Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Minerals, Power, and Land

I have been following the Congo War closely as I have recently worked on projects from the region and possibly could have found myself within the boarders of the conflict not too long ago. First off the DRC is an amazing country. It is truely an anomaly as far as mineral wealth goes. It has so many possibilities for large deposits which could drastically change the face of the country and region. The more I study the geology of the Congo (it is hardly touched by geoscience, it reminds me a lot of pre-Civil War America or early 20th century South America) the more I want to explore it. The problem with mineral wealth is that it is an incubator for corruption, and greed (not just in the region but globally). Everyone feels that the deposits are theirs for the taking. Westerners may come in with good intentions, wanting the wealth to benefit the people of the region, but it somehow seems to bring unexpected problems as well. Take Ok Tedi for example in Papua New Guinea. As good intentioned as BHP was to mine the giant copper gold porphyry and benefit the country, the damage to the environment was emmense. It is considered one of the biggest environmental disaters of recent times, causing damage to the Fly river and surrounding ecosystem, and it is estimated it will take 300 years to repair. On the flip side it brings wealth and stimulates the economy and improves the standard of living.

Similar, the Congo sits on rare equatorial rainforrest with great biodiversity, but also has great mineral wealth in the same regions. It is essential that any mining in this region is handled with great care and planning. I feel it could be done with minimal impact, but at greater cost. The main issue though is that the instabillity of the region makes it a high risk endeavor (even more so than typical mining is) for larger companies who could tackle the problems. The war with the Tutsi and Congolese army is an old one and has been a continuing issue. I am not even going to pretend to know all the details of the conflict but it appears to stem from minerals, boundaries and power. I fear that many small mining operations are carried out with no regard to the impacts they might have. Not out of lack of morals, but lack of education and resources.

The crimes against humanity are alarming, and if they occured in the west would not be tolerated in the least. It is important to realize that many issues in other parts of the world need to be viewed from a different perspective. I would like to see peace return to the region. There is so much potential for economic and social growth in the region. I would love to volunteer in the region and hope I can donate time and resources to the region soon. I wish there was an easy answer, but the problems are complex. It is sad to see that there is great potential and opportunity that could change many lives for the better, and yet it can't be utilized because of the conflicts. It appears doubtful that a spirit of peace and cooperation will exist soon enough to lead to synergistic solutions for the poverty and disease that are sweeping the land now. It makes me sad, and has been on my mind.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mount Shasta revisited

It is funny how life comes around full circle, and past experiences are re-lived differently in the future. It has been around 15 years since a diverse group of 32 individuals from our valley view II ward decided to climb Mount Shasta in Northern California. I remember when Kevin Wilson proposed that we do this for our summer outing. I couldn't believe it, it just sounded awesome to a 13 year old boy. I think only 7 of us ended up summiting for many different reasons. I only weighed about 80 lbs and I did get a shot of hypothermia on the way down due to poor equipment and terrible planning on my part, (I mean I had to borrow one of the girl's fruity long johns, and who climbs a mountain like that in Levi Shorts anyways), and also spending 8 hours waist deep in slurpee. I am sad that I didn't take more or better photos.

I bring this random experience up because for my next semester I will be studying some of the igneous rocks from Mount Shasta. I have to laugh as I read the names of some of the units I will be studying such as the "Misery Hill Volcanics" or the Red Banks pyroclastic flow, good times, good times. It will be truly exciting and a little nastalgic to be able to become intimately familiar with the very rocks that I struggled up nearly a decade and a half ago. I hope to publish on the subject and hopefully my research will add to our understanding of our little sphere, in some small way. I just think it is interesting that sometimes we do things in the past, that at the time we have no idea, but in the future become a much more integral part of our lives. It is kind of like moving to BC. Most people don't know this, but I always had an obsession with BC when I was younger, and always thought I would live here one day. Almost accidentally the opportunity fell in my lap and here we are. I don't know how it all works out, if our earlier thoughts or experiences steer our sub-consious, or if we do certain things in our lives as preparation for what lies ahead, or if it is just accidents that we notice along the way. I tend to think it is our earlier experiences that prepare and steer our lives. After all, I wouldn't be studying the Shasta rocks if I hadn't become interested in geology, a field that evolved from awesome adventures like Shasta, and a keen interest in discovery. When it comes right down to it, I think at any given point in our lives, a large portion of who we are, is just the sum of our previous experiences. I think that is part of my reasoning for wanting to have as many differing and exciting experiences as possible.