Sunday, June 27, 2010

On Second Thought

I left Brisbane this morning and landed in LA four hours before I left. During my flight across the expanse of the Pacific, crossing the dateline and the Equator in relatively close proximity, I read R. Buckminster Fuller’s And It Came to Pass – Not to Stay by the light of the nearly full moon. This treatise concludes with the following:

“Special-interest sovereignty will always
Attempt to monopolize and control
All strategic information (intelligence)
Thus to keep the divided specializing world
Innocently controlled by its propaganda
And dependent exclusively upon its dictum.

Youth have discovered all this
And is countering with comprehensivity and synergy.
Youth will win overwhelmingly
For truth
Is eternally regenerative
In youth.
Youth’s love
Embracingly integrates,
Successfully frustrates,
And holds together,
Often unwittingly,
All that hate, fear, and selfishness
Attempt to disintegrate.”

My trip concluded the second year of our internship program – the Heritable Innovation Trust – during which we expanded our work in Mongolia and Papua New Guinea with the bold contribution of seven young people. Ken Dabkowski worked with Ts. Enkhtuya and me in conducting initiation visits in the South Gobi and Arkhanghai provinces in Mongolia. Katie Martin, Caitlin Boyd, Lewis Caskey, Shannon Augustine, Rod Jackson, and Elspeth Missel worked with Theresa Arek and the team expanding the PNG Heritable Innovation Trust in communities throughout East New Britain. From ice waterfalls in Three Beauty Mountains in South Gobi to the summit of Tavurvur – Rabaul’s active volcano – youth won! And in the next several days, the Heritable Innovation Trust will once again replace ignorance with intelligence enabling more of the world to engage with itself decreasing dependency on the propaganda of special interest sovereignty.

Having two days in one gives me considerable time to reflect on this week’s post. There is so much about which to write. I could fill countless posts with each day’s experience. However, I wanted to briefly share with you our day at the volcano for in this day are countless parables.

Before dawn, the stilted house shook with one of the many earthquakes that dance under Matupit Island. This one was over 5.0 on the Richter scale. Not that scales matter too much when everything is built on forgiving meters of ash. An earthquake rolls along rattling the few windows which have not been replaced with layers of plastic vainly attempting to block the ever-present ash. A glance into the dawning light revealed a plume of steam rising from the caldera. Silently.

The boat came and with it a flood of young children wondering what 7 strangers were doing waking up in their village. After all, since the eruption, the villagers have been told to leave their homes and move to relocation centers. Visitors from the outside – from America – don’t stay the night in Matupit. They stay in the resorts a safe distance away. But this morning, 7 strangers woke up from a moon soaked night in a village where life persists as it has since before there was history.

Our first stop was at the southeast side of the volcano where 8 brightly colored dugout canoes were beached. Their occupants were up in the ash fields digging Megapod eggs. The Megapod birds – barely larger than a chicken – lay eggs that are buried at depths of two meters in the volcanic ash. Incubated by the volcano’s geothermal dynamism, no shortage of birds or eggs here! The eggs are substantially larger than a chicken’s – more like a big duck egg. And the yolks are immense – filled with protein and fat – making them ideal food for the local community.

After being told how to identify a fresh nest, I was invited into a hole that measured about 1.5 meters across and about 1 meter deep.

“Start digging,” was the simple instruction.

About half a meter further into the ash, a side wall of the hole caved in burying my legs to the knee.

“Sometimes the diggers are buried in these holes and die,” I was advised.

Not necessarily the most comforting thought but, with five people standing around the hole, I took some reassurance that they’d at least know where to dig to find me if I succumbed to the shifting earth. And then, closing in on two meters down, it happened. I removed a spade full of ash and there was a glorious egg. I was elated. No Easter basket ever held such wonder as a Megapod egg at 2 meters below the surface of newly formed earth. Before long, four eggs were sitting on the surface. Four eggs which could feed a family for a day. Four eggs which could be sold at the market for 8 kina or about $2.50. That could buy a tin of meat or a small bag of rice.

“We don’t touch the birds,” explained Oxy. “They care for us and give us plentiful food so we honor them. Our people know that these birds are here to give us strength.”

