Mining has given rise to wars. The folk who mined hematite for face paint at Bomvu Ridge 40,000 years ago probably used the red stuff as war paint. The silver mines of Athens made it a formidable war force in early Greek history. The Boer wars of South Africa were driven by England’s desire to get control of the gold mines of the Witwatersrand. Blood diamonds is a modern version of conflict wrought over access & control of valuable resources. Nothing new about this concept–although I am yet to see a book on mining as a cause of war.
There is a blog posting, recently brought to my attention, that touches on the topic. It starts:
Mining is one of the activities on earth that has an adverse effect on our environment but favorable effects on mankind. It is mining that differentiates us from the people of the Stone Age. They could never have imagined the luxury provided to us by the contributions of our industry.
Mining, apart from the merits, has its disadvantages, but mining alone is not affecting the environment. Regional wars have greatly contributed to it. Regression instead of progression will only result in demerits for mankind and the environment. The nuclear and chemical weapons & missiles are the luggage of our own destruction and the catalysts to the true adverse environmental results.
We need to continue to utilize our education to make this world beautiful for all by saving our environment and progressing responsibly with the advancements we’ve already made in the mining industry. We should not curtail our industry; we must halt the wars that have never benefited any population in history, and that has never been a part of my education.
The book that I finished reading today, Sex At Dawn, The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jetha, and a an article in the November 2013 copy of The Atlantic entitled Why We Fight–And Can We stop? provide some insight into why wars start and why war persist. The Atlantic article reviews a new book called Moral Tribes, Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Them and Us by Joshua Greene (I have not yet read it.)
The topic and information in Sex At Dawn is by far the most fascinating of them—for the simple reason that the focus is sex in early societies, not war. Nevertheless, they all point to these simple facts:
- We are very good at altruism in small groups.
- We easily empathize with up to fifty people.
- We mostly identify with family, a sports group, a company, and a tribe.
- Probably evolution has bred in us an empathy and altruistic instinct for groups about as big as the hunter-gatherer societies in which our ancestors evolved.
- We cannot instinctively be altruistic to others outside our tribe–all too easy to brand them of inferior intelligence, base morals, strange religion, or evil intent.
- If the others have things we need & want, it is easy to brand them the enemy and go to war against them.
Thus in any situation where others have mineral resources that we want, it is easy, as did the British in the Boer Wars, to brand the Afrikaners as uncouth, primitive, and genetically unable to mine gold. My paternal great-grandparents and paternal grandmother were Boers. I have no English blood in me. I find myself strangely prejudiced against Englishmen who are arrogant, insensitive, class obsessed, prejudiced against Africans (I am one of four generations), and mostly greedy and cruel. That tribal instinct prevails regardless of the truths I have experienced and regardless of the logic I espouse as a person of the enlightenment. I would happily fight against the English for Irish freedom and their expulsion from Africa. Recall my grandfather was from Londonderry and came to South Africa to fight against the English as a first step in gaining freedom for Ireland.
All silly, currently illogical, and utterly outdated prejudices. Most people would not even note them. And I am surprised, as I write, to discover that they are still there, silently brewing in my inner soul some fifty to sixty years after my parents and grandparents instill them there. How little so much learning and exposure to the truth does to such early prejudices.
No wonder tribes fight, over mines, agricultural fields, ideas, ideals, religion, and just because.
As the blogger I refer to notes, we must mine to provide the basis of a good life-style. Mostly we can mine without having to go to war. In mining we come to know and work with people from the greatest diversity imaginable. They are part of the mining tribe. We empathize with them. Although in different circumstance, we might go to war. So maybe mining is good to get to know, to like, to respect, and to work with others, of different nationality, race, color, origin, religion, sexual orientation, and so on through the whole list of things that give journalists things to remark on, and which have given rise to killings and wars.
Thus, I say: go mining not warring.