Conflicts over control of natural resources

Conflicts over control of natural resources

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"The Discovery: On October 12, 1492, America discovered capitalism. Christopher Columbus, financed by the kings of Spain and the bankers of Genoa, brought the novelty to the islands of the Caribbean Sea. In his Discovery diary, the admiral wrote the word gold 139 times and the word God or Our Lord 51 times. He could not tire his eyes from seeing such beauty on those beaches, and on November 27 he prophesied: All Christendom will have a business on them. And she was not wrong about that. Columbus believed that Haiti was Japan and that Cuba was China, and he believed that the inhabitants of China and Japan were Indians from India; but in that he was not mistaken.

After five centuries of business throughout Christendom, a third of the American jungles have been wiped out, much fertile land is barren, and more than half the population eats stir-fry. The Indians, victims of the most gigantic dispossession in universal history, continue to suffer the usurpation of the last remains of their lands, and continue to be condemned to the denial of their different identity. They are still forbidden to live in their own way and way, they are still denied the right to be. At first, the looting and the othercide were carried out in the name of the God of heaven. Now they are fulfilled in the name of the god of Progress… ”(1)Eduardo Galeano

Social conflicts, which include environmental conflicts, have many fronts. The rights of our peoples are threatened daily by pressure from multinationals in their desire to exploit and commercialize natural resources, which in their countries of origin have already been devastated, are on the verge of exhaustion or are not enough to supply the growing demand.

Latin America, despite having suffered more than 500 years of exploitation, still has innumerable natural resources that, from the perspective of the economic system that subjugates the planet, are seen simply as "raw material" or "market goods".

Thus, a mountain is perceived as a deposit of metals, a forest is a warehouse for wood, a river as a source of water supply and effluent drainage or a plain as an agrofuel factory.

The culture and the ecosystem of the place to be exploited are worthless. Its inhabitants can serve their interests or be banished.

This is how the world has been run in recent centuries, and those methods have been deepened to incredible limits in recent decades.

But as has happened throughout the history of humanity, when people feel overwhelmed, or feel that their survival is in danger, a logical reaction is developed. What was once resigned acceptance began to turn into flashing reaction and then social conflict.

As we see in the words of this great narrator of the reality that is Eduardo Galeano, for America, in 1492 a period of dispossession and exploitation of its natural resources began.

On October 12, 1492, America discovered capitalism. Or capitalism discovered a gigantic source of supply of raw materials, of Natural Resources.

America at that time had more inhabitants than Europe itself, but such an immense extension of land seemed, with the exception of the big cities, that it was hardly populated in some areas and not even that in others.

To make matters worse, it is estimated that between 90 and 95% of the original population of America was annihilated in the first decades after the arrival of the conquerors. The cause of such genocide was neither intellectual superiority, nor cultural superiority or racial superiority… But the main culprits were the diseases brought by Europeans.

By the middle of the 16th century, most of the territory was uninhabited, and without any sign of human intervention.

After more than 5 centuries of irresponsible exploitation of natural resources, Latin American geography has been totally modified.

The spoils perpetrated by the conquerors of America were later joined with as much or more force by those carried out by the United States. In both cases with the complicity of the oligarchies and local powers.

Today we see in the American continent the descendants of the original peoples, those of the African brothers taken as slaves and a large percentage of mestizos, zambos and other mixtures that have become new and majority ethnic groups, dying of hunger. Their forests have been cut down and the waterways from which they get their food have been poisoned, or dried up, or diverted. They were never consulted, they were never given anything in return, they never shared in the profits. They never existed for the machinery of progress.

The excessive economic ambition has turned the immense natural riches of America into a great curse that weighs on every living being that inhabits it. It has become a reason for the poisoning of rivers, the pulverization of mountains, a reason for the disappearance of forests, plant and animal species, glaciers, peoples, and cultures. It is the cause of floods and droughts, desertification, loss of biodiversity, pollution, malnutrition and death.

The "development" is powerful, so it pushes and pushes no matter who, no matter where. It takes place, occupies more and more space and needs less and less of us, living beings. Every day we are more people on the planet, but there are fewer that "development" requires to continue expanding, occupying every corner of the globe.

Consumerism, the bad mother of many of our environmental problems

Consumption is a word that derives from Latin: cosumere and whose meaning is to spend or destroy. Once something has been consumed, that is, wasted or destroyed to satisfy our needs or desires, that "something" will become part waste, garbage, and part a satisfied need or, in the worst and sadly most common of the cases, in an unnecessary wish fulfilled.

Many of the processes of environmental destruction on the planet share the same cause: excessive and irresponsible consumption.

