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Columbia Journal logoVolume Nine, Number Two    April 2004    www.columbiajournal.ca


    Glitter & Greed: The Secret World of the Diamond Cartel

    By Janine Roberts
    The Disinformation Company Ltd.
    374 pages
    $22.95 US

    Carole Pearson

    Few status symbols are as pervasive as diamonds. Some people revel in showing off their glittering diamond rings or dream of being able to do so. In Glitter & Greed, Janine Roberts smashes the aura of mystique and glamour that are associated with diamonds. Based on information gathered for her documentary film, “The Diamond Empire,” Roberts’ book is guaranteed to take the sparkle out of any diamond.

    Glitter and GreedThis expose on the global diamond trade reveals the seamier side of the De Beers monopoly and the industry in general. Diamonds are advertised as symbols of love, notably in promoting sales of engagement or eternity rings. The cold reality is diamonds are one of the most profitable resources on earth, and corporate greed is a powerful force to be reckoned with.

    One of the strong points of Roberts’ book is her first hand accounts. This is no compilation of other people’s research, but one where the author speaks directly with African mineworkers and their families, Australian aboriginals and New York diamond sellers and government officials. She doesn’t play on emotion or numb the reader with page upon page of statistics. It’s a fast-paced read where each chapter pries open yet another unsavory aspect of the diamond business few people know about.

    Glitter & Greed takes the reader on a whirlwind tour of the world’s major diamond mines. One of the first stops is South Africa, site of the largest and oldest diamond mining operations in the world. Here, black miners are housed in segregated, decrepit “prison-like” barracks. Her descriptions of the horrendous conditions and callous treatment of workers resonate with images of the worst gulags; only these men are workers not inmates.

    Just as this disturbing information sinks in, Roberts whisks us to India where 85 per cent of gem quality diamonds are cut and polished. It’s low paid and hazardous work, and the “diamond-cutting sweatshops” often employ children. During her visit, Roberts says she saw boys who “were seemingly as young as eight or nine.”

    In her chapter Diamonds and Tribal Rights, Roberts visits Australia where the greed for diamonds has caused the destruction of aboriginal burial grounds and sacred sites as mines and roads are carved into native territory with no recourse or compensation offered to the aboriginal people.

    Canada touts its own relatively new diamond industry in the Northwest Territories, but Roberts says the result is environmental degradation of land, water and native wildlife, including the disruption of caribou migration paths. A De Beers slogan says, “Diamonds are forever” but, according to Roberts, damage to the environment in the tundra’s fragile eco-system is also virtually forever.

    Besides the ramifications of mining and processing diamonds, Roberts also delves into the issue of conflict or “blood” diamonds and their role in provoking and prolonging wars on the African continent. And it’s not just recent conflicts like in Angola and Sierra Leone. There are decades of African history where diamonds have played a role in the installation of dictators and the assassination of elected leaders. As Roberts tells it, lurking in the shadows of many such conflicts are foreign governments, the diamond industry and sometimes even (surprise!) the CIA.

    Throughout her book, Roberts presents chapter after chapter crammed with information about all facets of the diamond trade. Alarming? Yes. The epilogue is particularly chilling as Roberts tells of her struggle to get her film made and her book published. She was even beaten and sexually assaulted by thugs who broke into her home. Coincidence or warning?

    Pick up a copy of Glitter & Greed. It will change the way you look at diamonds--forever.

    Lines in the Sand: New writing on war and peace

    Compiled and Edited by Mary Hoffman and Rhiannon Lassiter
    The Disinformation Company Ltd.
    288 pages
    $8.95 US

    Carole Pearson

    In a perfect world, books like Lines in the Sand would not exist. It’s a children’s book about war. Edited by a mother and daughter team, Mary Hoffman and Rhiannon Lassiter, this compilation of 150 stories, poems and artwork by an international collection of children’s writers and illustrators is designed to make young people aware of the human cost of war and to think about the benefits of peace.

    Lines in the SandThere are freshly minted works about the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there are also stories in historical settings, from the Crusades, World War II and the Vietnam War. Most, but certainly not all, are written from a child’s perspective, and depict about how war devastates their lives and nurtures long lasting hatred and fears.

    Croatian author Sabina Horvat’s story, Heartmines is about a group of Croatian children who welcome a new boy to join their soccer game. Their friendliness ends quickly when they discover he is Serbian. “The Serbs attacked the Croatians,” said Katica, Tom’s sister. “They killed our father. You’re a murderer!”’

    The poems and illustrations leap from the pages with immediate, raw emotion over the futility of war and a sense of helplessness in preventing yet more death and destruction as world leaders pursue their own agendas for domination.

    Geared towards readers eight years and up, Lines in the Sand can be a good first step to discuss the ramifications of war for people everywhere. With its stories and poems and illustrations that depict the search for peace or the tears of children, there is much to ponder in Lines in the Sand.

    The book is dedicated to “all children who suffer through war” and royalties and profits from sales of Lines in the Sand go to UNICEF’s emergency appeal for the children of Iraq.   

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