WHAT IS THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT?
The Rights of Future Generations
The idea of sustainable development was born from the awareness that the actions of human beings in the present moment have a profound impact upon the lives of future generations. At the very least, future generations have a right to the same resources and environmental conditions as we do and that to take actions that ignore this right is to act irresponsibly, without concern for the condition of the world we leave them.
Sustainable development recognizes that we do not live in isolation; that, instead, our lives are intricately connected to one another now and into the future. Just as what our grandparents did affects our lives today, so, too, will the choices we make now affect the lives of our children and children’s children.
Sustainable development is not a new idea; societies and civilizations have always taken at least some action to provide for its future existence and to pass on its cultural heritage. However, because of an exponentially expanding population and corresponding rise in natural resource use, at no time in the world’s history has so much of the natural and cultural heritage of this planet been under such threat of destruction and disappearance.
The United Nations Defines Sustainable Development
In 1983, recognizing the need to address the world’s deteriorating ecosystems and cultural heritage, the United Nations General Assembly created the World Commission on Environment and Development to offer solutions for harmonizing natural resource use with ongoing human development and expansion. In October 1987, the commission released its report, Our Common Future, and offered what has become the most often-quoted definition of sustainable development:
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
For many years, it was generally recognized that sustainable development is built upon three pillars: environmental, social and economic. However, at the 2002 Earth Summit in Melbourne Australia, a fourth pillar was added, cultural diversity, in order to address the complexity of human society and acknowledge the importance of how culture shapes human values. More and more communities are using their cultural heritage in to drive sustainability strategies.
To ensure the prosperity of present and future generations, communities, at both the national and local levels, should adopt strategic plans that promote economic activities which maintain the community’s cultural heritage, democratic process, social justice and access to natural resources without jeopardizing the rights of future generations to those same resources.
ROŞIA MONTANĂ AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
For Roşia Montană, before any serious sustainable development strategy can be implemented or even discussed, a fundamental question must be answered; To whom does Roşia Montană belong? To Roşia Montană Gold Corporation (RMGC) who is seeking to purchase and then raze all the homes in the impact area so they can begin open pit mining operations? The locals who refuse to sell their homes saying they have all the right to live on their land? The people of Romania? Europeans? Perhaps Roşia Montană belongs to the world. After all, Roşia Montană contains archaeological treasures found nowhere else.
Rosia Montana is in a unique situation. It is a community that has already lost most of its native population over the last several years due to the aggressive acquisition strategies of RMGC.
In such a case, with the profit making goals of foreign investors a priority, can we seriously believe that a sustainable development strategy designed by the mining company will truly sustain the community and all her world treasures in the best manner?
According to their website and press releases, the destruction of the four mountains that surround the settlement within the mining operations is part of a sustainable development plan. As stated in their plan, the original community is going to simply dissolve and be replaced, after approximately 20 years, by a completely new, different and alien community.
We suggest a deeper, objective and scientific examination of the plan proposed by RMGC. More than this, we believe their plan has been designed primarily to serve the interests of the company’s shareholders as a means to provide a temporary appearance of sustainability merely for the purpose of winning both governmental and popular support.
In order to follow a sustainable course, the local community should seek to adopt a strategic urban plan that ensures economic abundance and prosperity without compromising the community’s integrity and significance, its cultural heritage and the immediate natural environment from which it draws the resources necessary to provide the guarantee of a healthy life, safety and sustainability for its members.
Does the RMGC sustainable development plan accomplish this?
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT UNDER RMGC’S VISION
Roşia Montană Gold Corporation believes that what would be Europe’s largest open pit mine represents the only solution for Roşia Montană’s sustainable development. However, their plan does not offer sustainable solutions for any of the four pillars of sustainable development: economic and social development, protecting the cultural diversity and environmental. In fact, each of the four pillars of sustainable development is compromised.
1. Economic Sustainable Development
In its million dollar advertising campaigns, the company is trying to persuade the Romanians that the proposed mining project is “a project for Romania” because it will provide thousands of jobs and bring economic benefits both locally and nationally.
Even by the most optimistic estimates, the mining exploitation proposed by RMGC would provide a few hundreds jobs locally. At the same time, the company claims that they will have some of the latest technologies in the world. This proves that the locals, not having the required training, could only be employed during the construction of the mine for only two or three years.