In the consumer society we live in, each and every one of us plays a double role. We are victims and victimizers.

Each one of us receives, from the moment we open our eyes in the morning until we close them at night, a constant bombardment from the advertising industry that encourages us to consume, that tries to generate new addictions, needs, desires. That practically forces us to acquire products and services, the vast majority of which are totally unnecessary for us.

The industrial-consumerist model has led the economies of the poorest countries to devote a large part of their human and natural resources to satisfying the excessive consumption of the most industrialized societies, and of the wealthiest strata of those regions, even leaving to meet the fundamental needs of their own populations.

There is a debt contracted by the industrialized countries with the rest, produced by the historical and present looting of natural resources, by the environmental impacts resulting from industrial production and by the irresponsible use of environmental space.

Every year and for decades, excess emissions have caused our countries invaluable economic and human losses associated with floods, proliferation of infectious-contagious diseases, droughts, desertification, loss of biodiversity and many other direct and indirect consequences.

The Consumer Society is clearly environmentally unsustainable. It can no longer even be sustained on the inequality between North and South, which for many years acted as a compensator for the pressure on natural resources, exerted by excessive consumption in the richest countries. This consumption implies a constant increase in the extraction and exploitation of natural resources, which are being depleted, and the dumping of waste, which for years has filled the absorption capacity of the planet.

From all this the concept of environmental liabilities was born, the damage to the ecosystem that a company produces, either in its normal activity or in the event of an accident. Of course, for the normal activities of a polluting company, the cost to be paid is not the same in a third world country as in an industrialized one, and even less in case of accidents.

That is why, for some time, transnational companies have begun to locate their plants in the countries of the South, where in most cases they do not take responsibility for the environmental damage produced. In this way, the industrialized countries acquire even more Ecological Debt towards others.

In terms of consumption, we must not pretend to compensate upwards, that is to say that the whole planet has the possibility of consuming at the levels that industrialized countries do, since that would lead us to accelerate environmental collapse, but it is necessary to compensate downwards . First world countries must reduce their consumption levels, if they are really interested in saving the planet from the looming environmental catastrophe.

For the first time we are faced with an environmental problem of planetary characteristics. And the challenge is to act as a species, to understand that the decisions to solve it must be made globally. Individual and isolated efforts are no longer enough. We are all in the same sinking ship and each of us has an obligation to do our part to keep it afloat.

The social and environmental consequences of consumerism are visible to whoever wants to see them. We have made the planet sick and the symptoms multiply daily.

Some cases of exploitation of Natural Resources


The socially and environmentally devastating history of monocultures is not at all recent in America. So much so, that it has been on the continent almost as long as its "discoverers."

Although undoubtedly the motive that led to the conquest of the American continent at first was the abundance of gold and silver, on his second voyage Columbus brought some sugar cane roots with him and planted them on an island in Central America.
Bad luck for the continent, the wealth and fertility of the land caused such a coveted element to sprout and multiply rapidly.

During the three centuries that followed, the crop spread like an oil slick rapidly covering other islands and landed on the mainland, taking the Peruvian coast and northeast Brazil.

The preparation of the land, planting, harvesting and transportation of the cane, demanded a large amount of labor, which in the beginning was supplied by the conquered indigenous peoples. But soon the deaths due to the subhuman conditions of life that were given to them, made it necessary to bring slave labor from Africa.

The extensive production of sugar cane ate entire forests with ravenous fires, extinguishing all existing biological diversity in its wake. Lands that for many thousands of years had been fertile and rich in minerals, became worn and semi-desert soils as the “white gold” - which meanwhile produced fabulous profits to Holland, England, France and Portugal - extended its dominions with its environmentally catastrophic march.

The high cost of this first experience with monocultures, even today - hundreds of years later - remains a macabre inheritance that each child receives at birth.

The FAO report on forest resources “Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005” (FRA2005) presents a fairly complete picture of the state of natural resources around the globe.

This work shows that Latin America and the Caribbean is the region with the highest concentration of forests in the world, but it is also the region that has suffered the most significant deforestation on the planet in the last decade, with a loss of 4.3 million hectares per year.

Only in South America 65% of the planet's annual loss of forests is concentrated, and deforestation occurs mainly in the Amazon region, where 3.1 million hectares are lost per year, that is, more than 40% of the deforestation of the world.

According to the FAO, South America has the greatest biodiversity on Earth, and deforestation not only harms it, but also affects its hydrographic basins and the richness of its soils.

