Extraction means taking the planet’s resources- wood, minerals, coal, fossil fuel, water, plants, animals, and soil out of the earth and starting their journey through the materials economy. The problem here is threefold: we’re using too much stuff, the processes by which we extract all that stuff cause more damage and we’re not sharing the stuff equitably.
We’re trashing the planet. We’re using and wasting more resources each year than the earth can renew. And on top of using too much, the processes we use to extract all that stuff like clear cutting forests, mountain top removal mining, bottom trawling fishing and others further damage ecosystems, change the climate, wipe out species, use up water and create pollution.
Extractive industries are linked to wide ranging health problems resulting from pollution, water degradation, and toxics associated with the extractive processes. In mining, oil and gas sites, residents report increased asthma, respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses, autoimmune diseases, liver failure, cancer and other ailments. Organizations around the world are coming together to study and organizes around the health impacts of extractive industries.
Workers are getting trashed too. Workers in extractive industries bear a disproportionate burden of health and safety threats. Mining, for example, accounts for only 0.4% of the global workforce, but is responsible for over 3% of fatal accidents at work—about 11,000 per year, about 30 each day. Forestry is among the three most dangerous occupations in most countries.
In a globalized economy, the risks of extractives industries are disproportionately born by communities in developing countries while the rewards consistently accrue in the corporations and consumers in wealthier countries. Primary decision making about projects also increasingly happens in boardrooms distant from the host communities, making it even harder for impacted people to have a meaningful voice in project planning.
We can extract fewer resources from the planet. We can improve our extractive practices to be less harmful to the planet, workers and host communities. And we can more equitably share the drastically reduced harms and the benefits of extraction. Progress is being made on many fronts including increasing materials efficiency, mining reform, sustainable forestry, renewable energy and more.
NGOs to Contact
Click the HERE for a list of organizations working on the issue of extraction. This list is not exhaustive. At this stage, we have limited the list to organizations in the U.S. Many more internation, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) can be found at wiserearth.org, an online community directory and networking forum that maps and connects NGOs working on critical environmental and social issues of our times.
To add your own organization, please post your profile on wiserearth.org in order to connect with others around the world with shared interests.