Thoughts on Society and Development

We have now been living in Piura for about a week. This dry and usually dusty town boasts overcast, yet very bright skies 80% of the time, and today offered a very unusual light sprinkle of rain. We, having now officially moved into a little apartment which consists of a small bathroom, bedroom and suprisingly spacious living room (given we, for all intensive purposes, have only one peice of furniture: a small kitchen table), have been wandering about the city, tasting the various foods of local restraunts, exploring plazas and streets, and today came across a parade.

Celebrating 72 years of social healthcare, Piurians stood around the Plaza de Arms as Doctors, Nurses, and technicians marched through the street to the rhythm of the local army division´s band. Following these sections were the ranks of cleaning staff, lower level technicians and every other employee associated with the medical field, including fire trucks, ambulances, their drivers, and what seemed to be their families. A small Rotory Club section even asked us to come stand and join them.

I would like to pose that this would never, ever happen in the United States. Why? I am not sure. Do we not care about healthcare? Probably not. Of course we care in so far as that we hate to pay for our highly overpriced insurance rates, and we struggle to maintain our countries health unless we are in the top 5% who can easily afford medical bills. Beyond this we don´t care. We don´t know how long health insurance has been around, it has never been a big deal, why would it matter to us…

Also, we would never, ever, allow cleaning staff to join in. Not only are they certainly not well payed citizens from the local community, admired for their posistion in helping make an organization work, proud of their work, marching in the square; in the States we higher migrant workers for minimum wage, force them to work at night so they are not seen or heard, like magic elves that work while we sleep, we would rather believe the impossible truth that the hospital cleans itself, I am sure.

I enjoyed watching this parade, untill my stomach about to cave in, caused Natali and I to seek out some sustinence…

After a 2 dollar breakfast of toast, eggs, coffee, and juice we walked back toward the plaza to be drawn into a store front by pictures of cloud forests, flat screen TVs with documentary clips playing and models of mountain sides. We were to find out that this was a propaganda from for the Rio Blano Copper S.A. (we think S.A. is an equivalent for Inc. or something to that matter). Rio Blanco is hoping to open up a “sustainable” copper mine in northeastern Piura near the Ecuadorian border. They explain how copper is used for so many of our products today, as well as how it is a vitamin essential for our bodies. They told us through film and representives how this project will be a great step forward for Peru and Piura. How they have partnered witha great and powerful Chinese firm that will help with development. We learned how a 320 km steel pipe will be buried beneath the ground to transport copper ore and water to the coast for further refinery. We learned that they will be there for a minimum of 20 years, and extract a 2km long hill perhaps a kilometer deep into the ground. We learned that they will support the local small villages by making a large road for access, bring power, build schools, bring doctors, new more efficient cooking stoves, and means of plumbing. They will offer jobs to local citizens and bring development to these small rural mountain towns.

Is this a good idea? Copper, like oil, IS a non-renewable resource. It is also a very usefull and VERY valuable metal (why else would they put so much time, energy, and capital into this project which will cost over 1 billion USD, as well as helping the local towns??).

The company promises to turn the site after its closure into an eco-tourism site, however the pipe will remain underground. Copper refinery is notably very polluting, however they boast that Peru uses a lot of hydro-electric power, (which while renewable is the worst of the wind, solar, water options due to its habitat destruction qualities).

This will also industrialize and modernize these towns. Film clips of native women remarking how the new kitchen will help improve posture and lung health due to less smoke and a higher work table, begs the idea of prompted and falisfied interviews.

Is this a good idea. Is non-renewable resource extraction always a bad idea? It seems we do need such things for life, ..even a sustainable one. Do we have enough already? Should the money be put toward copper recycling projects instead?

Finally a tough question… If the world can sustainably support the growth of a culture at a given carrying capcity (be it 3 billion or 10.. i do not know), ought we bring the whole world with us? Are we a culture of people or are we seperate by our origins and our ideals? Is the destruction of smaller cultures justified if the outcome is bring the whole world together in equal regards with one another? Should we share the knowledge and technolgies with the the whole world or reserve it for those who have the first access? Indeed even computers are more suited for those who grew up using them (myself included) and seem lost in the hands of the elderly(my grandfather nearly excluded, he handles his technology quite well). As this phenomenon occurs, perhaps so to is the sepeartion between the expansive western culture and that of the other smaller cultures.

I welcome questions, comments, and responses. Please email the longer thoughts to me.

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One Response to “Thoughts on Society and Development”
  1. Natalie says:

    you can leave a comment without signing up for blogger.

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