Deforestation around the world, especially to turn forests into agricultural land, continues at an alarming rate: some 13 million hectares a year. (3)

Today Latin America is being carpeted, a perfect green already covers more than 45 million hectares and grows at a rate of more than 800 per day. Under that carpet are buried forests, mountains, butterflies, birds, insects, peasants, small farmers, families, entire cultures. Every living being is being covered by that monochromatic tapestry called Soy, which has had a great extra boost since its international launch as a fuel-plant.

There is a great debate about the energy balance required to produce ethanol or biodiesel from bioenergy crops. The results of studies by David Pimentel and Tad Patzek argue that the energy balance of all crops, with current processing methods, uses a greater amount of fossil energy to produce the energy equivalent in agrofuel.

Thus, for every unit of energy expended on fossil energy, the return is 0.778 of energy from corn methanol; 0.688 units in ethanol of switchgrass; 0.636 units of wood ethanol and, in the worst case, 0.534 units of soy biodiesel.

In fact, neither Pimentel, nor Patzek, nor their critics have included the costs of waste and waste treatment, or the environmental impacts of intensive bioenergy crops, such as soil loss and environmental contamination from the use of fertilizers or pesticides.

“Currently, Brazil is the largest soybean producer in South America, with a cultivation area of ​​20.58 million hectares. During the 2004/2005 harvest, 1.2 million hectares of Amazon rainforest were deforested as a main consequence of the soybean expansion.

Environmental standards have also been lamentable. The expansion of sugarcane crops in Brazil has destroyed, in the past decades, a large part of the Atlantic Forest, and today an increase of 17% in cane plantations is expected, which will mean 2 million more hectares of sugarcane, expansion that will be done at the expense of other ecosystems.

In Argentina, in the 2006/2007 cycle a record harvest volume of 47.5 million tons was obtained, reaching 16 million cultivated hectares, which represents more than 50% of the agricultural area. In the last year, soybeans expanded 450 thousand hectares and in the last 4 years 1 million hectares of forests have been deforested. It is estimated that an average of 821 hectares of forest is lost per day and most of this land has been planted with soybeans. " (4)

To take dimensions of the matter, 100 hectares are equivalent to 1 km2. In Latin America there are 45 million hectares of soy planted, which is equivalent to 450,000 km2. The entire surface of Spain is 500,000 km2. In other words, only in Latin America there is almost an entire Spain, covered by soy.

In Paraguay there are constant dispossession of land from its traditional occupants for the expansion of soy cultivation.

In Argentina, soy has displaced other crops on which the food sovereignty of that country depended, and there are a large number of “fumigated peoples” that the only thing they receive from the soy production chain is the proliferation of lethal diseases.

In Chile, forest crops have displaced the traditional Mapuche populations, and the cultivation of African palm in Colombia operates with the support of illegal armed groups.

Soy has already caused the destruction of 21 million hectares in the closed ecosystem, tropical forests and Mata Atlântica, Pantanal, Caatinga in Brazil, more than 14 million hectares of humid Pampas, Yunga and Chaco in Argentina; 1,750,000 hectares of Pantanal, Mata Atlântica and Chaco in Paraguay, and 600,000 hectares of tropical forests in Bolivia (5). Forest plantations in Chile have expanded at the expense of boreal forests. In Ecuador and Colombia, palm plantations have been established in tropical forests, both Amazonian and biogeographic Chocó, and in many cases on traditional indigenous territories.

The European Union, in its eagerness to comply with its obligations under the Kyoto Protocol, is determined to change its energy systems based on fossil fuels, for agrofuels; But since there is not enough land in Europe for the production of the amount of biofuels to be used, what is being considered is its importation.

Just to meet the energy needs of the United States and thus overcome dependence on diesel, it would be necessary to double the agricultural area, which would mean doubling the area planted with transgenic soybeans.

The United States Department of Energy estimates that the existing biomass potential in that country is 160 million tons per year, which means one million barrels of oil per day saved. But the daily consumption of that country is 21 million barrels. So although the United States has a large area of ​​agricultural land, its energy consumption is so high that it will also need to import. Where are these biofuels going to come from? Of course, from regions like Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Latin America is the region of the world where the production of crops for the production of agrofuels has expanded the most.

In this context, Via Campesina is the most important network of peasant organizations. It is an international movement of peasants, small and medium producers, rural women, indigenous people, landless people, rural youth and agricultural workers.

The organizations that make up Via Campesina come from 56 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe and the American continent.

La Via Campesina promotes a peasant model based on agriculture and sustainable production, with local resources, in harmony with local culture and traditions.

At the Latin American level, inspired by the need of communities to develop global strategies to deal with the introduction of transgenic organisms, in January 1999, after the "Latin American Seminar on Transgenic Organisms and Biosafety" held in Quito-Ecuador, the network For a GMO-Free Latin America.