From the depth of the nest, we were invited to climb the volcano. To the summit! At first, the climb was up a modest slope heavily rutted by deep gullies. Then the grade increased. At times the combination of the steepness and the ash and pumice made hands as effective as feet in scrambling past sulfurous vents. A massive swarm of bees nested by a steam vent about two thirds of the way to the summit. The sun-drenched black ash and rock was relatively cool compared to the golden crystalline earth where steam intermittently burst from the ground. On bare feet, the nature of rock, ash, and heat were acutely evident.

And then the summit. Standing on a narrow ridge and looking to the south one could see the vibrant colors of minerals, ash and mud in the Rabaul harbor. Across the water was the greening blast zone where life is beginning to take root in the ashes of years of eruptions. At the base of the mountain, diggers persisted in their quest for eggs. Perched high on the lava flow, the Megapod birds sat and called to each other. To the North…

Plumes of steam rushed up the crater wall depositing minerals as they raced towards the azure sky. Iridescent colors – yellows, greens, and bluish whites – highlighted the contours. Beauty everywhere!

Experts will tell the people of Matupit that they should leave. After all, they live in a geologically active zone. “It’s dangerous,” they’re told. However, if you sit at night around the fire in Matupit you hear a different story. It was the grandfathers and grandmothers who knew to leave the island before the cataclysmic eruption when all the seismologists and geologists were saying that there was no need to move. Their movement – not modern scientific “knowledge” – saved thousands of lives. They know what sound in the earth portends a destructive eruption and, if you live with them for a night in their homes, they share this information with you. The community knows when the fish spawn and when millions of fry can be netted to provide much needed protein. The community knows how to live in a place where others would perish.

Like the nomadic camel herders in the Gobi Desert, the people of Matupit are not victims of a natural disaster. Rather they are keepers of a knowledge that we all need. Whether its climate change and desertification or a super volcano in Yellowstone, humanity should see wisdom keepers rather than victims. If we were wise, we would learn the elegant simplicity of finding the abundance in violent changes and learn the lessons of grateful adaptation. By naming a volcano a disaster, we rob it of its ability to teach. By seeing those in its reach as victims, we blind ourselves to the grace of evolution which is an inextricable part of humanity’s development. Sure, we could abandon Matupit and in so doing lose the capacity to think again. Or you and your friends could work with us to create humanity’s classroom at Matupit and, in so doing, insure a future for humanity in the face of coming change. Think again, maybe for the first time!


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Questionable Democracy – In ? We Trust

Mongolian President, the Honorable Ts. Elbegdorj addressed the Fair Mineral Development Roundtable hosted under the auspices of his office and the World Economic Forum this week. Would that more heads of state have the ability to articulate sovereign and public interest with the clarity and pragmatism evidenced in his remarks! Rarely have I seen as concise and unqualified a statement from a public servant than the remarks made by the Hon. D. Zorigt, Member of the State Great Hural and Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy when commenting on the mineral laws of Mongolia. In both instances, the refreshing clarity centered on the stated recognition that “best practice” laws drafted over the last 20 years, in consultation with foreign interests, have exposed Mongolia to significant disadvantage. Only now are Parliament members and the public and private sector realizing the full extent to which the laws were drafted to favor mineral and energy extractors to the detriment of the public interest.

For readers of InvertedAlchemy, the irony will not be lost that, during the same time as my meeting with the leaders of Mongolia, BP’s CEO was foundering in his testimony before Congress on the nature of liability and responsibility of the extractive industries when things go poorly. Further, the government of Australia is fanning populist flames to support their proposed revised tax scheme on mining companies which, according to analysts from Morgan Stanley, will jeopardize many future developments. And, I’m currently writing this entry from Papua New Guinea where the Prime Minister (yes, the same one that’s been heralded as a hero for his REDD campaign to placate CO2 polluters) pushed through an amended environmental law that greatly reduces accountability for polluting the sea. It’s almost beyond belief that the government of Papua New Guinea, under the glaring light of the BP global brand debacle, would choose such poor timing to make rules less stringent.

