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Flowers, Diamonds, and Gold: The destructive public health, human rights and environmental consequences of symbols of love

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Title: Flowers, Diamonds, and Gold: The destructive public health, human rights and environmental consequences of symbols of love


1
Flowers, Diamonds, and Gold The destructive
public health, human rights and environmental
consequences of symbols of love
  • Martin Donohoe

2
Say it with flowers
3
The Floriculture Industry
  • 30 billion cut flower industry
  • Major producers Holland, Columbia, Kenya,
    Zimbabwe, Ecuador, India, Mexico, China, Malaysia
  • Only 1/3 of cut flowers sold in U.S. are domestic
    - most from CA
  • Worlds largest producer Dole Fresh Flowers

4
The Floriculture Industry
  • 190,000 workers in developing countries
  • Ecuador and Columbia account for ½ of flowers
    sold in U.S.
  • Most profit flows to large, multinational
    corporations, headquartered outside producing
    countries
  • Small amount reinvested locally

5
Floriculture and Women
  • Predominantly female workforce
  • Low wages
  • No benefits
  • Short contract cycles
  • Child labor, dismissal for pregnancy, unpaid
    overtime common

6
Floriculture and Labor
  • Labor organizers harassed, workers fired for
    trying to organize unions
  • Third party contractors shuffle workers from
    plantation to plantation, avoiding payment of
    social security and inhibiting union organizing

7
Floriculture and the Environment
  • Floriculture displaces crops grown for local food
    consumption
  • Contributes to malnutrition and increased local
    food costs
  • Requires large quantities of irrigation water
  • 120 liters/dozen roses
  • Contributes to drop in water tables

8
Floriculture Toxic Exposures
  • Flowers most pesticide-intensive crop
  • Greenhouses increase ambient levels of pesticides
  • 1/5 of pesticides banned or untested in U.S.
  • Carcinogens, persistent organic
    pollutants/endocrine disruptors

9
Floriculture Toxic Exposures
  • Flowers carry up to 50X the amount of pesticides
    allowed on foods
  • USDA inspects for pests, but not pesticides

10
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12
Floriculture Health Effects
  • Over 50 of workers have symptoms of
    organophosphate pesticide exposure
  • Other common health problems
  • Allergic reactions, heat stroke, pneumonitis,
    RSI, cellulitis, UTIs, neuropathies, mental
    health problems, cancers, reproductive problems
    (low sperm counts, spontaneous abortions, fetal
    anomalies, etc.)

13
Floriculture Health Effects
  • Labeling, handling, and storage problems rampant
  • Protective gear often lacking, not working
  • Reuse of pesticide-saturated greenhouse plastic
    for domestic purposes not uncommon
  • Workers wash / bathe children in same sink

14
Floriculture Health Effects
  • Local physicians poorly-trained, lack resources
    to manage pesticide-related health problems
  • Many providers employed by floriculture company
  • Conflict of interest

15
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16
Diamonds
  • Symbols of wealth, power, love, and magical
    powers
  • Created from carbon early in the earths history
    under extreme temperature and pressure
  • Discovered in India around 800 B.C.
  • Commercial mining began in 1866 in South Africa

17
World Diamond Production (1995-2011)
18
Diamond Production
  • Antwerp, Tel Aviv, New York and Mumbai (Bombay)
    major trading centers
  • Most cutting done in Surat (India), Tel Aviv,
    Antwerp, Mumbai, New York and Thailand
  • Major retail markets U.S. and Japan
  • Annual retail sales 71 billion (2011)

19
Kimberley Mine, SA Yielded 3 tons of diamonds,
Closed 1914
20
Mirny Diamond Mine, Siberia Largest open diamond
mine in the world
21
The Diamond Engagement Ring
  • Diamond engagement ring introduced in 1477
    (Archduke Ferdinand ? Mary of Burgundy)
  • De Beers Mining Company
  • Founded by Cecil Rhodes in 1888
  • Responsible for 40-45 of worldwide diamond
    production and sales

22
Cecil Rhodes (Rhodesia, Rhodes Scholarship,
DeBeers Mining Company)
  • We must find new lands from which we can easily
    obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit
    the cheap slave labour that is available from the
    natives of the colonies. The colonies would also
    provide a dumping ground for the surplus goods
    produced in our factories.

