines “New-Klondike” 5 star Resorts are built.

Who knows, perhaps then our Colombian and Venezuela artisan mining even find it more profitable to serve refreshments to the tourists… while these sweat it out.