Four years ago, I stated that my analysis of the global markets indicated that by 2010, the U.S. dollar would be in such weak condition and the euro would be inadequate to pick up the slack so as to open the possibility of a move by China to push a commodity basket-backed reminbi. Well, the International Herald Tribune today, Friday, June 18, 2010 loudly confirmed that analysis. Chinese leaders are warning the G20 not to bring up currency at the upcoming meeting or face “serious global economic consequences”. The U.S. and Europe have finally awakened (albeit, too late) to the error in the Jack Welch era out-sourcing wave. You see, the “we’ll always be the innovator” thesis that justified the risk of outsourcing manufacturing assumed that resource scarcity would be controlled by Western markets. However, quite suddenly, the tables are turning. Beryllium, cobalt, copper, gallium, indium, germanium, gold, graphite, magnesium, platinum, tantalum, tungsten, and uranium – all minerals that were safely controlled by post-Bretton Woods arrogance are now controlled by China, Russia, Congo, Brazil, Mongolia and others who were left out of the club for the last 50 years. It would not be surprising to see China reinstate a gold or hybrid metal standard as it seeks to manage its risks on dollar and euro historical exposures. And when a key infrastructure development project to what could be the world’s largest gold / copper operation in Oyu Tolgoi in South Gobi, Mongolia is a 105km road to the Chinese border, it doesn’t take a PhD in geopolitics or economics to realize that commodity control is about to take a serious and unquantifiable turn.

It was, however, at the Ulaanbaatar roundtable this week, when I saw galvanized a series of critical information failures which led many in the roundtable to revert to basic questions about the adequacy of representational democracy in countries rich in minerals and energy resources. Questions of nationalization vs. “free-market” were met with NGO mistrust in the transparency of asset dispensation. “Trust” and gold, copper, and coal, seemed to make poor bedfellows.

I will summarize five themes where I observed situations in which the “wrong” questions and assumptions gave rise to heated debate around the “wrong” answers.

First, lack of understanding of the cost of equity. As presented in the meeting, the Mongolian government purchased equity in the Oyu Tolgoi LLC (“OT”) mining operation. The equity was purchased with debt which is running up interest well in advance of any productivity. Not unlike several of the Papua New Guinea and other national cases where we’ve seen government equity purchases debt financed by the likes of the Commonwealth Development Corporation, the European Investment Bank, and the World Bank and its sister organizations, the belief is that somehow equity means benefit sharing. Nothing could be more misleading. Few things could do more harm with respect to mal-aligning public expectations and actual outcomes. Mongolia’s interests are in the LLC operator – not in the corporations which will manage the profits and see their stocks rise on the back of the country’s extracted wealth. Ivanhoe Mines and Rio Tinto – and their shareholders – will see their stock price appreciate many times while the LLC remains an illiquid debtor / operator. Everywhere I went, I heard the public perception that Mongolia was going to start reaping the benefit for its equity far sooner than possible. And remember, if their shares ever do have value, the first beneficiary is the debt financiers, not the people.

Second, lack of understanding about “local investment”. Like many other cases around the world, the OT investment agreement called for significant employment and contracting revenue to come to the citizens and Mongolian corporations. However, if one examines how much of the billions of dollars that are being “invested in the country” are actually building wealth for Mongolia, the numbers tell a very unfortunate, tiredly predictable story. Chinese, Korean, Russian, European, Japanese, and American companies will see their revenues rise as they contract services and supplies. Further, much of the “local” attributed expenditures are actually the employment of expatriate consultants and contractors engaged in projects for community benefit. Their compensation (usually at a salary plus hardship premium) is often attributed to country benefit even though the actual compensation flows out of the country. OT made a laudable commitment of up to 90% local employment which represents a larger commitment than most. For this, they are heartily commended. Mongolia could have been better served by asking for a proportion of compensation – not body count – as the local labor force typically represents a miniscule fraction of the expat executive compensation. Body counts are one thing; actual compensation is the true economic metric.

Third, lack of visibility regarding corporate structure and accountability. In every country where we’ve worked, neither the local level nor national government seems to take sufficient time to understand how far removed their subsidiary corporate counter-party is from the actual control of profits and operating decisions. While the media and general public hear about the multi-national entity whose name is attached to the project, there is a general lack of clarity on the fact that neither the listed company’s nor the capital provider’s success in the broader market have any bearing on the direct benefit flowing to the country. Board decisions, control of disposition of assets, and allocations of revenues to generate dividends are typically made well outside the operating corporate structure in which the country has participation.

Fourth, lack of capital markets visibility. The money to be made in mining is far removed from the mine. The promise of the “largest” gold and copper mine creates wealth in public equities like Ivanhoe, BHP, Rio Tinto, and others in listed share price appreciation – not their balance sheet. Infrastructure finance benefits bond issuers and traders through fees and commissions on trades – not in-country businesses or the public. Once in production, it is commodity traders – not the suppliers – who make the most traded wealth. Yet time after time, countries are lured into believing that somehow their ownership is going to create a pathway to wealth creation. In the absence of the ability to participate in equities and bond liquidity-based trading, countries are saddled with debt-financed, encumbered equity, operating liabilities and pro rata financial obligations, and very disillusioned citizens.