The main objective of its creators and the organizations that have subsequently joined it is to prevent the introduction of transgenic organisms in new areas of the region, supporting national processes, mainly those that include local communities.

Tree monocultures

The timber industry is growing by leaps and bounds in many countries in South America. Companies that carry out monoculture forest plantations and pulp mills are being installed throughout the entire continent with truly devastating impacts on the ecosystems that surround them and on the planetary ecosystem with an important contribution to global warming.

There are plenty of examples such as CELCO in Valdivia, Chile, where the effects produced by the constant discharge of effluents into the Río Cruces wetlands can hardly be repaired, with damage not only environmental, but also economic and social.

Another case, probably a little less known due to language barriers and the lack of interest or directed interest of the media, is the one that occurred in March 2005 in Minas Gerais, Brazil, where the rupture of a deposit of chemical products of the “Industria Cataguazes” paper mill, installed on the banks of the Pomba river, caused the spill of millions of liters of caustic soda, chlorine, and other toxic products. This river in turn drains into the Paraíba do Sul river, the main river in the state of Rio de Janeiro, which as a consequence was also affected by pollution, causing more than half a million people to be without water supply for several days, and that for 90 days fishing in the two polluted rivers be prohibited. The spill affected approximately one million people.

In 1987 a forestry law was passed in Uruguay whose objective was the promotion of large-scale tree plantations. Today that country has almost 1,000,000 hectares planted, the vast majority, of eucalyptus.

The “forestation fever” has reached the Uruguayan department of Tacuarembó, with more than 200,000 hectares acquired for afforestation. It is estimated that there are 12,000 people displaced from the countryside and in parallel, 17 rural schools have been closed. Where this change is most clearly recorded is in Rincón de Zamora, bordered by the Tacuarembó River, towards its mouth in the Negro River, where the most appropriate lands of the department for cattle raising were located and which, at present, is totally covered by monoculture tree plantations. (6)

In the case of Argentina, eucalyptus plantations have been concentrated in the provinces of Corrientes and Entre Ríos, reaching the not inconsiderable figure of 220,000 ha between the two in 2005.

Another Argentine province contributes numbers that scare. Misiones is described as the "main forest province of the country." Originally, the province had 2.7 million hectares of rainforest, but today this area is estimated at 1.2 million. More than 350 thousand have been replaced by exotic pines and the same by fuel plants. Due to pesticides and pollution, in Misiones 5 out of 1000 children are born with malformations.

There are constant marches in the city of Gualeguaychú, Entre Ríos, Argentina, expressing their rejection of the installation of two bins in the Uruguayan city of Fray Bentos, which have significant funding from the World Bank.

Monocultures, in addition to polluting us, are dehydrating us. The height of the eucalyptus stem is equal to the length of its root, it grows very fast because it has long roots capable of extracting large amounts of water from the ground and its water tables. Rural producers are already warning of serious problems of access to the water they need for their crops.


Due to wars and the waste of goods perpetrated especially by the central countries during the 20th century, there was a rapid depletion of easily accessible metal ores. This led to a change in the extraction systems. It went from intensive to extensive exploitation, from underground tunnel mining to huge open-pit holes.

Once the rock containing a high percentage of mineral was exhausted, larger volumes of rock began to be processed with lower percentages of metal. Blasts are now being used to reduce entire mountains to rubble or to dig huge holes in the ground.

Then, with power shovels, trucks, and conveyor belts - all gigantic in size - the rubble is transported to places where it is ground into powder or small two- or three-centimeter stones, depending on the method adopted for further processing.

An open pit mine consumes and poisons up to 70 million liters of water every day to keep production going. This is the equivalent of the water used by a large city.

Mining is a short-term activity but with long-term effects. No one can (should) have any doubt that when it is carried out in forest areas, it constitutes a factor of their predation. It is estimated that, together with oil exploration, it threatens 38% of the last extensions of primary forests in the world.

In Argentina, Peru, Chile, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Honduras and other countries, neighborhood assemblies, forums, roadblocks, marches and all kinds of social expressions are regularly reproduced in which an active opposition of the communities towards mining.

However, the fighting is very uneven. Mining multinationals have a lot of money to allocate to "sell and green" their activity and a vast experience accumulated from previous projects, so they do not hesitate to apply their well-designed pre-start marketing strategy to peoples and governments. productive activities.

The combo includes in most cases, after co-opting the local media, an aggressive propaganda that misinforms about the use and benefits of its cutting-edge technology, wholesale employment opportunities, activation of the regional economy, such as also promises of economic contributions for education, health, public services and tourism, among others. If all this does not work, corruption, threats, the criminalization of the resistance and even the hiring of paramilitary groups are options that are used not infrequently.