23
Diamond Rings
  • 1939 DeBeers hires N.W. Ayer and Company to make
    diamonds a psychological necessitythe larger
    the diamond, the greater the expression of love.
  • By 1942, 80 of engagements in U.S. consecrated
    with diamond rings (still true today)

24
Diamond Rings
  • 1947 A diamond is forever slogan born
  • Jewelers instructed to tell (pressure?) men - who
    buy 90 of all diamonds to spend at least 2
    months salary on the ring

25
Diamond Rings
  • 1999 Advertising Age magazine declares A
    Diamond is Forever slogan the most effective of
    the 20th Century
  • Recognized by 90 of Americans
  • 1999 De Beers chairman Nicky Oppenheimer
    Diamonds are intrinsically worthless, except for
    the deep psychological need they fill

26
Diamonds Profits and Losses
  • 144 million carats rough diamonds mined for
    jewelry per year
  • Worth approximately U.S.15 billion
  • 1 carat diamond retails for 4,000-7,500 in the
    U.S.
  • Cost less than 2 billion to extract
  • Ultimately sell for over 71 billion

27
Diamonds Profits and Losses
  • Workers desperately poor but hoping to strike it
    rich in casino economy
  • 1 million in Africa
  • Work under dangerous, unhealthy conditions for
    pittance
  • Diamonds may be embedded in asbestos
  • Workers suffer from cancer, leukemia, silicosis

28
Diamonds Profits and Losses
  • Middlemen, diamond dealers and exporters earn the
    lions share of profits
  • Most foreign nationals
  • Very little profit re-invested in local
    communities

29
Diamonds Human Rights Abuses, Conflict and
Terrorism
  • Mine owners violate indigenous peoples rights
    via destruction of traditional homelands and
    forced resettlement
  • Mining hastens environmental degradation of
    ecosystems already under severe stress

30
Diamonds Human Rights Abuses, Conflict and
Terrorism
  • Diamonds have been used by rebel armies in the
    Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola,
    Liberia, Zimbabwe, and Sierra Leone to pay for
    weapons used to fight brutal civil wars
  • 3.8 million deaths
  • Child soldiers
  • Forced labor
  • Sex slavery, HIV
  • Terrorize local populations

31
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32
Diamonds Human Rights Abuses, Conflict and
Terrorism
  • Al Qaeda and Hizbollah have used diamond monies
    to
  • Fund terror cells
  • Hide money targeted by financial institutions
  • Launder profits from criminal activity
  • Convert cash into a commodity that is easily
    transportable and holds its value

33
Diamonds Human Rights Abuses, Conflict and
Terrorism
  • Smuggled and illicit conflict diamonds may amount
    to as much as 10-15 of diamond jewelry sold
    worldwide
  • U.S. State Dept.
  • 20
  • Global Witness

34
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35
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36
Gold
  • Dominant role throughout history in the growth of
    empires and the evolution of the worlds
    financial institutions

37
Uses of Gold
  • 80-90 of gold mined today turned into jewelry
  • 10-20 used by industry
  • Used by Catherine de Medici as poison and by
    physicians to treat rheumatoid arthritis

38
History of Gold
  • 4000 B.C. gold first fashioned into decorative
    objects
  • By 1500 B.C. the standard medium of exchange for
    international trade
  • Mid-1800s Gold Rushes in California and South
    Africa

39
Gold Production
  • Top producers China, Australia, United States,
    Russia, South Africa, Peru
  • 2500 tons mined each year
  • Valued at 21 billion
  • Typical piece of gold jewelry sells for at least
    4 times the value of the gold itself

40
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41
The Wedding Ring
  • Formulated from a variety of minerals throughout
    history
  • As with diamonds, aggressive marketing has played
    a significant role in popularizing the gold
    wedding band

42
Where is the Gold?
  • Currently 3 times more gold sits in bank vaults,
    in jewelry boxes, and with private investors than
    is identified in underground reserves
  • Enough gold to meet current consumer demand for
    17 years

