Roy Innis

“People here have no jobs,” Mark Fenn admitted, after taking documentary producers on a tour of his $35,000 catamaran and the site of his new coastal home. “But if you could count how many times they smile in a day, if you could measure stress” – and compare that to “well-off people” in London or New York – “then tell me, who is rich and who is poor?”

Fenn is coordinator of World Wildlife Fund’s campaign against a proposed mining project near Fort Dauphin, Madagascar. The locals strongly support the project and want the jobs, improved port, sustained development, and improved living standards and environmental quality this state-of-the-art operation will bring. No wonder.

People there live in abject poverty, along dirt roads, in shacks with dirt floors, barely able to afford food on their $1000-a-year average income. There is little electricity and no indoor plumbing. The area’s rainforest has been destroyed for firewood and slash-and-burn agriculture. People barely eke out a living.

But Fenn claims the mine will change the “quaint” village and harm the environment. He says he feels “like a resident,” his children “were born and raised” there, and the locals “don’t consider education to be important” and would just spend their money on parties, jeans and stereos.

Actually, Fenn lives 300 miles away and sends his children to school in South Africa. And the locals hardly conform to his insulting stereotypes. “If I had money, I would open a grocery store,” said one. “Send my children to school,” start a business, become a midwife, build a new house, said others.

You have to see the film, “Mine Your Own Business,” to fully grasp the callous disdain these radical activists have for the world’s poor. That’s certainly the reaction audiences had, after seeing it May 30 on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Don Imus’s remarks were insensitive and intemperate. But Mark Fenn’s demeaning, even racist statements perpetuate misery.

These enemies of the poor say they are “stakeholders,” who want to “preserve” indigenous people and villages. They never consider what the real stakeholders want – the people who actually live in these impoverished communities and must live with the consequences of harmful campaigns that are being waged all over the world – from Europe to Africa, Latin America, Asia and the United States.


Roy Innis

Roy Innis is national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), one of America’s oldest and most respected civil rights groups, and a life-long advocate of economic development rights for poor families and communities around the world.