Currently, in Romania there are about 9 million employees, therefore, the 3,000 jobs offered by the company will not produce any major change at the national level. Moreover, the project is designed to run for only 17 years, which does not represent in any way a sustainable economic development of the area.
“The economic benefits of the Romanian state would also be irrelevant: “To the Romanian state budget, in the 17 years of operation of the gold mine, would only come 1.8 billion dollars. And now I tell you very simply: do you know what this number means? It seems a lot, but this amount is not enough even to pay the salaries of the state government employees and the pensions for one month.” Theodora Vasâlca, Journalist
“We can gain, say those from RMGC, about four billion dollars of the state shareholdings, plus the money that indirectly entered into the economy. Everything, within approximately 16 years, means an average of about 210 million euros per year. But, dear people, this amount represents 0.1% of GDP! By comparison, IT contributed, in 2008, 7 billion euros to the GDP (!), over 33 times more than the RMGC project promises!
A simple arithmetic calculation shows us that the Romanian economy, even in crisis as it is, produces the amount that RMGC promises us for a year in only about 2 or 3 hours (!!) of work, at an average of 22 working days per month!” Dr. Raul C. Muresan, researcher at Max Planck Institute in Frankfurt am Main and at the Romanian Institute of Science and Technology, Cluj-Napoca.
2. Social Sustainable Development
With regard to social development, the strategies that the mining company has applied in the past 16 years were not only unsustainable, but they were destructive as well.
“Once they lose their house, the displaced persons get the refugee mentality for life.” Michael M. Cernea, sociologist, expert of the World Bank
“Generally, the displacement only brings troubles. We have identified eight components of this disastrous process: 1. loss of land; 2. loss of job; 3. loss of home; 4. marginalization 5. food insecurity; 6. the increase of diseases; 7. loss of access to the common property; 8. community disarticulation. In short, we are witnessing a serious impoverishment process.” Michael M. Cernea, sociologist, expert of the World Bank
The obvious disastrous results of the company’s actions is a warning and a reason for deep concern regarding the meaning that the company gives to the concept of sustainable development.
The destruction of the settlement, the dissolution of the community, the disappearance of the local identity and the planned destruction of the historical monuments (homes with historical and architectural value, churches, dozens of kilometers of Roman galleries and other archaeological vestiges) would mean the destruction of the cultural character of Rosia Montana and the loss of a national treasures.
Open-pit mining and the preservation of the environment can not and could never coexist. The pollution generated by mining and the blasting of the four mountains would dramatically alter the natural landscape through deforestation, degradation of water, air and soil quality, loss of farmlands, flora and fauna, thus eliminating any chance for future generations to enjoy these natural resources in any practical or aesthetical way.
ALTERNATIVE PLANS FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN ROŞIA MONTANĂ
In order to create an alternative sustainable economic plan for Roşia Montana, the focus should be put on creating and establishing local industries that are truly sustainable over many generations. These include strengthening the local agricultural industry as well as promoting tourism and eco-tourism. Supporting such activities would eliminate the risk of depletion of the natural resources generated now by declaring the area as mono-industrial. Such a plan would create a safe, sustainable and favorable environment to preserve the cultural and natural heritage of Roşia Montană.
Unfortunately, the company’s strategies created a local political environment that heavily favored the mining company. For example, Roşia Montană was declared a mono-industrial community, effectively cutting off any resources for alternative economic development. Of course, this move was in the interests of the mining company since the lack of any alternative economic development adds to the illusion that only mining can save Roşia Montană.
When and who will decide on the importance of maintaining Roşia Montană as a valuable place to Romania and tom Europe, perhaps even to the world? Under the plan presented by the mining company, Roşia Montană would cease to exist as a community as it has for thousands of years. Instead, a few buildings surrounded by an industrial wasteland is all that would remain.
To argue that a village located in the middle of the biggest open-pit gold mine in Europe could become again a livable place is to ignore the recommendations of the area’s most prestigious experts and even one’s own intuition. Therefore, we, as Romanians, Europeans and World Citizens, must ask ourselves if a place that holds one of the world’s richest cultural, natural and historical heritage is worth saving or not.
If the answer is yes, as it should be, then let us embark upon a trail of true sustainable development! Indeed, through a concentrated effort and government support, Roşia Montană could become not only a model community for sustainable development for all of Romania, but a model community for the entire world.