Finally, lack of market-appropriate tools. Most countries have little more than license, royalty, and tax as means to capture some benefit for the loss of extracted minerals or energy. When they realized that they’ve been disadvantaged, they revert to the globally unpalatable (though popularly expedient) actions like nationalization of licenses on producing properties. And if they raise taxes, demand more royalty participation, or nationalize incompletely considered and illegitimately granted licenses, they are penalized as not being stable business environments thereby diminishing standing for foreign investments and partnerships. All too often, the rule of law is eclipsed (as it has recently been in Papua New Guinea) by expediency where the short term empty promise of benefit concedes lax regulatory environments where public interest is subordinated by misinformed public officials to placate unethical demands from corporations.

Against these challenges, most paths lead to the decision to succumb by a few public sector officials who are co-opted for their own personal gain while they abandon the public interest they’ve been elected to promote. Corruption, beginning with multi-national corporations who see uninformed governance as a weakness to exploit, is a frequent utility in this expediency-driven model.

Could there be a different path? Would it be possible to get it right?

Yes. Countries and their mineral and energy ministers could demand that the counter-party in benefit sharing be the listed company or demand a equity tracking benefit that would allow for monetization of the early equity appreciation immediately post announcement of resources and immediately post the granting of production licenses. Countries could demand that they are compensated on the applicable market appreciation in the equity, bond, and commodity markets attributable to their market contribution. Countries could demand that their counter-party signatories be the senior listed company (the holding interest) rather than the shell subsidiaries from which benefit can be easily shielded. Countries could set compensation and contract REVENUE requirements rather than relying on the antiquated body-count requirements. Countries could demand the implementation of Trade Credit Offset equivalent programs for competitively bid contracts where local businesses could be nurtured and grow into scalable suppliers and partners with capacity building, training, and technology transfer. And, are you ready for this? Investors could actually demand that the companies in which they invest are held accountable for misleading and unethical business behavior including fraud in negotiating, contracting, and environmental and community accountability.

What has been historically labeled as sovereign risk could be cured by actually placing indemnity issuers in mineral and energy rich countries so that the financial incentives of contract stability are actually aligned with all actors. By linking financial and risk management business – required by any multinational corporation’s shareholders to the country in which business is being done – economic literacy and benefit can grow and the operating environment can be stabilized.

And, it’s important that we get this right. You see; if we don’t actually take responsibility across the board – investors, corporations, and countries – we will galvanize a public response that is already fueled with mistrust built on expectation misalignment and abusive experience. Democracy is not possible when the public is not informed of all the facts. Those who promote democracy but insist on the preservation of secrecy and willful ignorance are simply insuring their own demise and accelerating the same. If we’re going to see constructive international market development in the coming years, the only thing we’ve got left is an attempt to innovate ethics into our capital markets. If we don’t, expedient actors who are resource hungry will innovate their own model and we all will be the poorer.


Friday, June 11, 2010

The Poverty of Nations and the Visible Hand...of?

Boarding the plane in Dalanzadgad for our return flight to Ulaanbaatar, I ascended the stairs behind an Australian who was sporting more corporate logos than entirely necessary. On his shirt was the logo for Mitsui Coal, on his coat, Hitachi and on his carry-on, a mining company.

“Whatcha doin’ here?” he asked.

“Working with the local camel herding communities to understand their connection to the regional and global market and ecosystem, and the local groups that are working to deal with desertification on the Gobi by re-planting Gobi trees,” I responded.

“Ha,” he scoffed. “We’re just here diggin’ holes like we do everywhere. We’re not much worried about trees.”

I settled into 8C on the Saab prop plane for the 500km flight back to Ulaanbaatar and watched out the window as we taxied down the runway and lifted off into the setting sun. Looking out of my window, I saw the horses, the spring and lake where Batbayar (“Baidi”) and his wife Jaagaa are planting 20,000 Gobi trees and the endless steppe (see the Heritable Innovation Trust Post from today). I saw the horses pasturing in the lush green of the water that dots the vastness and I reflected on my first trip to this amazing land.

