Poor Villagers Don't Need Development, Say Foreign Green Activists

Kevin Mooney | Staff Writer | Friday, January 26, 2007

Poor Villagers Don't Need Development, Say Foreign Green Activists

(CNSNews.com) - Villagers, coal miners and peasants beware! Western environmental activists "intolerantly devoted" to misguided views that stymie progress are opposing improvements to your standard of living and greater economic vitality.

This is the view of Thor Halvorssen, founder of the Moving Picture Institute (MPI), a New York-based non-profit organization whose goal is to promote liberty, freedom and prosperity through film.

He was speaking Wednesday at the Washington D.C., premier of a new documentary, designed to expose what Halvorssen and his colleagues call "the real agenda of global environmental activists."

Irish filmmaker and journalist Phelim McAleer and his wife Ann McElhinney co-directed and produced the documentary "Mine Your Own Business," which contrasts the views of mining villagers with those of environmentalists opposed to economic development.

The movie, made in association with MPI, focuses on communities in Rosia Montana, an impoverished Romanian village, where a Canadian company wanting to develop a new goldmine has run into strong opposition from environmentalists.

While investigating the impact of the environmental movement, McAleer, who narrates in the movie, meets George Lucian, an unemployed miner in the village.

Lucian sees little hope for economic revival if environmentalists succeed in halting the mine project, which offers to bring 600 jobs to an area where unemployment runs to 70 percent.

Environmental advocacy groups claim that the mining development by Toronto-based Gabriel Resources will undermine the ecosystem of Rosa Montana.

"If constructed, Rosia Montana would be Europe's largest gold mine and transform the Rosia Montana valley into four open-pit mines, and the neighboring Corna valley into a tailings dam to hold the mine's toxic waste," a coalition of opposing groups said in a statement.

"Both valleys are densely inhabited, and the project would require 2,000 people to move out of their homes and also lead to the destruction of churches, cemeteries, farm lands, and unique cultural and archaeological treasures in the area," the groups said.

Gabriel Resources intends to buy up and demolish houses in the already-polluted village and create an open cast mine. Company officials say they will to preserve the village's historic center and build a new, modern village nearby.

Alan Hill, the company's CEO, appears in the film and attended the premier. He told Cybercast News Service the advocacy groups opposed to the project have "no conscience about telling the truth." Hill also said he would continue to pursue a vigorous debate about the development plans.

Fred Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), praised Hill for a stance he said was all too rare among business leaders. At a time when the free market system is under assault, Smith said, too many CEOs opt for appeasement rather than confronting their critics.

Smith said the documentary exposed how "transparent, paternalistic and elitist, the modern environmentalist movement is."

Critics have highlighted the fact that Gabriel Resources provided funding for the documentary, which they say is nothing more than paid-for misinformation.

McAleer was reportedly approached by the company several years ago and asked to write promotional material for the company's project. He refused, but said if Gabriel gave him editorial independence, he would make a documentary.

McAleer told Cybercast News Service that while making the film he came around to reassessing his own perspective, which he admitted had been skewed by "the liberal environmentalist" views that dominate European thinking.

Consequently, the film he had initially set out to make could no longer proceed as originally envisioned, McAleer explained, because the facts told him that environmental activism in this instance was leading to "a massive human rights abuse."

"I hope the film makes casual environmentalists think more about the consequences of their campaigns," he said.

'Propaganda'

In the movie, McAleer and McElhinney featured a number of anti-development activists including a Stephanie Roth, who claims the people living in the Romanian village don't need the development but "can get by through agriculture and tourism."

Although she claims to speak on behalf of Rosia Montana, the filmmakers point out that Roth actually lives in a city that is a three-hour drive away.

Interviews with local residents yield opinions favorably disposed toward the new mine. "Without gold, we would be dead here," one man says.

Another environmentalist featured in the film, Francoise Heidebroek, claims the people of Rosia Montana prefer to use their horse-and-carts rather than motor cars. The people in town respond incredulously. "We are in the age of speed, are we not?" asks one resident.

Like Swiss-born French and Swiss citizen Roth, Heidebroek does not live in the village. She is a Belgian and lives in the capital, Bucharest.

Wednesday night's screening took place amid protests by Greenpeace activists, who gathered outside the National Geographic Auditorium and described the film as "propaganda."

Opponents also tried to get the venue to cancel the event.

"It is sad and outrageous that such a renowned center of environmental research has agreed to screen this anti-environmental film. It aims to manipulate the public and does not reflect the values of the National Geographic Society," said Roth in a statement.

The movie's directors and producers said they had invited Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando to be a "special guest" at the screening and to take part in a discussion about the film's content.

"We extended the green carpet to him," Halvorssen said. Cybercast News Service also tried to get a comment from Greenpeace and to engage the protesters outside the screening to no success.

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