The world must have been a scary place when the kimberlite pipes were spouting. In what is now Angola, at least 217 volcanoes were erupting to produce 160 pipes containing diamonds. This scenario, which occurred well before the Cambrian, makes current environmental change seem trivial.
But then maybe it took a long, long time to occur and the landscape was able to adjust at a rate that change-averse humans would find comforting. No matter: if Lonrho mining has its way the change henceforth will be fast. They want to drill six of the pipes in the hope there are enough diamonds to support six new mines.
Which leads me to wonder: just how many diamonds do we need? Ask any gemologist selling in the Los Angeles area, and she will tell you: “As many as we can get. There is no limit to the desire of young women for a diamond as proof of her man’s virility and ability to provide.”
These young ladies care not a whit for the pontifications of those groups preaching fair trade, certification, and no-blood. They want diamonds and virility and copious profusion of material possessions.
In the May 2008 issue of Harper’s Magazine is an article called Faustian Economic by Wendell Berry who writes:
We are, after all, trying now to deal with the failure of scientists, technicians, and politicians to “think up” a version of human continuance that is economically probable and ecologically responsible, or perhaps even imaginable.
Yet we may try to imagine a six-pipe Angola. I find it hard, for I have never been there. When I was in Africa, the place was a hell-hole of competing tribes, civil war, and rampaging Cubans intent on leaving their island-jail. Is it still a primitive place of tribal conflict and corrupt leaders?
Do the local people need economic development to lift them out of poverty? Will mining bring them a better life? Has the environment recovered from years of conflict? Will a mere six holes go unnoticed in the war-damage?
This case poses an opportunity to ask some very hard questions:
- Does every place need a mine; particularly a diamond mine, a uranium mine, and a gold mine?
- Should we not declare a moratorium: those that have mines shall continue to enjoy the benefits and consequences of mining; those that do not shall go without?
- Will this new “limitless” source of diamonds simple serve to feed the “limitless” appetite of Los Angeles ladies for unlimited resources and displays of masculine prowess? And is this good?
- Where is the “invisible hand” of free economics that will guide this next incursion into the commons?
- Is there any measure of Bentham’s “maximum utility” that may guide us in deciding to invest in and develop six more diamond mines in the African wilderness?
I look forward to a debate on these and related issues. Maybe we can move beyond the stale platitudes of social license, responsible mining, and sustainable development. Maybe we can in this one instance debate the Faustian limits of want, need, display, gratification, and use.
Roll on dreaming!