Thursday, April 16, 2009

Would Europe Look Good with An Eye Patch?

Somalian Pirates
(Courtesy of Gallo/Getty)

Pirates aren't just in Disney films anymore- they are taking over our news and rightfully so. However, there's a side of these eye-patch wearing folks that isn't quite being covered- Europe degrading Somalia's resources. European countries have been dumping nuclear waste and stripping its seas of inhabitants for years and now, these hostages are paying the price. In essence, these countries have stole Somalia of the following: its seas' and people's healths, as well as, its fishermen's livelihoods. Wouldn't it then be proper to call these countries "pirates" too?

In 1991, when Somalia's government fell to pieces due to civil war, European countries were just waiting for the regulation of its waters to fall as well. With millions of its denizens at or near starvation, these well-to-do countries made it even harder for Somalia's people to survive. The nuclear waste that was dumped in Somalia's seas diminished the health of the coastal population. But the ill-health of its people meant little in dollar terms to European firms. Nick Nuttall, the UN Environmental Program spokesperson, expressed that "European companies found it to be very cheap to get rid of the waste, costing as little as $2.50 a tonne, where waste disposal costs in Europe are something like $1000 a tonne."

The Red Jolly (really?)- A ship that dumped toxic waste.
(Image from

However, after the tsunami hit in 2004, the polluted waters were able to reach greater land and people. More people got sick due to radiation and more than 300 people died. Nuttall discussed the different types of waste found on shore after the tsunami hit: "There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead, and heavy metals like cadmium and mercury. There is also industrial waste, and there are hospital wastes, chemical wastes – you name it." The UN envoy to Somalia, Ould-Abdallah, said that these toxins that were ravaging the health of the Somalians could be traced back to European factories. Unfortunately, he also said that these institutions were doing nothing to prevent or compensate Somalia for their actions. To top it off, other European ships were stealing $3 million worth of seafood every year from Somalia.

These pirates have taken on the unofficial role as regulators of Somalia's seas and a recent study in Somalia shows that 70% of its citizen's support them. Granted, the violence that these Somalian pirates are committing cannot be condoned but there has been 18 years (more or less) of provocation on Europe's part.

It has often been a trend to identify countries that are devastating the wellbeing of other countries as business-as-usual or capitalism. But, when such actions are done on a smaller scale, when individuals and not countries are the ones at fault, names such as "pirates", "terrorists", and "evil-doers" are used. This logic does not make any sense whatsoever. Something such as a government or a company that has the power and uses that power to wreak greater havoc on a larger population (relative to an individual) should be held wholly accountable. The poverty, ill-health and death of individuals shouldn't be thought of as business-as-usual.

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