The Family d'Anconia

Francesca Danco gave her impromptu lecture on the history of environmentalism later in the evening of the first day of her visit, which I wrote about earlier. Both Sally and I were impressed by the extent of Frank's knowledge, not only of history, but the nature of people, societies, and politics, as well as technology, especially in her field of mining.

Perhaps lecture is too formal a description, but for the better part of two hours, Frank talked, and Sally and I listened, enthralled, not only with the historical facts she recounted but how those facts intertwined with the history of her own family.

I'm afraid her entire talk was much too long to recount in full. I have done my best to capture all the important points, all in Frank's own words, as well as I remember them.

"Environmentalism," she began, "which was not originally called that, was already rampant in various forms in the fifteenth century. There were actually two sources for what would become environmentalism. You'll be surprised, I think, to know one source of environmentalism began as geography. Geography in the early days was not just a factual study of the world's topography, resources and countries, but a kind of philosophy with two competing views. One view held that societies and cultures were determined by geographical influences and was called 'geographical-determinism.' The other view held it was societies and cultures that determined themselves within the limits of what geography made possible and was called 'geographical-possibilism'.

"In both cases geography was deterministic. The 'geographical-determinists' made geography the sole determining factor of what a society is; the 'geographical-possibilists' made geography the defining limit of what a society is. Both made societies in some way, tied to the earth and in some way believed a nation or people were what their geography made them.

"Geographical-determinism had its greatest influence in Germany. At the end of the nineteenth century Friedrich Ratzel, an influential professor, wrote a book called The Living Room in which he insisted German soil genetically modified the biology and psychology of Germans, which made them superior.

"The Germans were greatly influenced by the ideas of geographical determinism. The expression, "the Fatherland," for example, reflected this geographical connection to the soil. It should come as no surprise that most Nazis were also environmentalists who believed people who evolved in other geographies, like the Jews, were inferior.

"Environmentalism, as a social-political ideology, had a different origin. It began in eighteenth century England but quickly spread throughout Europe, merging with the geographical environmentalism of the Germans. In every form, environmentalism was embraced by the monarchs, landed aristocracy, and feudal Lords in opposition to changes brought about by the industrial revolution.

"Technological developments in shipping and sea travel made colonization easier allowing more tenant farmers to move to farms of their own where they were able to keep the product of their efforts. The feudal lords were loosing their best and most profitable tenants and the colonial farmers were flooding the world with cheap products.

"At the same time, communities of wealthy manufacturers and businessmen, as well as a middle class of workers, were growing. They were, of course, all resistant to the rule of monarchs. Technological advances in communication, especially printing, threatened both the oppressive dogma of the church and absolute rule of the royal governing class.

"Environmentalism became the club with which the ruling classes attempted to curb both colonial expansion, the growth of industrialization, and "new" wealth unconnected to the feudal system.

"Since the eighteenth century that environmental club has taken many forms such as forest conservation, animal preservation, wetlands protection, prevention of soil pollution, water pollution, or air pollution, as well as population control and eugenics. The British Royal Proclamation of 1763, for example, outlawed the settlement of any land outside the established colonies in America. That law and others meant to curb colonial industry and commerce contributed to the American Revolution.

"Environmentalism and ecology, a term chosen for its more 'scientific' sound, in all its forms never had anything to do with protecting anything. The fact that some water has been polluted, some land mismanaged, and some man-made disasters have occurred are not the concern of environmentalists; those things are only excuses for implementing the oppressive government control of the world's resources and economy for the sole benefit of those who hold those controls.

"The d'Anconia name has been connected with mining in Europe for centuries, at least from the thirteenth century, but most prominently in Spain and Italy from the fifteenth century. In the early days, d'Anconia mining was mostly copper.

"Mining has always been a major target of the environmentalists. As mining methods made more raw materials available and cheaper, the industries and commercial enterprises depending on those resources flourished. It was obvious to the ruling classes that successful mining was a major threat to their hold on power. Mining became a favorite target of environmentalists. After all, mines were a direct and obvious disturbance of the environment and it was easy to accuse them of polluting the earth, rivers, and even the atmosphere.

"The oppressive regulations and government control of mines is one of the reasons the d'Anconia's moved most of their mining interests to the new world. At first, to Mexico, then all of Central America, and eventually throughout all of South America.

"During the eighteenth century most of the mining companies in Europe incorporated, except for d'Anconia mining, which was always a privately owned business—a family business.

"Arnaldo, my brother, and I were the last of the d'Anconia family with control of the d'Anconia mining. When my father died, all of the mines were split between my brother and me. Arnaldo continued his mines under the d'Anconia name. In the end, Arnaldo had control of all the d'Anconia mines because I sold him my share in all of them.

"I changed my name to Danco as soon as I was old enough to change it. I changed it as part of my personal campaign to eliminate all possible connections between me and my vile and useless brother. My brother retained his name, Arnaldo d'Anconia. He thinks being named d'Anconia makes him important. It doesn't. And Arnaldo? Do you know what that means? It means Eagle. Bah! He's no eagle. He's a stupid bird that cannot fly. That's what I call him—Dodo—Dodo d'Anconia.

