J500 Media and the Environment


You may now Kiss the Mine – I mean – Bride by jkongs
March 26, 2008, 3:31 pm
Filed under: Fashion + Beauty | Tags: , , , ,

Here Comes the Bride, All Dressed in White….

We all know the song, we all know the tune, and everyone of us women has a memory of sashaying in a princess gown and plastic heels with hot pink lipstick smeared from our nose to the bottom of our chin as we acted out our pretend marriages. (Don’t worry, I still do it, too.)

Wedding rings, the traditional gold band with the glitzy diamond rock on top, have also been part of the fantasy. In reality, most of us are aware of the environmental and social implications of diamond mining – but have you ever stopped and thought about the band, too?

Gold mining, as with most types of nonrenewable resource extractions, has disastrous environmental side-effects. A mammoth cube the length of an average six-foot human, the width of that same person across, and the depth of that person’s giant 10-feet brother yields enough gold for a single measly pair of wedding bands. To even get that much gold out, the rock is doused with a cyanide spray to loosen the gold flakes- since when did rat poison become romantic?

yanacocha (peru)

Yanacocha, Peru (world’s largest gold mine); indymedia.org

I spent the past week in El Salvador, and one of the most urgent environmental calls to action has been against new gold mines. “Don’t drink the water”, is the mantra to any traveler heading south of the U.S. border, but most of the people living in Central America have no alternative. The addition of more mines will only add to the high rates of birth defects and sicknesses caused by the contaminated water – can you imagine if your only source of drinking water was laced with toxic levels of cyanide? Local communities and solidarity groups, like the Sister Cities program I traveled with, are fighting against the mines – but we all know it will prove an uphill battle.

Since we live in the United States, we don’t have to all fly to El Salvador to make our opposition to gold mining known – we have strong voices through our consumption choices. (Plus, if you’re like me, you’re not quite ready to give up that fantasy wedding). A lot of “eco-ring” companies (such as this one and this one) claim to offer conflict-free diamonds, recycled gold bands, or other alternative materials – I assume the same two month’s salary price rubric would come into play here. There’s also always the option of an heirloom ring, either from great-grandma and great-grandpa or an antique store.

wooden rings

woodrings; flickr.com

heirloom wedding rings

As citizens in a globalized society, it’s important to remember the effects our choices have on other parts of the world – although nothing says “I Love You” like an open strip mine blown into the side of a mountain.

–Jennifer Kongs

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3 Comments so far
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Great post, Jennifer. It sounds like you had quite a journey! What really struck me was the image, which looks a lot like the pools we saw at the coal plant. The parallels between poisoned water here and there resonates. . .

The Kimberley Process is meant to ensure that diamonds come from non-conflict regions but there is so such assurance of the impacts of gold. Imagine the pressures on a community to create a new gold mine – especially when gold is at an all time high, currently trading at $1000 an ounce.

This challenge is also faced by communities within the US. From the Jan. 22, 2008 issue of the Arizona Republic: Mines Are Being Reopened As Gold Fever Sweeps State:

“Gold fever is sweeping Arizona. Mining companies are scouring the earth, looking for new deposits and working to reopen venerable mines, some with histories that date to territorial days. With the yellow metal selling for just under $900 per once, more weekend gold diggers are heading for the hills with pans, picks and metal detectors. … Investors increasingly have looked to gold as a haven because of falling stock prices and the real-estate slump. Demand has pushed up the price of gold as much as 45 percent in the past 12 months and brought a dozen or so mainly Canadian mining companies into the state.”

I really do encourage folks to look for recycled silver and gold. As I said in my Sundance op-ed on this very topic, pretty is, as pretty does.

Simran

Comment by j500

[…] Read the rest of this great post here […]

Pingback by diamonds » Blog Archive » You may now Kiss the Mine - I mean - Bride

I have been so preoccupied here in Kansas with the coal mining conflicts that I had forgotten about the issues with other mining operations. It was interesting to learn that the pressure in El Salvador is mainly from Canadian companies, I also always forget that the United States is not alone in its history of exploitation.

–Jennifer Kongs

Comment by jkongs




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