河流之死 | 環境資訊中心

河流之死

2000年04月27日
Donella H. Meadows撰稿02.14.00;黃曉菊 譯;吳海音審校

這是一篇關於全球經濟的優點、與缺點的報導。

在本月之初,一位遠在匈牙利的朋友,Zoltan Lontay,經由電子郵件向我傳送一項警訊。根據匈牙利的新聞報導指出,其國界東方的Szamos河中有大量的魚類死亡。Szamos河中的氰化物,已經隨著河水,蔓延到匈牙利的第二大河,Tisza河中。沒有人知道究竟發生了什麼事情。但是,有人懷疑一家澳洲礦業公司在羅馬尼亞所經營的一個礦場可能是這些氰化物的來源。

Zoltan's的消息引起世界各地超過一百位網友的討論。很快的,有人反應這的確可能是金礦場使用氰化物提煉黃金所造成的,因為在別處也曾發生過類似的災難。位於澳洲的Philip Sutton表示,他將協助調查這家在羅馬尼亞的礦場是屬於澳洲哪家公司的。

在2月8日當天,Zoltan得知更多的相關訊息。那座礦場的確是一座設備良好的金礦場;它可以有效的由含金量甚低的數噸石塊中萃取出黃金,而其作業的方式,是將挖出的石塊壓碎後成堆的堆積,再利用滴下的氰化物溶解石中的金子。這個技術的棘手之處在於對氰化物的後續處理。這家工廠在羅馬尼亞的處理方法,是將其傾倒在地表以土堤圍成的的池子裡。

Zoltan在信中寫道:

即使池子中的有毒物質足以殺死一百萬人,當局卻疏於調查。在1月30日時,池子的土堤崩塌。在半天之內,Szamos河中的氰化物含量,已經達到安全標準的150-300倍。河中的所有生物全數死亡,從浮游生物到魚類無一倖免。

除此之外,有數千人居住在此危險區域內。目前,當地暫時禁止人們由河中及附近的井中取用飲水與魚類。位於Tisza河的Szolnok市中,每個家庭每日分配5公升的包裝水。附近的食物工廠與造紙場亦已關閉。

在事件發生的24小時後,造成污染的公司並未對這場意外提出任何報告。羅馬尼亞的居民是由匈牙利的媒體上得之此事的。在稍後的報導中指出,這家公司因延遲向有關當局報告這件污染事件,而被處160元的罰款。在氰化物外洩的八天後,同一個地區又發生一起類似的事件。羅馬尼亞當局仍舊沒有對匈牙利提出警告,也沒有撤銷開礦公司的營業執照。

這個事件對於經濟的直接衝擊高達數百萬元。沒有人知道氰化物對河流、鄰近的水井和土壤的毒害會維持多久。每當在電視機前,看到當地居民哀痛地站在已死去的河流旁,就讓我感到怵目驚心。

接著,Philip Sutton經由礦業政策學會發表新聞。這是澳洲一個關切礦業發展的非營利團體 。造成災害的公司名為Esmeralda。這家公司並未對其所可能造成的環境浩劫有任何的防範措施,其傾倒氰化物的池子位於羅馬尼亞一城市的中心,距離住宅區僅50碼。而土堤崩潰的原因,則是因為雨水和雪充填了池子,以至於超過其負荷量。

礦業政策學會的會長,Geoff Evans發言表示,"這又是一件澳洲礦業公司造成的環境災害。類似的重大意外是使用氰化物萃取黃金時不可避免的悲劇。"

"無法避免"這一個辭瞬間閃過我心中。這是全球化的狂熱者最喜歡使用的字。自由貿易、全球經濟等,都是無法避免的。別試著阻擋這部列車,你唯一的選擇,就是登上、並且搭乘它。

這樣的事件果真"無法避免"嗎?經濟學不像物理學,它不是依循不可違背之定律而運作的。經濟是人類為了自己的目的創造出的概念。我們或許無法避免大量的氰化物從開放的池子中外洩。但像這種某國的工廠被允許在另一國不當操作致死的化學物質,並將其傾倒在第三國的悲劇,卻不是不可避免的。其實,並沒有什麼事情是無法避免的。除非我們相信它不可避免,並且不做任何努力去阻止其發生。倡議自由貿易的人從未明確指出,"無法避免"的全球化發展的意義究竟為何。難道它所指的是允許任何人到任何地方,在不受當地約束管轄下,做任何事情來賺錢嗎。我想,沒有人樂見全球展開一場污染的混戰。但是,類似的事件不難讓人理解為什麼匈牙利人,或是新幾內亞及其他得住在受氰化物或其他有害物質污染的地方的人,會以為全球化的經濟發展意謂著漠視、不負責任、貪婪,與破壞。

