On the Fifth day of Christmas…

A couple of 14-carat gold wedding rings. Pictu...

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My true love gave to me…5 Gold Rings.

The Mines of South Africa can descend as far as 12,000 feet and reach temperatures of 130°F. To produce an ounce of gold requires 38 man hours, 1400 gallons of water, enough electricity to run a large house for ten days, and chemicals such as cyanide, acids, lead, borax, and lime. In order to extract South Africa’s yearly output of 500 tons of gold, nearly 70 million tons of earth are raised and milled.

The quote above is from the 50 Random Facts about Gold website.

The point that needs to be made from an environmental standpoint is that, yes, gold is a valuable substance but look at the other resources that are being used in order to extract that gold from the earth. Then, given that there is a limited amount of gold in the earth, in fact, in all of history, only 161,000 tons of gold have been mined, barely enough to fill two Olympic-size swimming pools and the rarity of it makes us want it more. We are willing to use up our other resources to get at the gold. This fact comes from a story from National Geographic on The Real Price of Gold.

Extracting a single ounce of gold there (in Indonesia)—the amount in a typical wedding ring—requires the removal of more than 250 tons of rock and ore.

Robert Krulwich, one of my favorite science guys from NPR has a story about a scientist that has injected nano-particles of gold into plants to get a glowing tree. At this time of year, as we add lights to  our Christmas trees, but I can’t see us really doing this in the future. Robert questions this with the same questions that I have….What happens to our “streetlights” when the leaves fall off the trees? Can you do this with pine tree? A spruce? Wouldn’t gold somehow hurt the tree? Or hurt the critters to eat the leaves? Who’s going to want to inject a tree leaf by leaf? What would this cost? Do you have to place a UV light next to each tree to see the glow? Why are you taking this seriously?

You can eat gold but I can’t imagine doing so and really and truly, why would you if it is that expensive. Can the water treatment facilities extract it from our waste? If they are having trouble extracting pharmaceuticals from our water systems, I am sure they can’t get at the gold that would also be in the water.

5 Gold rings is at the center of the song 12 Days of Christmas, I’m sure, for the emphasis of our infatuation with the substance. Many in America think that our financial system should go back to gold standards.  The price of Gold on December 3rd was $1,415 an ounce. I wear a gold wedding ring as a symbol of love given to my by my loving husband and would not trade that circle of gold for anything in the world, but I have no real desire to own or hoard gold, knowing the impact that this precious metal has on the earth and the lives of those miners and family of the miners that are looking for the gold around the world.