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Please Don’t Buy Me Diamonds Anymore

March 11, 2008

I was watching the Today Show this morning (as every morning,) and saw a brief news bit about a diamond reported to be “worth” 13 million dollars. While I was grateful for the break from the Elliot Spitzer call-girl scandal, (she, apparently, is “worth” a cool $4,300 per night,) I couldn’t get past the idea of a rock being worth 13 million dollars.

Wow.

What a load of crap. Pardon my language, but PUH-LEASE. Enough already.

According to an American University in Washington DC paper about the diamond trade, “The world’s trade in diamonds is a cartelized, multi-billion dollar industry, that has damaging human rights, environmental and legal repercussions that have world wide impact and effect. The issues have so far eluded a legal solution and are an example of the limits of international law. ”

First, let’s take a look at what goes into the acquisition of that diamond.

From an American University in Washington DC study on diamond mining in Sierra Leone:
• The environmental impact is severe, devastating the land by clearing and digging up vegetated areas.
• After an area is mined the land is left exposed and degraded, it unsuitable for farming or any other activity.
• When the mining is carried out on hilly areas and slopes, severe erosion takes place and flooding can result.
• Siltation in river systems is a common problem, water collects and stagnates in the dug-out areas contributing to health hazards, potentially increasing the incidence of malaria and other water borne diseases.
• Species and habitat loss would change dramatically from site to site and continent to continent, but would always be present.

So, if you’re looking at those issues spread over thousand of acres of land previously populated with subsistence farmers, you not only have a massive environmental problem, but an exploding human rights issue. Namely, entire populations of people whose way of life has disappeared. Now, that isn’t a problem for some nostalgic “look at the cute natives” sort of reason, but these displaced peoples need to make a life. So, what are they going to do? Oh, go work for the diamond cartels. Let’s look at how that’s likely to play out.

According to GlobalIssues.org, in Sierra Leone alone, “Sierra Leone has seen serious and grotesque human rights violations since 1991 when the civil war erupted. According to Human Rights Watch, over 50,000 people have been killed to date, with over one million people having been displaced.”

The human rights abuses related to diamonds mining are epic and are why diamonds from many parts of Africa and Australia are commonly called “blood diamonds.” Issues include:
• “Plain old” slavery
• Child labor / soldiers
• Sexual slavery
• Massive genocide to remove indigenous peoples and / or people protesting the mines
• Profiteering used to fund civil wars and drug trades
• Links to countless international governments and cartels.

International governments of all levels – including the United Nations – have tried to interfere and put an end to the massive environmental and human abuses related to diamond mining. Despite varying levels of success, the simple fact that international governing bodies agree that this is a disastrous industry should be enough for us to question the “worth” of a diamond.

Back to the diamond I saw on the news today. It is “worth” 13 million dollars. What is that in terms of the good that 13 million dollars spent elsewhere could do?

Again, off the top of my head, I am GUESSING that 13 million dollars could:

• Put arts education back in every classroom in Washington State, maybe.
• International Development Partners, a Gates Foundation Fundee, can build freshwater irrigation systems in Africa for $37 an acre. 13 million would provide an awful lot of irrigation, and as such jobs and nutrients for an impoverished country.
• Fund every single teacher project currently up on the DonorsChoose.org website, and then some
• Fully fund several initiatives to end Human Slavery in the 21st Century as tackled by the Not For Sale Campaign.
• Fund the Head Start program that provides a variety of early-childhood enrichment programs for kids at risk due to poverty.

Now, if a diamond was going to solve world hunger, I’d say “go for it.” If it was going to educate the world’s working poor, cure disease, stop climate change….. GO FOR IT. But it doesn’t. All that a diamond does is sit in a piece of jewelry and declare to the world, “my right to sparkle is worth more than the health and safety of our planet and everyone on it. Look how powerful I am, I can do all that, just to have a shiny rock.”

Whoever you are that is considering showing me that you love me by buying me a diamond (which no one who knows me would do) please don’t. Show me you love me by taking me to a beautiful place and sitting there with me admiring it. Show me you love me by helping me create a world in which we are all safe, healthy, fed, inspired and able to achieve our fullest potential. Show your love by creating a peaceful and loving world that we can share with everyone we cross paths with. Do not show me you love me by supporting violence and devastation of both the planet and other human beings. It just is not WORTH it.

—————-

This was originally posted in my blog on JustCauseIt.com

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