"I worked in the d'Anconia mines until my father died, and learned all I could about mining. I used only the money I earned and saved from my own work and bought my first mine in Mexico. It was thought to be exhausted, but I knew it wasn't. That first mine was successful and I named it The First Danco Mine. Everything I've done in mining since began with that mine which is still producing copper.

"You know what has happened to d'Anconia mining. Dodo thought he could protect his mines from government control and regulation by incorporating. He was too stupid to realize incorporation is by means of the government, that incorporating made his mines the property of the government which he could only operate by permission and under control of whatever government incorporation granted. d'Anconia Copper exists today in name only. All the actual mines now belong to Rio Tinto and the governments with which Rio Tinto colludes.

"Danco Mining is solely owned by me. There are no stock holders, no board of directors, no corporate officers. I have lot's of investors, but they invest in me. They make their loans directly to me, and I repay those loans with interest directly.

"The governments of this world despise Danco Mining, of course, because it is not incorporated, and they cannot require any of the kind of financial reports incorporation would make necessary. They cannot discover who my investors are, or how much they profit from those investments. Do you know, some of my investors lend me money because it is the only way they can hide it from those governments who would otherwise confiscate it as taxes. I guess I'm inadvertently in the business of, ... what do they call it? ... 'money laundering.'

"Can you imagine it? Money earned by honest production is deemed 'dirty' by governments simply because they cannot get their slimy hands on it.

"The real irony is, those governments do not dare close my mines by force, because their main business depends on their existence. My mines are the largest producers of copper in the world. If my mines should all close tomorrow, the government's main industry would be severely crippled.

"Do you know what the government's main business is? It is war—the war industry, the producers of bombs, bullets, and munitions with no other purpose than killing people and destroying property is the only industry which governments promote and protect. That industry would be impossible without copper, and since my mines are the largest producers of copper in the world, they do not dare close them."

Until now, neither Sally or I had interrupted Frank, but something about this bothered me. It seemed to me Frank was admitting that in a subtle way she was enabling the very war machine she despised.

"Frank, do you mind if I ask you a question? I know you understand that war is the ultimate evil of this world. If the governments of the world depend on your copper to continue their perpetual wars, why do you continue to supply them copper?"

"You are right, Mark. If I voluntarily closed down my mines, I could prevent the kinds of wars governments are capable of waging now. But it would not prevent war. Governments would not cease war just because I made the availability of copper limited. First of all, I'm not the only supplier of copper, just the major one. Governments do not care how they wage war, so long as they believe they are the ones that will win.

"I think your question accepts the view of those who believe an individual has some kind of duty to society, like Ayn Rand, who believed that producers should cease producing because their production made government oppression possible. But I have no duty to prevent others from being oppressed by government. There is only one moral requirement, that I live my life as well as I can, producing all I can for my own benefit, and the benefit of any others from whom they and I may mutually benefit.

"Perhaps you do not understand how products such as minerals are marketed. I would never sell my copper to any industry involved in producing munitions, for example. But I seldom sell my copper to any industry directly. Copper, like all other minerals are commodities, and almost all of them are purchased by commodities investors directly and resold to end users by those investors.

I have very little control over who finally purchases the copper I produce, and would not control it if I could. That is neither my business, nor would it be right. So long as men and women are willing to sell their children into service to their governments to wage wars, it is not my business to prevent those governments from waging them.

I was not sure I understood the point that Frank was making, but certainly agreed she had no obligation to attempt to control any aspect of society. This was not always something I understood, but did since Jo had made her startling revelation at Roger's rare pool party about quitting writing for the very same reason.

We had all taken a brief break for a drink and some small talk, but Sally and I were both eager for Frank to continue, which she did.

"You know, this so-called science of environmentalism is all bunk, but it would not matter if it were the purist of sciences. The environmentalists have perpetrated a huge scam on the entire world. It's not the only fraud taking advantage of the scam, but perhaps the most successful. That scam is the lie that if some pending danger, some emergency, some threat is great enough, then the principles of individualism, the fact that every individual's life is their own, and every individual must be free to make their own choices and live their lives according to their own best reason can, even must, be violated.

"The truth is, even if all the environmentalists' predictions of utter doom and destruction were true, it would be no justification for violating the freedom of a single individual. So long as the world buys the lie that anything ever justifies the oppressive control of a single individual by force for any reason, anything can be used as an excuse for any level of oppression. The environmentalists understand this—it is the principle behind every environmentalist ploy, and every one of them is a lie."

"In Costa de la Luz, Spain, they accused me of polluting the Guadalquivirt river. They were going to take me to court to prove I polluted the river and force me to pay for it's clean-up.