To the rest of the world, South Gobi is a land of untapped potential. Coking coal, gold, copper and other metals are the generous legacy of the once forested land where trees, dinosaurs and vast seabeds once covered the land. Out in the Sand Mountain region to the west of Dalanzadgad, the plain is broken with huge cliffs and canyons where you cannot help but step on fossil after fossil – each footstep a decision between one piece of coral still layered in the fossil record and one that was washed out with the last rain. Every now and then you find yourself encountering lava and evidence of the volcanism which brought huge mineral deposits near the surface.

In this land - quite similar to Utah or parts of Colorado - humanity is replaying its predictable, tired addiction. A land of “natural resources” has evoked the Adam Smith impulse to see the value of this place by the sum of its subtraction. President Elbegdorj has seen countless other countries fall into the Resources Trap (referred to in an earlier post from Paul Collier’s work) and has chosen to take a different path that includes more domestic benefit for the country’s resources. I wonder if the Parliament and the President of Mongolia are willing to take an even bolder step. I wonder if they would have the willingness to lead the world into a new capital system where people actually live without extracting the last ounce of gold and ton of coal.

What we know is that the story of BP in the Gulf of Mexico – now day 50 – is the unifying story of the last 234 years. As I type this post, CNN International stated that BP is considering all options to cap the hemorrhage of oil – including the nuclear option. And we, the willing, gullible consumers of 24 hour news are supposed to sit by and accept as we are hypnotized into the belief that somehow or another bombing the seabed is an option? And whether it’s a nuke on the seafloor or the growing use of cyanide and heavy metals to feed the gold addiction that is now toxifying some of the most scarce water resources on the planet in the Gobi desert, we rush on.

For the record, the two volume publication of Adam Smith’s work in 1776 was titled, “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.” His “invisible hand” was a reflection of the state of moral philosophy which gave rise to revolution in the Americas and the challenge to monarchists in Europe. His work was social commentary – not a declaration of truth. And so for us to respond to the Pavlovian glockenspiel in seeing Mongolia as the place where mining companies and their technological minions (like Caterpillar, Hitachi, Mitsui, and others) supply the last syringes in the crack house of our addictions are the winners is fitting on a day where we also see a tactical nuke on the seabed as an acceptable option for containment of an oil disaster in the gulf!

Are we better than this? Are we willing to stop wringing our hands in Washington D.C. and Louisiana about oil slicks and actually do something? Like, stop all BP equities trading so that the company knows that it must apply all of its efforts and resources to stop the leak and, until then, it’s quarantined? Like identify every deep water well or extractor and immediately require retrofits to insure that this cannot happen elsewhere? Like requiring all stock exchanges to list only those companies in compliance with International Council for the Exploration of the Sea guidelines and have sanctions, including full financial liability and profit disgorgement, for those who are in violation BEFORE they toxify the seas?

See, if we actually priced in the cost of the consequences of actions – like the cost of water extinction in the Gobi desert – we’d realize that Adam Smith was wrong. Sanctimoniously calling “greed” the “invisible hand” doesn’t make it better. It just makes it palatable for a moment. We are better than this. We can transition to another reality – not through activism but accountability. I can’t wait to see the first mine that actually honestly reports all costs, discloses all benefits, and spends as much time thinking about the extinction of the resource as it does about quarterly profits. And I can’t wait to see a commodity market in which trading premiums flow to those products sourced from Accountable Commodity suppliers. Transparency is the first step and action is its corollary. And rather than waiting, we’re going to see if it can be done. More on that later.

When I’m back from the remote western regions of Mongolia, you’ll hear from me again. In the meantime, share this and last week’s post with those you know and let’s start moving to another future. The hole has been dug deep enough! Let’s start planting new seeds.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tradewinds, Gates Foundation, and Black Gold: Follow the Money

“A commitment to excellence in all that we do.”
“Integrity and respect in our dealings with our clients, colleagues and business partners.”

These are a few of the principles promoted by Tradewinds Global Investors. With a reported $27.6 billion of assets under management, I was intrigued by these principles in light of the places where Tradewinds’ “integrity” has placed their money. The reasons I found Tradewinds Global Investors interesting is both their stated Core Values and the company they keep. Their reported positions include two notorious environmental nightmares – BP (NYSE:BP) and Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX), one of the major owners of the Allied Gold (ASX: ALD; AIM: AGLD).

