All Gold that Glitters is Not Good

By Dr. Eric Silverman

Much has been made recently about so-called “blood diamonds” extracted under horrific conditions, often by children, and sold to fuel genocidal-like conflicts in central Africa. The worldwide outcry about these practices gave rise to the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme to stem the trade in “blood diamonds.” Less well known is the fact that gold is also extracted under conditions that often violate the human rights of local peoples at the fringes of the developing world.

Human Rights Watch has a video about the effects of the Porgera Mine in Papua New Guinea that details extensive damage to people and the environment. Watch it now.

Many, but not all, major jewelry retailers have agreed to ethical guidelines on gold mining. Human rights Watch has documented child labor in gold mining. The International has reported on human rights abuses in gold mining in the Philippines. Like diamonds, gold is often given as a gift of love—but the source of that gold often denies people basic human rights, including the right to dwell in a safe, not toxic, environment. The key question for all of us in the developed world is how to enjoy luxuries without sacrificing the dignity of people who themselves could never afford such opulence.

Dr. Eric Silverman is a cultural anthropologist who teaches in the American Studies and Psychology/Human Development departments at Wheelock College.  He employs a binocular approach to teaching and research that tacks between American culture and other societies, especially in regard to dilemmas of globalization