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Argentina: The economic crisis is forcing to change Ecology for Savings

Argentina: The economic crisis is forcing to change Ecology for Savings


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By Pablo Gavirati *

Concerned about the environment, and about the pocket

In the vicinity of Earth Day, a survey by the National University of Tres de Febrero highlighted that 86 percent of the population in the metropolitan area of ​​Buenos Aires "cares about the environment." The Center for Research in Applied Statistics (CINEA) of this university consulted 885 people over 16 years of age. The published report does not offer data on the social composition of the sample, which was carried out using a telephone system.

The results highlighted in the survey are distributed between 53 percent who considered themselves "very concerned" and 33 percent who said they were "quite concerned" about the environment. Specifically, the reasons for concern among these people, in the terms of the survey, are: overexploitation of natural resources, contamination of water, garbage, chemicals and pesticides, and rain and floods.

Regarding the attribution of environmental problems, it stands out that "61 percent of those surveyed consider that those responsible for the pollution of the ecosystem 'we are all'". This criterion of blurred responsibility, however, is altered when knowing that only 24 percent believe that the government does enough to protect the environment, while the proportion of those who consider that their family does take sufficient measures reaches 68 percent .

In this context, the survey also made progress in trying to understand the habits of residents. Consulted on 8 items considered relevant, the average implements between 3 and 5 of them. The level of adhesion is uneven:

• 93 percent use energy-saving lamps,

• 82 turns off the lights if you don't use them,

• 73 claims to close the taps well.

• 45 percent choose drinks with returnable containers.

• 37 uses his own bags for shopping

• 35 percent separate their waste for recycling,

• 33 separates waste for composting.

The conclusion drawn by the CINEA states: "We observe that the most incorporated ecological practices are those that save money, and that those that involve greater dedication of time, effort or change in consumption habits are not yet massive." In this sense, it is remarked: "It was evident that 6 out of 10 consulted have implemented only those ecological practices that -in turn- allow energy savings or the reduction of the costs of products consumed at home".

Similarly, the survey affirms that 4 out of 10 people consulted advance in more committed practices, such as the separation of waste at source. But he attributes these responses to "economically inactive" or even "low-educated" people. Therefore, the report subscribes "the idea that the ecological impulse is linked to the lack of resources and the length of time for the incorporation of habits, which allows us to suppose that those who have the greatest amount of means are those who present the least motivation to when it comes to avoiding the environmental impact generated by your lifestyle ".

Change in government discourse

A first reading of the survey released by the CINEA of the National University of Tres de Febrero leads us to consider an already classic aspect of the debate in environmental studies. The association between ecology and economy is not random, but rather the environmental movement itself was born - with different nuances - as a critical response to the imbalances posed by economic growth. In such a way that the analysis of the lifestyle of a country or a region is involved with the development model.

This debate, of course, also carries a strong political imprint, which is not reduced to the scope of strict party politics, but where the role of the State in our societies always has an impact. From this point of view, during the Kirchner government, and fundamentally since 2010, criticism of the so-called "extractivist model" was strengthened. In particular, from the citizen assemblies that denounce mega-mining, with a longer history, and in recent years the appearance of the towns fumigated by agribusiness.

At this point, the Kirchner government oscillated in different responses, among which stood out the defense of the development model, characterized as "growth with inclusion." At this point, the discourse was positioned around the imperative need to get out of the 2001 crisis, which is why economic recovery was the highest priority to end poverty focused - precisely - in the suburbs. The ecological problem was less, since it was argued that it affected only a fraction of society, or it was a "pending matter" to be resolved in the future.

The electoral triumph of the Cambiemos front and the main measures promoted by Mauricio Macri's cabinet represent a change in the economic model and therefore, we venture, a shift in the strategy to contain ecological claims. Although this same portal has already characterized the policy of the current macrista government as a deepening of the extractive model, an emphasis on the discourse that justifies social inequalities and access to certain consumption has also been highlighted. In this framework, here we emphasize that ecological saving is stated as a duty of the poorest within the system.

Also on the occasion of Earth Day, the "My commitment to the Environment" application was launched on the Casa Rosada's official website. The official proposal involves options that carry commitments such as: cover the pans, use low-consumption lamps, close leaking faucets, transport myself by bicycle, use rechargeable batteries, separate my waste and "buy only the products that I am going to consume." This last option, above all, does not seem to distinguish between those who cannot buy the products of strict necessity, associated with the increase in poverty versus the economic adjustment measures.

From now on, this type of campaign had been carried out in Argentina, only that it was previously promoted by civil society organizations, such as the FARN and Fundación Vida Silvestre campaigns. As public good campaigns, their objective is laudable because they promote a greater commitment than what is proposed, for example, when it only takes "one click" to save the planet (by signing an online petition, for example). For its part, the fact that the national government is the one who promotes them would not be criticized if this were framed in an environmental policy in which the State assumes its own responsibility for the public good.

All Ecology is -always- Political

The National Ecological Action Network (RENACE) remarked at the time that "beyond the value of each one's actions in daily life and the importance of each of these actions, the serious environmental problems that Argentines have are they will resolve mainly from public policies implemented by governments at the national, provincial and local levels. " We can add here that this statement of "everyone's responsibility" is in tune with associating "ecological commitments" only with individual actions carried out in the domestic sphere.

While, on the other hand, as RENACE also remarks: "the government has not stopped deepening during the five months it has been in office for the extractivist model, favoring, for example, agribusiness and mining corporations with the reduction and removal of retentions" . In the same way, the same trend is registered in the formation of an extractive cabinet, "appointing representatives of these business sectors in key management positions, and giving continuity to the officials who promoted this extractivism in the previous government."

We understand that the diagnosis of the deepening of extractivism is a key analysis to understand the new emphasis on domestic savings. At this point, the strictly unequal nature of the extractive model, interpreted as "accumulation by dispossession" in David Harvey's terms, means that more extractivism generates more poverty. Thus, the unequal distribution of the profits of the soybean and mining model, expressed in the reduction and removal of withholdings, must now be paid for by the popular sectors from the increase in the rates of public services.

The above is not an arbitrary relationship, if we recall by case that mega-mining corporations are the main consumers of energy and water in the provinces where they operate. As has been pointed out, only three mega-mining enterprises demand a consumption comparable to the production of the -pollutant- Atucha I nuclear power plant, located around 357 megawatts. In this way, the lack of criteria in the high rise in rates - which even reached a thousand percent - can also be applied within the business sector, where small companies are experiencing increases that put in doubt the continuity of their activity and of the greater relative employment that they provide.

In analytical terms, the emphasis on saving as an ecological measure is present in the liberal ideology of sustainable development, according to Arturo Escobar, as a deepening of the rationalization of the economy. Of course, all those costs that can be reduced through technological innovations of energy efficiency, by case, are a contribution as they suppose a lower environmental impact. However, these types of measures highlighted by greenwashing tend to hide the fact that they have a very clear limit in some cases: a mega-mill cannot "save" the exploitation of the mountain, just as they only represent minimal changes in abuse. of water, energy and chemicals.

In this way, just as no one can disagree with "saving the planet", the combination of associating ecology with saving, and the criterion that "we are all responsible" for caring for the environment, lead to an unequal association between environmental benefits and costs. The Political Ecology approach must make explicit these imbalances that come from a capitalist relationship mode with a commodified nature, thought of as an economic resource and as raw material for a consumer model that segments society at different levels of access to the benefits of the system.

* GIC Environmental Culture (CCC - UBA)

Environmental Communication


Video: Is Argentina heading toward economic crisis again? CNBC Explains (June 2022).


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