By Francisco Andrés Carabelli
Political decision at the highest level is indispensable as the first and last guarantee that it is possible to change the course of certain processes. It is essential that it happens, so that there is a clear and absolutely forceful signal that there is a will to change, a change that our highest leaders have repeatedly referred to.
“Dear Mr. President of the Nation, Dr. Nestor Kirchner
Dear Mrs. President-elect of the Nation, Dra. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner
It was 1992 and the then head of the National Directorate of Natural Forest Resources of the Secretariat of Natural Resources and Sustainable Development of the Nation announced the Argentine Forest Plan. A detail, perhaps not very striking in the context of the letter of this Plan - a plan that was extremely reasonable in its conception and would have been totally indispensable in its implementation - was a warning about the horizons of extinction of our forest regions, if they continued the trends of deterioration –in the most benevolent of analyzes- and destruction –in the most realistic of them- of the national native forests. In the case of missionary jungle, it was indicated that his disappearance was expected between 2006 and 2009. Meanwhile, for the region of the western mount –Which covers important sectors of the provinces of La Rioja, San Juan, Mendoza, La Pampa, Río Negro and Neuquén and smaller surfaces, although in no case negligible, in the provinces of Salta, Tucumán, Catamarca and Chubut- that destination was fixed for about twenty years later, that is, between 2024 and 2027. In chronological order, the tucuman-bolivian jungle, for which its disappearance was calculated between the years 2035 and 2056, while the chaco park, then the largest area of forests and forest environments in the country with just over 33 million hectares - with the largest extensions in the provinces of Formosa, Chaco, Santiago del Estero and Salta and the smallest in Córdoba, San Luis, La Rioja , Catamarca and Santa Fe- would become extinct a decade later, between 2065 and 2069. The region of Los Andean Patagonian forests it had the best prognosis, its end being foreseen for almost the middle of the next century, that is, around the year 2140.
It is clear that this "exercise" was not one of divination, but that there were by then, 15 years ago, very clear and forceful signs that these forecasts were not exaggerated, but strictly realistic. And it is once again the reality, the omnipresent reality, the one in charge of showing how little foresight exercises serve in a country that, it could be said, is already famous in plan improvisation. The savage reality shows that the already historical devastation of the forest regions of northern Argentina has acquired a formidable rate, which has transformed the extinction forecasts made in 1992 into anecdotal data. Whether to plant pines, soybeans or extract the so-called species of law -those few very valuable wood plants that justify the brutal clearing of the missionary and Tucuman-Bolivian jungle areas-, a gigantic ecocide, attacking the most essential bases of life, both human, animal and plant, not only in the regions directly affected, but also in the areas that are functionally linked to them.
This should not be surprising in a society that mostly lives with its back to its forests, with the population strongly associated with urban regions and customs, as evidenced by the fact that the national proportion of urban population exceeds 90%. In this disregard for the destiny of our forests, the seeds of the progressive deterioration of the quality of life are also harbored, because we hardly have the opportunity to recover this invaluable biological wealth, which is not only from the point of view of the diversity of environments. , species and genes, but also from the perspective of becoming a genuine and leading factor of sustainable economic development, since forests are, in addition to the expression of multiple current and potential products, synonymous with fresh and drinking water, the biological and most valuable and scarce commercial market on the planet. In this regard, although it is clear that it is not the only one, forests –all in general and ours in particular- acquire a strategic dimension in terms of global geopolitics since Latin America, with approximately 6% of the world's population, has 26 % of planetary water resources, a substantial part of which is found in our country, distributed mainly in lakes and rivers and in continental ice. And as common knowledge points out “where there is forest there is water”, the main contributions of water that lakes and lagoons receive are due to the regulatory and water balance effect of forests and other manifestations, both shrub and herbaceous, of vegetation.
All of Europe, but especially those countries of the continental center, almost completely lost its forests during the Middle Ages, for various reasons, including frequent wars, the expansion of cattle grazing areas, the progressive increase in population, the multiplication and expansion of urban areas. However, some countries implemented for almost a millennium - the first forest management constitutions date back to the mid-eleventh century - restoration and cultivation actions of forests, which led to the recovery and in some cases to increase the original forested areas. . If any lesson can be drawn from this history - and it should necessarily be the case - it is that the States adopted long-term policies to reconstitute the forest heritage and maintained an elementary coherence to make it possible. In our case, some of the most pressing and distressing questions could be: Do we have time?, and if so: Will we be able to act sensibly enough not only to stop but to reverse the current trend? These questions should guide the formulation and implementation - above all - of a policy that is no longer forestry - since, as has been pointed out, forests are much more than forests - but of defense, valuation and recovery of the natural wealth of our country, with special emphasis in the great regions of forests and mountains of Argentina. There are documents from naturalists and explorers from the beginning of the century that put the magnitude of these regions at around 114 million hectares. Since then, it is speculated that the reduction has been about 70 million hectares, at a rate of almost ¾ million per year. Even when this information is not strictly scientific in nature, it should not be underestimated, since it shows, over time, how the lack of a vocation to care for and develop a complex and essential resource or natural good - as environmentalists tend to call them. natural resources - has generated a very serious scenario, in the face of which the application of the precautionary principle - which states that where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, the lack of complete scientific certainty should not be used as a reason to postpone further measures. effective to prevent environmental degradation - it would have to take precedence over any economic interest, that is, to do the opposite of what is being allowed and has been allowed to be done in these territories and their inhabitants.
In the document entitled “Our Common Future”, written by the World Commission for Environment and Development in 1987, it was stated: “Those who are poor and hungry will destroy, in their attempt to survive, the environment: they will cut down the forests, they will practice overgrazing, they will overexploit marginal lands and an increasing number of people will crowd into cities ”. For the situation in our country, such a phrase could be rewritten more or less like this: “Those who are powerful and hungry for more wealth and power will destroy, in their attempt to prosper, the environment: they will cut down forests, they will practice overgrazing, they will overexploit marginal lands and expel increasing numbers of people who will crowd into cities. "
Laws "per se" are not enough, even the one currently under discussion in the National Congress that requires a moratorium on national forests, suspending clearing until land management is carried out in each province. Political decision at the highest level is essential as the first and last guarantee that it is possible to change the course of certain processes. This does not mean, in any way, that this will achieve, but it does mean that it happens, so that there is a clear and absolutely forceful signal that there is a will to change, a change to which our highest leaders have repeatedly referred .
As a citizen and at the same time as a professional, I dare then to request, to ask, that the highest authorities have the vision and energy to light the fuse of this change, so that the answer can be peremptorily and with indispensable more positive elements. To the question: What will our common future be? "
Esquel, Province of Chubut, 21.11.07
* Francisco Andrés Carabelli is a Forest Engineer - DNI. 16,056,021