43
Gold Mining The Myth
44
Gold Mining The Reality
45
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46
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47
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48
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49
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50
Mining The Worlds Deadliest Industry
  • 12 million adults, 1 million children work as
    miners worldwide
  • Tens of thousands killed mining gold and other
    minerals over the last century
  • 40 killed per day presently

51
Mining The Worlds Deadliest Industry
  • Local communities suffer environmental damage,
    pollution, dislocations
  • STDs rampant, spread by miners to wives and
    children

52
The Resource Curse
  • ½ of gold produced worldwide between 1995 and
    2015 has or will come from indigenous peoples
    lands
  • Dependence upon gold mining slows/reverses
    economic growth, increases poverty, and
    encourages governmental corruption

53
The Resource Curse
  • Benefits go to corrupt central governments and
    overseas corporations
  • Little returned to local communities
  • Casino economy
  • Rural and indigenous peoples evicted without
    prior consultation, meaningful compensation, or
    the offer of equivalent lands elsewhere

54
Environmental Destruction
  • ¾ of active gold mining and exploration sites
    overlap with regions of high conservation value,
    such as National Parks and World Heritage Sites

55
Gold Mining Gold Cyanide Mercury
  • At least 18 tons of mine waste created to obtain
    the gold for a single 3 oz., 18k ring
  • Gold leached from ore using cyanide

56
Gold Mining Gold Cyanide Mercury
  • Mercury used to capture gold particles as an
    amalgam
  • Mercury converted to methylmercury in environment
  • Significant neurotoxin
  • Minimata Disease
  • 30 of global mercury pollution due to gold
    mining (major source coal-fired power plants)

57
Minimata Disease W Eugene Smith
58
Gold Mining Environmental Damage
  • Contaminated groundwater often sits in large
    toxic lakes held in place by tenuous dams
  • Release of cyanide and mercury into local
    waterways kills fish, harms fish-eating animals,
    and poisons drinking water

59
Gold Mining Environmental Damage
  • Omai gold mine in Guyana (one of the largest
    open-pit mines in the world)
  • Tailings dam failed in 1995
  • 3 billion cubic liters of cyanide-laden tailings
    renders downstream 32 miles of Omai River, home
    to 23,000 people, an environmental disaster zone

60
Gold Mining Environmental Damage
  • Baia Mare gold mine in Romania
  • Tailings dam broke in 2000
  • 100,000 metric tons of toxic wastwater spilled
  • Fish killed, other animals harmed, drinking water
    of 2.5 million people in Danube River watershed
  • Coastal dumping of gold mine waste elsewhere
    damages estuaries and coral reefs

61
Gold Other Health and Environmental Harms
  • Mercury pollution contributes to the spread of
    malaria
  • Gold smelting uses large amounts of energy and
    releases SO2, nitrogen dioxide, and other
    components of acid rain

62
Gold Other Health and Environmental Harms
  • Release of lead into soil and air causes lead
    poisoning
  • Epidemic of lead poisoning in Nigeria
  • Silica exposure causes silicosis
  • Increases risk of TB

63
Gold Other Health and Environmental Harms
  • Water tables decline due to pumping of enormous
    quantity of water to release gold from ore
  • Toxic pollution from gold mines affects 100
    million people worldwide
  • Living near a gold mine costs 12.7 DALY loss
    (i.e., productive lifespan cut by 12.7 yrs)

64
Gold Mining Harms Women
  • By displacing agriculture (where women play a
    major role), removes women from labor force
  • Concentrates economic power in hands of men
  • Diminishes womens financial resources and
    educational, political, and legal opportunities

65
Gold Mining Harms Women
  • Mining employs a few women in low-level, clerical
    positions, where they face severe discrimination,
    sexual harassment, and firing for pregnancy
  • Women have to walk further to collect water
  • Dowry-associated violence, esp. in India
  • Utilization of child labor

66
Gold Mining Human Rights Abuses
  • Grassberg mine (worlds largest, owned by
    U.S.-based Freeport-McMoRan)
  • On land seized from Amunge and Komoro peoples
  • Dumps tons of cyanide-laced waste into local
    rivers each day
  • Operators implicated in forced evictions,
    murders, rape, torture, extra-judicial killings,
    and arbitrary detentions
  • Abetted by Indonesian military, which it has paid
    millions of dollars