To complete the extraction and processing processes, the mines also require a gigantic energy consumption. To give an example in numbers, the extraction of the Bajo de La Alumbrera mine, in the Province of Catamarca, is the largest individual consumer of energy in the Argentine Republic. It also consumes between 200,000 and 250,000 liters of diesel per day.

Cases of resistance to open pit mining are multiplying throughout the American continent, perhaps an interesting witness case is that of the city of Esquel, in Argentine Patagonia.

Esquel (Chubut) is a city in Patagonia Argentina where the national, provincial and municipal governments are advancing with a polluting gold mining project just 6 km from the city, supporting the transnational company Meridian Gold (currently bought by Yamana Gold) against 81% of the people, who said NO TO THE MINE in the plebiscite of March 23, 2003. Through the Assembly of Neighbors Self-convened by the NO TO THE MINE, even today the struggle and resistance of the residents of Esquel, against the installation of mining in their territory.


Dams have uprooted between 40 and 80 million people in the world. The expert Pedro Arrojo defines the drama of the displaced as “hydrocaust”. Even the World Bank, one of the main funders of hydropower, recognizes that the quality of life of the majority of the displaced does not improve with their relocation. It is estimated that around four million people a year in the world must leave their lands because of dams.

In Latin America there are more than 1,000 large dams 15 meters high or more, Brazil is one of the countries with the largest number of dams in the world, it has around 600 in operation.

Dams are one of the main direct and indirect causes of the loss of millions of hectares of forests, many of them abandoned under water and decaying. That is why all dams emit greenhouse gases, which contribute to global warming due to the decomposition and putrefaction of biomass.

The stagnant waters of the dams cause diseases such as schistosomiasis, which occurs through snails in stagnant or slow-moving waters, as happened in the Kariba, Aswan and Akosombo dams. Other diseases associated with the construction of the dams include: dysentery, diarrhea, malnutrition, unusual proliferation of mosquitoes, smallpox, skin rashes, vaginal infections, cancer, tuberculosis, syphilis, yellow fever, dengue and leishmaniasis.

Although there are many opposing opinions, among the possible impacts generated by high-voltage power transmission lines associated with dams, are physical malformations at birth; the increase in cancer and leukemia in children, brain tumors and problems in the nervous system.

Dams and diversions are the main reason why 33% of the world's freshwater fish species are extinct, endangered or vulnerable. The percentage increases in countries whose rivers have been highly dammed - it reaches almost 75% in Germany. Cold water discharges from dams kill some species of fish and all the biodiversity that depends on natural flooding. They displace and kill ecosystem animals; they eliminate wetlands, underground sources of water, unique forests and the fertility of the land by the natural sediments that no longer arrive.

Those who defend hydroelectric dams argue that it is a clean source of energy. This is a lie. Dams are one of the main direct and indirect causes of the loss of millions of hectares of forests, many of them abandoned under water and decaying. Hence, all dams emit greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, since the decomposition and putrefaction of biomass, emits large volumes of carbon dioxide and methane, the two most important greenhouse gases. On the other hand, the river also carries more organic sediments to the reservoir, increasing the rotting biomass.

“Las emisiones brutas de los embalses pueden representar entre el 4% y el 28% del potencial de calentamiento global de las emisiones de gases de efecto invernadero”. (7)

Gran parte de la resistencia a la construcción de grandes represas en Latinoamérica se ha unido en la Redlar, la Red Latinoamericana contra Represas, y por los Ríos, sus Comunidades y el Agua. Conformando la mayor iniciativa de organizaciones que se preocupan por el bienestar de sus comunidades y la soberanía sobre sus aguas.
La Red está compuesta por más de 250 organizaciones sociales, indígenas, ambientalistas, de derechos humanos, de mujeres, redes, frentes, y movimientos de 18 países de América Latina, que involucran a más de un millón de personas. Fue constituida en San Pablo, Brasil, en ocasión de encontrarse varias organizaciones de América Latina en la Consulta Regional convocada por la Comisión Mundial de Represas los días 12 y 13 de agosto de 1999 en la ciudad de San Pablo, Brasil.

Los movimientos de resistencia de la Redlar siguen planeando un sinfín de estrategias creativas en la lucha contra las represas. Las movilizaciones siguen siendo una herramienta de lucha fundamental contra las represas. Se desarrollan periódicamente plantones, mítines, marchas, tomas de carreteras, de embajadas, de oficinas gubernamentales, bloqueos, huelgas de hambre, entre otras registradas en los últimos años.