當然,也是由於全球資訊的發展,我們才得以將這個環境災害的的新聞迅速地發布出去。西雅圖的WTO反對者,經由全球網路組織起來。羅馬尼亞人是經由匈牙利的媒體,才得知在其邊境所發生的毒害。就某些方面來看,全球化不僅是無法阻擋,也是受到歡迎的;至於全球化的其他部分,則是我們所不能接受,也不覺得必要的。要區別這兩個部分,並不是一件困難的事。

(Donella H. Meadows,永續學會會長,Dartmouth大學環境研究副教授 )

Dead in the Water

by Donella H. Meadows 02.14.00

Here's a story of the global economy at its worst and maybe also at its best.

Early this month a cry of alarm came over email from my friend Zoltan Lontay in Hungary. The Hungarian news had just announced an enormous fish kill in the Szamos river on that country's eastern border. A wave of cyanide was moving down the Szamos and into the Tisza, Hungary's second largest river. No one knew what had happened, but there was talk of a mine, operated by an Australian company, across the border in Romania -- a mine that uses cyanide.

Zoltan's message went out to a discussion list of over 100 friends all over the world. Replies bounced back, a guess that it must be a gold mine using cyanide heap leach technology, reports of similar disasters in other parts of the world. Philip Sutton in Australia said he would find out which Australian mining companies operate in Romania.

By February 8 Zoltan had more information. It was indeed a gold mine, of the modern sort that allows even very dilute gold deposits to be extracted from tons of rock economically. The rock is dug, crushed, and piled in heaps, through which cyanide drips to leach out the gold. The tricky part is what then to do with the cyanide. In Romania it was dumped into an above-ground pool held by an earth dam.

Zoltan wrote:

Though the poison in the pool was enough to kill a million people, the authorities neglected to keep it inspected. On January 30 the dam collapsed. Within half a day cyanide concentrations in the Szamos reached 150-300 times the safe level. Life in the river was exterminated, from fish to plankton.

Several hundred thousand people live in the danger zone. No drinking, fishing, or water extraction from the river or from wells along the river is allowed. The city of Szolnok on River Tisza is distributing bottled water, five liters per family per day. Food industries and paper mills have shut down.

For more than 24 hours the polluting company did not report the incident. People in Romania learned about it only from the Hungarian media. A fine of $160 was imposed on the company for late reporting. Eight days after the spill a similar spill occurred in the same region. The Romanian authorities again did not warn Hungary, and they have not withdrawn the operating licenses of the mining companies.

Direct economic damage is several hundred million dollars. No one knows how long cyanide in the mud will poison the river and neighboring wells and soils. It is shocking to see on television local people standing along the dead river and mourning it.

The following day Philip Sutton passed on news from the Mineral Policy Institute, an Australian nonprofit that keeps its eye on the mining industry. The offending company's name is Esmeralda. It did not post a bond against environmental damage. The cyanide pond sat in the middle of a Romanian town, 50 yards from an apartment block. The dam broke because rain and snow had filled the pond beyond capacity.

Geoff Evans, director of the Mineral Policy Institute, said, "This adds to the legacy of environmental disasters by Australian mining companies. Serious accidents like this are an inevitable and tragic consequence of using cyanide for gold extraction.

"The word "inevitable" leaped out at me. The favorite word of globalization enthusiasts. Free trade, the global economy, it's all inevitable. Don't try to stand in the way of the train; your only choice is to get on and ride.

That "inevitability" claim stops both thought and action. Economics is not physics, it doesn't operate by laws we can't revoke. An economy is a human invention designed to serve human purposes. It is probably inevitable that there will be spills from huge open pools of cyanide. It is not inevitable that companies from one country be allowed to mishandle deadly chemicals in another country and spill them into a third country. Not inevitable, unless we believe it is and do nothing to prevent it.

Free trade enthusiasts never define what this "inevitable" globalization actually means to them. I gather that it means something like the freedom for anyone to go anywhere and do anything that makes money without interference from the locals. I don't suppose anyone actually wants a planetary pollution free-for-all. But you can see why Hungarians -- and New Guineans and other people who have had to live with cyanide and other kinds of spills -- might come to believe that, whatever is intended, what globalization really means is carelessness, unaccountability, greed, and destruction.

Of course, it was a global information system that allowed my group to pass along news of this disaster way ahead of the media. The WTO protesters in Seattle organized through the global Internet. Romanians learned about the poison on their border through Hungarian media. Some aspects of globalization are not only inevitable but desirable, while others are neither acceptable nor necessary. It isn't really hard to figure out which is which.

Donella H. Meadows is director of the Sustainability Institute and an adjunct professor of environmental studies at Dartmouth College.