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Mark Kernan – The Economics of Exploitation: Indigenous Peoples and the Impact of Resource Extraction

In 1937 George Orwell said that coal mining was the ‘metabolism’ of western civilisation. What he meant by this striking metaphor was that coal was the catalyst for an earlier industrial revolution, just as enzymes act as the life-sustaining catalyst within the cells of living organisms to maintain life. If Orwell were alive today however he would have good cause to reformulate his perceptive observation. For modern mining-the extraction of oil, gas and rich minerals, including, again, coal-is now the alchemic catalyst driving the metabolism of 21st century economic globalisation. Unfortunately however the consequences and effects of modern mining take on a very grim symbolism in relation to the chemical metaphor referenced above. For rather than sustaining life on the planet, instead, much of 21st century resource extraction now acts as the catalyst in obliterating unique and diverse life systems- in particular, traditional peoples and societies- by harmful extractive processes and practices, and the cumulative social, environmental and cultural impact of those processes

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