67
Gold Mining Terrorism
  • Echo Bay Mines Limited purportedly paid off Abu
    Sayef (affiliated with Al Qaeda) in exchange for
    protection of its Philippines-based gold mine

68
Gold Markets vs. Morals
  • Mining industry maintains strong ties with
    governments to maintain status quo
  • 32 million spent on lobbying in 2011 (largest
    recipient Mitt Romney)
  • Subsidies make it cheaper to extract new gold
    than to recycle existing gold

69
Gold Markets vs. Morals
  • U.S. government has 8,134 tons of gold secured in
    vaults (worth approximately 122 billion)
  • Federal Reserve and other major central banks
    have agreed to severely restrict sales from their
    reserves, offering, in effect, a price support to
    gold

70
Gold Markets vs. Morals
  • Gold mining supported by World Bank and its
    profit-making arm, the International Finance
    Corporation
  • Gold industry blocking International Monetary
    Fund- and World Bank-sponsored debt-forgiveness
    package

71
Symbols of Love Alternatives and Solutions
  • Flowers
  • Grow your own
  • Potted plant
  • Purchase locally- or internationally-produced,
    organically-grown, labor-friendly bouquets

72
Symbols of Love Alternatives and Solutions
  • Flowers
  • Consumer education
  • Pressure on retailers
  • Boycotts
  • Food First Information Action Networks Voluntary
    International Code of Conduct

73
Alternatives and Solutions
  • Flowers
  • Veriflora Certification System
  • Organic production with phaseout of pesticides
  • Water conservation
  • Safe waste management
  • Mitigation of previous environmental damage
  • Fair labor practices / fair wages / overtime pay
    / right to organize
  • Unannounced audits ensure compliance

74
Symbols of Love Alternatives and Solutions
  • Diamonds
  • Consider alternatives to traditional engagement
    ring
  • Cubic zirconium
  • Synthetic/cultured diamonds
  • LifeGems (diamonds created from carbon captured
    during cremation of human and animal remains!)
  • No ring

75
Symbols of Love Alternatives and Solutions
  • Diamonds
  • Purchase only verifiable conflict-free diamonds
  • cut, color, clarity, and conflict
  • Query jewelers, consumer education, boycotts,
    protests, shareholder activism
  • Kimberly Process Certification Scheme

76
Symbols of Love Alternatives and Solutions
  • Gold
  • No Dirty Gold Campaign
  • Consumer pressure, boycotts, shareholder
    resolutions
  • Consider recycled/vintage gold, eco-friendly
    gold, alternatives to traditional wedding
    ring/class ring
  • Develop biological and chemical treatments to
    decrease/destroy cyanide, mercury and other
    mining contaminants

77
Safe Diamonds (?)
78
Safe Gold
79
Symbols of Love Alternatives and Solutions
  • Consider alternative tokens of affection
  • Homemade gifts
  • Donations to charities
  • Eco-jewelry made from recycled materials by
    indigenous peoples
  • Profits returned to local communities, providing
    wide-ranging social and economic benefit

80
Conclusions
  • Cut flowers, diamonds, and gold as symbols of
    love are cultural constructs perpetuated in part
    by the persuasive marketing efforts of
    multinational corporations
  • Production involves significant damage to local
    communities and the environment and harms men,
    women and children

81
Conclusions
  • Production supports human rights abuses, armed
    conflict, and even terrorism
  • Symbols of love should not be constant reminders
    of death and destruction
  • Consider alternative symbols of love
  • Work for social justice and change

82
Paper/References
  • Donohoe MT. Flowers, diamonds, and gold The
    destructive human rights and environmental
    consequences of symbols of love. Human Rights
    Quarterly 200830164-82. Available at
    http//phsj.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/symbols
    -of-love-hrq-pdf.pdf

83
Contact Information
  • martindonohoe_at_phsj.org
  • http//www.publichealthandsocialjustice.org
  • http//www.phsj.org
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