El 26 de Julio de 2008, en la ciudad de Santa Cruz de Lorica, Colombia, se desarrolló el IV Encuentro Latinoamericano de la Red Latinoamericana contra Represas, y por los Ríos, sus Comunidades y el Agua. En el encuentro, representantes de pueblos indígenas, afrodescendientes, campesinos y otros sectores sociales de México, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panamá, Colombia, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brasil, Italia y Estados Unidos, se reunieron en Santa Cruz de Lorica, Colombia, para analizar la coyuntura regional, intercambiar experiencias de resistencia contra las represas y proponer estrategias para la defensa de los territorios, el agua, la cultura y la vida.

El agua

Uno de los grandes problemas que afronta la humanidad es sin lugar a dudas, la acelerada degradación de las reservas de agua potable. El agua se vislumbra como el mayor conflicto geopolítico del siglo XXI, ya que se calcula que en menos de 20 años, la demanda será mas de un 50% superior al suministro.

Ya hay en el planeta mas de 1.100 millones de personas que no disponen de instalaciones para abastecerse de agua potable y 2.600 millones no cuentan con sistemas de saneamiento.

América Latina, una gran beneficiada por la naturaleza en cuanto a recursos naturales en general, también lo es con el agua. Cuenta con las reservas de agua potable más grandes que quedan en el mundo. However, it shows one of the world's highest per capita consumption indices, essentially due to agricultural-forestry and mining use.

Vendrán por el agua, se escucha decir alarmados a muchos de los ecologistas de Latinoamérica. Y quizás, alguien que no esté en el tema podría imaginarse enormes barcos, tal vez acarreando gigantescas bolsas llenas de agua dulce latinoamericana, cruzando el Océano Atlántico, para abastecer la sed de la Union Europea.

Pero el agua no se irá en bolsas, sino que desde hace muchos años está siendo saqueada al utilizarla de modo insustentable para los monocultivos de soya, maíz, girasol, trigo; o los monocultivos de pinos y eucaliptos con que reemplazan a los bosques nativos. Y el agua que no se llevan con la soja, con la madera o con la pulpa de los árboles, es contaminada con los agrotóxicos y las industrias extractivas, como la minería a cielo abierto y otras igualmente contaminantes.

Miles de empresas beben gratuitamente el agua de los ríos y acuíferos Latinoamericanos para luego vomitar en ellos toneladas de productos altamente contaminantes. Millones de toneladas de venenos herbicidas son arrojados en los campos sojeros y en las tierras que han sido deforestadas para plantar los pinos y eucaliptos que comen las pasteras, venenos que contaminan las napas y los ríos de donde proviene el agua que bebemos.

Se calcula que los eucaliptos de rápido crecimiento, como los que se plantan en Uruguay, absorben en promedio cuatro litros de agua por día, al tiempo que se estima que hay 1.000 árboles por hectárea plantada. De estos datos se deduce que 800.000 hectáreas forestadas consumen 3.200 millones de litros de agua por día en el país. (8)

Cada vez más gente conoce, aunque no todos entiendan su importancia, los graves problemas que enfrentamos y enfrentaremos por la escasez de agua potable. Muchos aprendimos como un versito que el agua dulce es menos de un 3% del total del agua del planeta y que, en realidad, solo el 0,5% está accesible para nuestra utilización.

En el planeta, el volumen de agua potable disponible por habitante es actualmente el 50% del de 50 años atrás. Mas de un tercio de la población mundial, sobre todo en América Latina, África y Asia, no disponen de agua potable, 31 países sufren ya escasez de agua.

Sin embargo, el agua podría igualmente alcanzar para satisfacer las necesidades de toda la población mundial. Lo realmente increíble para seres que se consideran racionales, es que en lugar de ocuparnos de distribuirla de tal forma que nadie tenga dificultades de acceso, nos estamos dedicando a desviar, contaminar y agotar esa cantidad limitada de agua potable a una velocidad vertiginosa.

Más preocupante aun es en que manos está quedando este recurso. For many Latin American governments, everything is for sale, even the most basic natural resources, such as air and water. Estos están siendo, cada vez en mayor medida, controlados por un puñado de grandes multinacionales que van modelando las leyes nacionales e internacionales según el dictado de sus intereses.

El papel del estado se ha alterado profundamente en las últimas décadas. Las multinacionales están logrando transformar a las Naciones-Estado y amoldarlas a sus intereses, relativos a las inversiones y a la competitividad a nivel mundial.
La mayoría de los gobiernos y las instituciones gubernamentales, inclusive las Naciones Unidas, responden a estas fuerzas empresariales en el peor de los casos, y en el mejor, resultan incapaces de hacerles frente. El ciudadano se encuentra con que tiene que luchar y defender sus intereses por sí sólo.

