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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

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13
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.)

14
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

15
Floriculture Health Effects
  • Local physicians poorly-trained, lack resources
    to manage pesticide-related health problems
  • Many providers employed by floriculture company
  • Conflict of interest

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17
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

18
World Diamond Mine Production(1995-2011)
19
Diamond Production
  • Antwerp, Tel Aviv, New York, Mumbai (Bombay), and
    Dubai 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 72 billion (2012)

20
Kimberley Mine, SAYielded 3 tons of diamonds,
Closed 1914
21
Mirny Diamond Mine, SiberiaLargest open diamond
mine in the world
22
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

23
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.

24
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)

25
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

26
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

27
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

28
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

29
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

30
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

31
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

32
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33
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

34
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

35
Diamonds Human Rights Abuses, Conflict and
Terrorism
  • Accusations that television evangelist Pat
    Robertsons charity, Operation Blessing, served
    as an elaborate front for his for-profit African
    Development Company Ltd., a diamond mining
    operation licensed by Zairean President Mobutu,
    who had been sanctioned by the UN over alleged
    human rights violations

36
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38
Gold
  • Dominant role throughout history in the growth of
    empires and the evolution of the worlds
    financial institutions

39
Uses of Gold
  • 40 of gold mined today turned into jewelry
  • 40 used in financial sector (coins, ingots for
    banks, other uses)
  • 10 used by industry
  • Special properties malleable, ductile, good
    thermal conductivity, durable, and resistance to
    corrosion

40
History of Gold
  • 4000 B.C. gold first fashioned into decorative
    objects
  • By 1500 B.C. the standard medium of exchange for
    international trade
  • Used by Catherine de Medici as poison and by
    physicians to treat rheumatoid arthritis
  • Mid-1800s Gold Rushes in California and South
    Africa

41
Gold Production
  • Top producers China, Australia, United States,
    Russia, South Africa, Peru
  • 3,000 tons mined each year
  • Valued at over 20 billion
  • Typical piece of gold jewelry sells for at least
    4 times the value of the gold itself

42
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

43
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44
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

45
Gold MiningThe Myth
46
Gold MiningThe Reality
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52
Gold Mining
  • Artisanal (15 million people, including 3 million
    women and children)
  • Corporate (few major corporations)

53
MiningThe Worlds Deadliest Industry
  • Tens of thousands killed mining gold and other
    minerals over the last century
  • 40 killed per day presently
  • Activists (labeled eco-terrorists) at risk from
    militias, paramilitary contractors

54
MiningThe Worlds Deadliest Industry
  • Local communities suffer environmental damage,
    pollution, dislocations
  • STDs rampant, spread by miners to wives and
    children

55
The Resource Curse
  • Dependence upon gold mining slows/reverses
    economic growth, increases poverty, and
    encourages governmental corruption

56
The Resource Curse
  • ½ of gold produced worldwide between 1995 and
    2015 has or will come from indigenous peoples
    lands
  • Rural and indigenous peoples evicted without
    prior consultation, meaningful compensation, or
    the offer of equivalent lands elsewhere

57
The Resource Curse
  • Benefits go to corrupt central governments and
    overseas corporations
  • Little returned to local communities
  • Casino economy

58
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

59
Gold MiningGold 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

60
Gold MiningGold Cyanide Mercury
  • Mercury used to capture gold particles as an
    amalgam
  • Mercury converted to methylmercury in environment
  • Significant neurotoxin
  • Minamata Disease
  • 37 of global mercury pollution due to gold
    mining (major source coal-fired power plants)

61
Minamata DiseaseW Eugene Smith
62
Gold MiningEnvironmental 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

63
Gold MiningEnvironmental 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

64
Gold MiningEnvironmental 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
  • Animus River spill, SW USA (2015)
  • Coastal dumping of gold mine waste elsewhere
    damages estuaries and coral reefs

65
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

66
Gold Other Health and Environmental Harms
  • High levels of neurotoxic mercury found in
    artisanal miners
  • Release of lead into soil and air causes lead
    poisoning
  • Epidemic of lead poisoning in Nigeria
  • Silica exposure causes silicosis
  • Increases risk of TB

67
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)

68
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

69
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

70
Gold Mining Human Rights Abuses
  • Grassberg mine, Indonesia (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

71
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

72
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

73
Gold Markets vs. Morals
  • 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
  • Subsidies make it cheaper to extract new gold
    than to recycle existing gold

74
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)

75
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

76
Symbols of Love Alternatives and Solutions
  • Flowers
  • Grow your own
  • Potted plant
  • Purchase locally- or internationally-produced,
    organically-grown, labor-friendly bouquets

77
Symbols of Love Alternatives and Solutions
  • Flowers
  • Consumer education
  • Pressure on retailers
  • Boycotts
  • Food First Information Action Networks Voluntary
    International Code of Conduct

78
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

79
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

80
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

81
Symbols of Love Alternatives and Solutions
  • Gold
  • Consumer pressure, boycotts, shareholder
    resolutions
  • Consider recycled/vintage gold, eco-friendly
    gold, alternatives to traditional wedding
    ring/class ring

82
Symbols of Love Alternatives and Solutions
  • Gold
  • Develop biological and chemical treatments to
    decrease/destroy cyanide, mercury, and other
    mining contaminants, and alternatives to
    mercury-based smelting
  • Extract gold from biosolids (sewage sludge)
    worth millions
  • Moratorium on gold mining

83
UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
  • Passed 2007
  • Mandates principle of free, prior, and informed
    consent before any mining projects allowed on
    indigenous land
  • U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are
    non-signatories

84
Minamata Convention
  • International agreement among over 140 countries
    (including U.S.) to be signed October, 2013
  • Places controls and restrictions on mercury use
  • E.g., Medical equipment (thermometers),
    energy-saving light bulbs, mining, cement and
    coal-fired power plants
  • Includes education and public health strategies
    to identify and treat victims of mercury toxicity

85
Safe Diamonds (?)
86
Safe Gold
87
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

88
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

89
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

90
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

91
Contact Information
  • martindonohoe_at_phsj.org
  • http//www.publichealthandsocialjustice.org
  • http//www.phsj.org
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