Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 164- The Saudi Arabia of Lithium

Dear Mr. President,

The news of huge mineral deposits discovered in Afghanistan is mixed blessing; surely a country with a GDP of $12 billion can benefit from the discovery of trillions of dollars worth of industrial metals, though I think the people of West Virginia might have a few cautionary tales about the dangers to workers and to the environment that come with an economy based on mining. I'm eager to see the situation in Afghanistan improve; the decades of suffering, war and poverty that the Afghani people have survived could break the hardest heart, and if mines represent a way out, than I am glad for their sake. On the other hand, I fear that the Pentagon's statement that Afghanistan could become "the Saudi Arabia of Lithium" might prove to be prophetic; that the wealth of the land and the poor will be exploited to create a wealthy (and corrupt) ruling class. And, while I know full well that write this on a machine using many of the minerals I'm referring to, the reality is that there isn't an infinite supply of these resources; at some point we will run out the things we have been so quick to tear up the earth for. Will we look back on the mountains of West Virginia, or the Great Lakes, or the Gulf of Mexico and wish we had learned to live without the resources we destroyed them for? Will Afghanis look back on their own land one day and wonder if their wealth came at too high a cost?

Clearly, neither you nor I are qualified to make the decisions regarding the future of Afghanistan's mining industry. The risk of the Taliban, or of another foreign power controlling the mineral-rich areas is no excuse for exploitation by American interests. The land and its resources must be controlled by the Afghan people and their elected officials, though, I suppose, even that will be problematic. My concern for the snow leopards aside, I wonder if the cost of destroying a country's ecosystem can be quantified, let alone measured against the economic benefits. But no matter what I think is right, I have to believe that the decision is best made by those who will suffer the results directly. I hope that my government can restrain its eagerness to preach the correct way to handle Afghanistan's resources and respect the Afghani people enough to let them determine their own destinies.

Respectfully yours,


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