The World Bank "recommends" to developing countries, privatization through concessions to foreign companies of existing reserves, in order to take possession of this resource that will soon be as valuable as gold or oil.

Existe una serie de actividades cuyo furioso desarrollo en los países del llamado tercer mundo está modificando gravemente cuestiones como la diversidad biológica, la distribución geográfica, la cultura y hasta el clima de nuestras regiones.

Es tan fuerte el impacto que causa la instalación de cualquiera de estas industrias, que cada caso, al intentar analizarlo, parece ser emblemático y sin embargo es uno mas de los tantos que se están produciendo en nuestros territorios.

Todas estas actividades tienen algo en común. Además de provocar la devastación del ecosistema en el cual se instalan, provocando deforestación, contaminación, destrucción de hábitat, pérdida de biodiversidad, alteraciones sociales, necesitan utilizar y luego contaminar, millones de litros de agua cada día para su funcionamiento.

Están usando y contaminando el agua y no de a poco con todas estas industrias que instalan en las regiones tercermundistas. Y se la están llevando en cada embarque de pasta de celulosa, de oro, de soja o de cualquiera de sus productos.

Deberíamos tomar conciencia cabal de todo lo que estamos perdiendo. El agua es el bien mas preciado que tenemos, sin dudas. Sin agua no hay vida.


Los casos citados son sólo algunas muestras, quizás las mas ejemplificadoras, pero son muchas mas las que pueden sumarse a la matriz del saqueo de los Recursos Naturales que está sufriendo el Tercer Mundo.

El Ser Humano está siendo víctima de su propia estupidez, de su egoísmo y de su obsesión por el poder y el dinero.

El cambio climático, el agujero en la capa de ozono, el agotamiento y contaminación de los recursos naturales, la acumulación de residuos y la degradación de tierra, agua y aire son consecuencias de un problema mucho mayor, mas de fondo, que es el modo de vida que se nos está imponiendo.

Quienes han tomado las decisiones a nivel global, especialmente en las últimas décadas, han optado por poner todos los conocimientos adquiridos por la humanidad al servicio del crecimiento económico, del confort, de la reducción del esfuerzo físico y mental. Han decidido avanzar sin medir consecuencias, sin poner reparos en los costos sociales y ambientales de ese “progreso”.

Con las tecnologías actuales, la decisión sobre el desencadenamiento o no de un colapso ambiental, ha pasado a ser meramente política. Con mucho menos presupuesto que el que se invierte en armas, podría darse rápida solución al Cambio Climático que nos acecha y cuyos efectos pueden llegar a límites insospechados.

Los volúmenes de producción y consumo de bienes han ido creciendo a velocidades siderales y, como tenía que suceder, en algún momento superamos la capacidad del planeta de absorber nuestros desperdicios, de comerse nuestra basura, de respirar nuestro CO2, nuestro metano, nuestros CFCs y de beber nuestros efluentes, nuestros derrames, y los vómitos de nuestras industrias.

La única opción que tenemos es intentar, entre todos, detener el derroche, disminuir los altos niveles de consumo, consumir de forma responsable y así detener el alud que se nos viene encima, y que de otra forma nos va a tapar a todos, estemos donde estemos.

Pero si bien consumir individualmente de forma responsable es muy importante, eso sólo no es suficiente. También debemos actuar de forma ambientalmente responsable como sociedad. Y ese cambio será bastante mas dificil de llevar adelante que el particular. Abandonar como sociedad la cultura del consumismo, significaría un cambio de paradigmas, donde valores como la solidaridad, el respeto por la diversidad y el amor por la vida, reemplacen al egoísmo, al individualismo y a la avaricia.

Deberemos transformarnos en una sociedad que piense y decida como especie y ya no de forma individual. En una sociedad que abandone el modelo económico vigente, dirigido por los dueños del capital y del poder, y construya un modelo ambientalmente sustentable y socialmente justo.

Deberemos transformarnos en una sociedad que no tenga motivos para celebrar el “día mundial del medioambiente” para acordarse de que existe, sino que se desarrolle en comunidad con él.

Ricardo Natalichio – Economista, ecologista, periodista ambiental y escritor. Director del portal de ecología social y de la publicación Ambiente y Sociedad.


