UN Pitches Metal Recycling, Congo Coltan and Worker Safety Are
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, May 13 -- Metal recycling was promoted Thursday by the UN
Environment Program. Inner City Press asked about the conflict metals
and minerals like coltan mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo,
and if the UN is doing anything about the working conditions of those
who work in recycling.
Steiner, who until this final question in the press conference had
presented recycling as an unmitigated good, now described waste dumps
as "killer sites," and said that the International Labor
Organization is on the case.
Achim Steiner previously at UN, coltan and worker
Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Riefsnyder acknowledged safety as
a problem, but said that in the U.S. it is a matter of local (state)
than federal law.
Graedel said that coltan is made up of cobalt and tantalum. The
former, he said, is 24 to 30 percent recycled. But tantalum is not.
One third of global supply comes from Africa, he said. Cassiterite is
a form of tin. He added, "we are not locked into the Africa
situation there." Video here,
from Minute 40:12.
UN system has
disparate goals, which are rarely reconciled or working together. If
the UN is concerned about conflict metals being mined, perhaps it
should focus its call for recycling there. And if it cares about
worker safety, this should be worked into the campaign from the
beginning, and not be an afterthought. We'll see.
UN's Ban Partners with Statoil Despite Oil Sands and Angola,
Indigenous and Weaver Hit Brazil on Dams
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, April 28 -- The UN picked Statoil as its poster child to
Wednesday launch the report of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's
Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change. Inner City Press asked
Statoil CEO Helge Lund about his company's move to oil sands -- being
criticized this week by the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
-- to drilling Marcellus shale, criticized for pollution, and
financial criticism for projects in Angola, Libya and Nigeria. Video here,
from Minute 30:13.
response to these specifics was to claim that Statoil is
"transparent, open," then to speak about carbon emissions.
But the critique of oil sands is not only about emissions, but the
destruction of the land and driving indigenous people off.
criticism of Statoil in for example Angola was a lack of transparency
and openness, working with local firms connected to government
Ban left his
press conference before any questions could be asked. But Inner City
Press asked Achim Steiner, recently re-appointed by Mr. Ban to head
UNEP, to explain what standards the UN applies and how it selects
companies to be on its podium.
that people are on the Advisory Committee in their personal
capacities. But Lars Josefsson the CEO of Vattenfall, a company moving
into fossil fuel development, bragged
that his membership on the UN
Committee reflects on Vattenfall's practices. Inner City Press has
raised this to a number of UN officials, including Ban's "global
goods" aide Bob Orr, but nothing has been done.
Statoil's Lund, at right, looks down as UN's Ban smiles
the UN Global Compact, telling Inner City Press "you are more
familiar with it than most." But that has been without the
assistance or even consent of Compact leadership. Outside the most
recent Compact board meeting in New York, Compact director Georg Kell
told Inner City Press "you can't quote anyone here," or
even ask them questions.
Ban's Group of Friends on
Myanmar was meeting next door was Inner City Press able to ask if
there would be a Compact press availability. No, was the answer. What
was that, about openness and transparency?
indigenous people and the actress Signourey Weaver protected outside
Brazil's mission to the UN, against the Belo Monte dam. Fox News was
there -- incongruous, some said, until they remembered that Lulu is
thought to be a left leaning president -- as well as a slew of
photographers and paparazzi waiting for Ms. Weaver.
arrived an hour
late, but then spoke with conviction, how after the film Avatar
indigenous groups had contacted Avatar
director James Cameron. On
Saturday Cameron told the Press that in preparing the movie, he had
"read books" on indigenous beliefs. Now, he and Ms. Weaver
seem to be listening to the indigenous. Oh that this were true of
Statoil. Or of the Executive Office of the Secretary General of the
UN, at least on oil sands, for that matter.
* * *
Shown to UN Forum by Cameron, White Messiah Alleged, "We're
Matthew Russell Lee
NATIONS, April 24 -- Avatar was screened by its director James
Cameron for the UN Permanent
Forum on Indigenous Issues on Saturday
night in Manhattan. Afterwards Cameron was asked why the hero had to
be a white male, in the tradition of Dances with Wolves and before
that Little Big Man.
Cameron replied that he was trying to "wake
up Caucasians." He said both that "we are all indigenous"
and that he wants "everyone to be a white Messiah." While
unclear it was heartfelt. At the end an indigenous legislator from
Peru stepped forward to give him her business card. It's 2010 and
networking is everything.
fact in the
film, networking is central. The enormous trees which the U.S.
corporate invaders are seeking to fell have "roots which
interconnect," Signourey Weaver informs us, making up a network.
The invaders are not impressed. Echoing Iraq, pointing at a book
about the Na'vi, it is said that "when people are sitting on
[stuff] that you want, you make them your enemy."
another echo of
the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and post 9/11/01 war, the military villain
vows "we'll fight terror with terror." He has looked at
the protagonist's file - "I see you were in Venezuela." One
wonders, is Cameron predicting a US assault on Hugo Chavez, before
the time frame of the film?
the movie was
being screened, Cameron did fast one on one interviews with
reporters. Inner City Press didn't ask for one, but heard about at
least two. The "we are all White Messiahs" line was said
both in private and in public: it is a talking point, for better or
Press asked the UN how the screening came about and was told
- The idea for the screening came about as the Secretariat for the
Permanent Forum had heard many positive reactions from indigenous
representatives on the film and how it was echoing their own stories.
Through personal contacts of the Secretariat and the NGO
co-sponsors, they contacted James Cameron re the possibility of a
screening and it went from there."
Cameron (per Broddi) at
UNPFII screening: White Messiah?
put it, the movie made "$2.7 billion for Rupert Murdoch,"
clearly he doesn't need the publicity. It seems he consented to the
event in order to put to rest the residual criticism of the movie as
racist -- although the "White Messiah" critique has been
raised mostly by, well, white Messiahs -- and to show that his motives
support to a protest of a project in Brazil. One wonders what Cameron
thinks of President Lula's policies on the indigenous. Or of Evo
Morales' recent comment that Western food, genetically engineers,
leads to "baldness and homosexuality."
that he opposed the invasion of Iraq -- very courageous, at this
point -- and that corporate interests are "plundering if you
will." Yes, they will, including the financiers of the studios
distributing Avatar. But if enough business cards are passed, perhaps
there will be justice. At least, there will be a sequel. Watch this
footnote -- and the United Nations is increasingly often only a
footnote -- one wanted to ask Cameron where he thought the UN would
be in the conflict he depicted. But the public Q&A session was
too short and smacked of pre-determined. If reality's any guide, the
UN would be offering humanitarian assistance on behalf of the
invaders, after the invasion.