"Do you know what I did? I wrote a brief note to the prosecuting attorney. 'I polluted the Guadalquivirt river. It's my river, and I'll do whatever I like with it. I also intend to pollute the Guadiana Manor river and the Guadalbillon rivers. They are also my rivers and I'll do whatever I like with my rivers. They are not your rivers, or the state's rivers, or anyone else's rivers. If you want to protect some rivers, buy some and protect them, but leave my rivers alone.'"

"Of course the rivers were no more mine than they were anyone else's, which was my whole point. No one has a claim on a river. If anyone makes such a claim, my claim is as legitimate as theirs. No one asks why one person's view of how a river ought to be used is more legitimate than someone else's.

"Oh, they ask absurd questions, of course. 'Does anyone have a right to pollute a river upstream that is used by people downstream?'

"What is pollution? If I put something into a river that others like to have in the river, it will not be pollution. If I put something into a river that others do not like to have in the river, it is pollution. Who decides what people ought to like to have in their rivers, or what one may or may not put into a river? Do you know who? Those with the power of the gun—those who have the power to control others. Does any sane person really believe their purpose is to protect the rivers for others? Their only purpose is power to control the resources of the world.

Their trick is to pit the desires of some people, those who produce nothing but covet what the government promises them against those who do produce something and desire nothing but what they have produced and acquired by their own effort. They pit those who desire the free water of a river they did nothing to produce or acquire, just assuming it would always be available 'for free' against those who use the river to produce something of value while supplying a source of honest income to the multitude of individuals who labor in my mines and enjoy a quality of life that would otherwise be impossible to them, and which my so-called pollution of the river makes possible to them. Who, exactly, is it the environmentalists choose to preserve the river for? Isn't it for those who produce nothing much, but will support the government for enabling them to have and enjoy what they have never earned?

"Well the environmentalists lost, that time, but not because their lies were exposed. They lost, because there were too many individuals whose lives and fortunes depended on my mines, and they brought too much pressure to bear on the government to allow the obscene penalties the environmentalists wanted leveled against my mines to succeed.

"I do not regard that as some kind of victory, however. I despise the use of force, even when it is interpreted as 'influence.' I fully expect the environmentalists to keep up their threats, and I fully intend to destroy those mines before I allow those parasites to take them over. It will be a huge blow to them, but a mere inconvenience to me.

"Oh, don't think for a minute I'll destroy those mines to punish anyone. If the mines are, 'nationalized,' the euphemism the government uses for stealing property, I'll destroy them to prevent that government from becoming a competitor. It will make the copper, nickel, platinum, gold, and sulfur from all my other mines more valuable."

"You know, Roger, did not always agree with me. When he was heavily involved in shipping my ore from South America to certain European countries when such shipments were forbidden by the so-called allied countries, including the US, he thought I was prolonging, or at least advancing, the war. He as much as accused me of being a war profiteer, although that was language he would never have used. I'm not sure he ever understood the concept of controlled burning I used to illustrate what I was doing. 'I send them the ore, Roger, and they must pay for it with gold, because I will not accept their government inflated fiat money, and they must use their resources and manpower to process that ore, then more resources and manpower to produce the war machinery they desired the metals for, all of which costs them more than than any war success can possibly win them. I'm not supporting their war efforts, I'm exhausting their capacity to wage war.'

"I finally had to make it clear to Roger. 'Roger, it would not really matter if I were aiding those countries' war effort. I have no moral obligation to determine how others use the products I produce. If they use them to kill and destroy, it is their choice, not mine. Even if I suspect what they are going to do with my ore, what others choose is not my concern. My only concern is to receive payment for my product that I am willing to accept in exchange for it.'

"'Roger. You could cure every disease on this planet. Every shipment of goods you make on this planet helps maintain the economy of this planet. Why will you not provide this world with the cure for its diseases? Isn't it because you know providing that technology would make this world a threat to the entire universe of human beings? Then why do you continue your shipping business which supports the economic sustenance of the perverted race of humans on this planet?'

"'It's not for them, is it Roger? Isn't for yourself, so you can continue your research and be as comfortable as possible in this world? Well, it's the same for me Roger. I no more belong in this world than you do. The only difference is, I'm stuck here for life—you will at least be able to leave some day for a world I can only long for and dream of.'"

It was the only time I ever saw Frank express such intensity of emotion, an emotion both Sally and I shared. It is a feeling almost like being trapped—trapped in a world one knows they do not belong in. I suspect the feeling is similar to that experienced by those poor souls, who, though perfectly sane, have been forced to spend their days in an asylum for the insane.

No one spoke for a long time. It was Frank who finally broke the spell.

"At least we have each other, you know. At least we can, from time to time, know the company of others who are sane. It is for that I work. Perhaps it is all I work for."

Then with an intensity I never expected, she added:

"No. It's not only what I work for, it's what I live for. God, I love you two. You, and of course the others, make life worth living in this world.

I have no more to say about that evening. It was obviously very important to us, but was filled with emotion and feelings, expressed and unexpressed but understood; but feelings are not objective and in themselves never determine what is significant or important. We did not have much more conversation anyway.

—Mark Halpern