(1) Cinco siglos de prohibición del arcoiris en el cielo americano.
(2) ,
(3) Extensión de los recursos forestales, Informe FAO, Capítulo 2
(4) La expansión de la soja en Latinoamérica. Javiera Rulli.
(5) (Dross, 2004)
(6) La plantación indiscriminada de árboles transgénicos “Fiebre de la forestación en Uruguay” Sylvia Ubal. Ecoportal.
(7) Impacto y Consecuencias de las Represas, Gustavo Castro Soto (Dross, 2004).
(8) Alertan sobre “contaminación y agotamiento” del agua en Uruguay. Ricardo Carrere. Radio Mundo Real.


1.- Editoriales de la Revista Ambiente y Sociedad años 2006 a Julio de 2008 escritas por Ricardo Natalichio.

2.-- Articulos Varios. Temas especiales- Agua –

3.-- Articulos Varios. Temas especiales- Biodiversidad –

4.-- Articulos Varios. Temas especiales- Energias –

5.-- Articulos Varios. Temas especiales- Mineria –

6.-- Articulos Varios. Temas especiales- Basura Residuos –

7.-- Articulos Varios. Temas especiales- Cambio Climatico –

8.-- Articulos Varios. Temas especiales- Economia -

9.-- Articulos Varios. Temas especiales- Globalizacion –

10.-- Articulos Varios. Temas especiales- Pueblos Indigenas –

11.-- Articulos Varios. Temas especiales- Transgenicos –

12.-- Articulos Varios. Temas especiales- Suelos

13.-- Articulos Varios. Temas especiales- Derechos Humanos

14.- Movimiento Mundial por los Bosques (WRM) – El WRM distribuye mensualmente un boletín electrónico en inglés, español, francés y portugués, que constituye una herramienta para la diseminación de información sobre luchas locales y sobre procesos globales que pueden afectar a los bosques y a los pobladores locales –

15.- Red Latinoamericana contra las Presas y por los Ríos sus Comunidades y el Agua (REDLAR),

16.- Via Campesina – La Vía Campesina es un movimiento internacional que coordina organizaciones campesinas de medianos y pequeños agricultores, de trabajadores agrícolas, mujeres y comunidades indígenas de Asia, Africa, América y Europa.

17.- Otros Mundos, A.C., Analisis sobre el proceso mexicano, guatemalteco, mesoamericano, latinoamericano e internacional de lucha contra las represas

18.- GRAIN –

19.- Acción Ecológica, Ecuador – Acciones y documentos sobre biopiratería, transgénicos, petróleo, bosques, ALCA, minería y todas las actividades de esta organización.

20.- ETC Group – El Sitio del Grupo sobre Erosión, Tecnología y Concentración (ante RAFI). En inglés, con algunos documentos en españ

21.- RAP-AL – Red de Acción en Plaguicidas y sus Alternativas para América Latina –

22.- Revista Semillas – Excelente revista colombiana con una mirada completa sobre la problemática de los recursos genéticos

23.- CIEPAC, México – Centro de Investigaciones Económicas y Políticas de Acción Comunitaria –

24.- Grupo Guayubira – El grupo “Guayubira”, Grupo Ambientalista sobre Montes y Forestación, fue creado en mayo de 1997, para nuclear a personas y organizaciones preocupadas por la conservación del monte indígena y por los impactos socioeconómicos y ambientales del actual modelo de desarrollo forestal impulsado desde el gobierno –

25.- Grupo de Reflexion Rural – GRR –

26.- No a la Mina – Minería en Argentina
Asambleas de Vecinos Autoconvocados por el NO A LA MINA. Los esquelenses estamos luchando con dignidad, conocimientos científicos, con amor por la vida, por la naturaleza y en contra del enorme robo al país que propician las leyes de minería.

27.- Grupo Guayubira
Grupo Ambientalista sobre Montes y Forestación, fue creado en mayo de 1997, para nuclear a personas y organizaciones preocupadas por la conservación del monte indígena y por los impactos socioeconómicos y ambientales del actual modelo de desarrollo forestal impulsado desde el gobierno.

28.- CENSAT Agua viva
Agua y energia en biodiversidad de mercados ecologicos, mineria y petroleo, como servicios publicos, instituciones financieras, comercio y ambientalismo
29.- OLCA – Observatorio Latinoamericano de Conflictos Ambientales
El OBSERVATORIO asesora a comunidades en conflicto, para potenciar sus capacidades de gestión a favor de sus derechos ambientales.

30.- Mapuexpress – Informativo Mapuche
Noticias-Comunicados-Publicaciones-Entrevistas-Libros-Enlaces del pueblo Mapuche, desde territorio Mapuche

Video: Natural Resources and International Conflicts (June 2022).


  1. Negm

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  3. Mikazil

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  4. Chayson

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  5. Ullock

    Sorry for not being able to take part in the discussion right now - I'm very busy. I will be back - I will definitely express my opinion on this issue.

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