“Fuck Lynas – Good day to die” by Namewee

The campaign against Lynas is not known to many Australians, but is a struggle being fought by many thousands of Malaysians. The fact that Namewee’s track has over a million likes on Youtube attests to this! Or it might just be that he’s really popular in Malaysia.

A brief summary of the issue – in 2011 Lynas opened the Mt Weld rare earth mine in Western Australia, rare earths being a group of seventeen elements used in technologies such as wind turbines and electric cars. As part of this project Lynas have almost finished building a processing plant in Kuantan, Malaysia, where 33,000 tonnes of Australian rare earth concentrates will be processed. Kuantan’s rare earths refinery, which will be the biggest in the world, will leave behind 28,000 tonnes of waste per year, a by-product of which is the radioactive element Thorium. So! It’s the usual story of powerful corporations shipping their political/social/environmental problems offshore, but with an added twist; the existence of environmental technologies like wind turbines have been a really important campaigning tool for the climate movement, so it’s tricky to come to terms with the fact that their production can be environmentally/socially problematic. For more info check out http://stoplynas.org/campaign/.

Namewee’s clip, and the article where I found it (http://www.meldmagazine.com.au/2012/03/lynas-erykah-badu-malaysian-perspective/ – thanks Anne!), highlight a few important points.

1) The various manifestations of global power imbalances – Australia gets Malaysian students paying exorbitant prices to study at our universities, Malaysia gets ‘our’ refugees and our toxic waste. Corporations can freely move money and (consequently) toxic waste around the globe, but refugees are policed by borders, shuffled around by the Australian government as is politically expedient.

2) Even seemingly ‘innocent’ technologies (the beautiful wind turbines that are going to stop runaway climate change!) need to be investigated in their social and political contexts. We can’t place blind faith in environmental technologies, especially when essential elements for their construction are proving to be both environmentally and socially destructive. I don’t think this means we should do away with windmills! But we should obviously foreground justice over technological fixes in our activism.