In fairness, I should point out that a current review of BP’s ownership includes quite an interesting fraternity including: Wellington Management Co., State Farm, T.Rowe Price, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Vanguard Funds, Fidelity Diversified International and several banks. Wellington, Fidelity and State Farm share the fraternity of owning Rio Tinto (NYSE: RTP) along with TD Asset Management. Under another arm of TD – this time TD Securities - Barrick’s ownership fraternity includes Blackrock and Capital Research Global Investors.

As we approach the 50 day mark on the BP oil spill, I wonder if anyone finds it ironic that Nautilus Minerals (TSX: NUS), at their May presentation to the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston TX celebrated the “minimal” impact risk of offshore extraction. They proudly announced that, “Nautilus Minerals Inc ("Nautilus") is following the lead by the offshore oil and gas industry to tap vast offshore resources.”

As I sit here in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, I find myself amused by the observation that the Capital Market System that appears to be failing at present, if the truth be told, really never worked at all. You see, somewhere between 401(k)s, insurance and bank reserves, stock exchanges, and operating businesses, we made it o.k. for people to assume that they’re making investments which, in turn, build wealth. However, what we’ve really done over the past several decades (at least) is insulate those who are “building wealth” from any visibility into the costs of that wealth. While residents of the Gulf coast in the U.S. are rightfully upset as millions of gallons of oily sludge wash up on their beaches, are any of them connecting the dots and demanding that their retirement fund managers STOP pouring money into companies that operate in a careless fashion, indifferent to ecosystems in the interest of making the bottom line as fat as possible?

In an era where we hear about “financial reform” and “increased transparency” in the capital markets, where are the calls for stock exchange regulators to assist the public in getting to the truth about how their profits are being derived? And you, the reader, where are you in demanding that your investment intermediaries actually abide by their lofty public relations and marketing “core values” while they continue to support companies who operate with indifference to humanity and the ecosystem? When Warren Buffet has the audacity to dismiss the economic crisis as an undetectable market anomaly (save for, in his words, “a few Cassandras”) where is the U.S. Congress’ or the White House’s resolve to actually inquire of the Cassandras as to where, when and why they saw the big one coming?

You see, I think that we’ve gotten lazy. And worse than that, I think we’ve decided that our comfort – built on an illusion of our insular, sterile world – is more important than actually finding out from whence our comfort comes. I think that we’ve gotten quite content to let our discount electronics consumption ride on the now suiciding labor force in China where working conditions are so detestable that employees find killing themselves more desirable than making the next HP or Apple product - a situation that Steve Jobs reportedly finds "very troubling." Really?

I had the chance to meet with some of the community development team of Rio Tinto’s mining operations here in Mongolia. While many people mistake me for just another activist opposed to extraction on principle, what we did this week is to have a discussion about how things could be changed here so that mining and social values could co-exist. Am I convinced that the ground water will be more preserved, that communities will gain greater benefit, or that the environment will be spared? Not yet. But what I did reconfirm is that when people sit down and learn from each other – actually listening and conversing – productive steps are possible. More importantly, I confirmed that, if an average human being actually wants to gain more visibility into what a company is doing, it’s possible. It involves getting off your couch and going to see the impact that your money is making.

I don’t know the folks at Tradewinds. I have no idea whether they are indifferent to human values or whether they’ve just made investment decisions based on quantitative inputs in impersonal matrices. I don’t know if they’ve spent time on the Gulf coast helping clean up the oil spill or whether they’ve been pressuring BP to still declare a dividend and get on with making money. I don’t know if they’ve seen the villages displaced by Mark Caruso’s water diversion in Simberi (Allied and Barrick Gold) which has turned the airport into a flood plain and has turned local gardens into swamps. I don’t know if they know that their “community relations” budget included the employment of mercenary paramilitary assets to deal with community relations. But I do know this. If we are ever going to turn around the insanity that blights our current state of humanity, we better get involved in who is putting our money wherever it’s going.

Any of you who want to ask specific questions about where your money is being invested and who are willing to do so in the comment section of this blog, I will be more than happy to share with you my experience on the ground (and invite others to do the same). Even a gold mine can operate with ethical principles if those who put their money into it make “all-in” value a priority for management. We can do better, and for the sake of the world, we must. While we watch China expand its reach over the control of the world’s resources, we can lay the foundation for earning the accountability that we’ve neglected far too long. If we wish to have any moral authority to offer commentary on what has already been behavior defined by expediency, we better earn that voice.

Wake up!