By Gladys Leiva
The industrialized world is largely responsible for the environmental ills that afflict the Earth. Humanity has become the owner of its own self-destruction.
I. By way of introduction
In the last decade of the 20th century, the "unipolar world" was born. The planet was "globalized" with the triumph of the capitalist system over state collectivism.
The technological explosion in the production of goods for use and consumption joined the technical advance of the information and communication media and the formation of large financial capital, creating international macroeconomic areas.
The excessive multiplication of Humanity: In October 1999 the world population reached the figure of 6,000 million, quadrupling the number of inhabitants existing a hundred years ago. By 2050 the number could be 10.7 billion. Today half of the human race is under 25 years of age. Only twenty percent of women and men live in developed countries, however, there are also large pockets of poverty. In the US alone, more than nine million "homeless" live on the streets. This demographic explosion creates new challenges and questions. The political perspectives of corruption and social injustice mean that solutions do not appear. This means that soon, only ten percent of men on Earth will have their existential needs satisfied.
Massification: The human species is the only one that has the capacity to alter the balance of nature. In this bleak panorama the reality of urban concentrations emerges. Soon ninety percent will live in the big cities producing new social and economic problems. The human being distances himself from nature which he pollutes, depredates and destroys and poverty, daily, produces more environmental pollution.
The future needs urgent and real solutions, these can only be visualized and put into play in a rational and scientific way and they can only be promoted from the field of planning and political decision.
More than twelve thousand years ago the territory of present-day Argentina began to be populated by bands of gatherers and hunters. Then the first aboriginal cultures emerged. Just half a millennium ago, they were modified after the irruption of the European conquering currents. The anthropology of our days shows us that a great ethnic and social laboratory has been produced in our country where the growing Indo-European presence emerges as a new reality.
Unresolved basic needs are commonplace in human communities. The right to life, food, clothing, habitat and health for many is not fulfilled. Social demands demand education, work and individual and collective security. The picture of humanization is complemented by the achievement of justice, freedom and the development of spiritual transcendence. Reality makes it difficult to achieve these goals for all Argentines, who are increasingly far from establishing a national identity.
II. Is a diagnosis possible?
The Argentina of the third millennium, facing 2003, is a nation in crisis, isolated from its reality, behind it seem to be the proclaimed dreams and goals of the last decade. The country of sustained growth inserted in the developed world, that of the peacekeeping missions in the UN, wanting to grow economically by seventy percent. A nation with an agricultural technology boom, the eighth largest food producer in the world. With a flourishing automotive industry and mining, the world's leading exporter of lemon juice and honey, fourth in wines and a major energy supplier. A society benefited with more than four million new telephone lines, with fifty percent of televisions with cable service and among the top three fiber optic consumer countries in the world.
Today this ideal Argentina has become the country of the "piqueteros" without instruction or with education, but all marginalized and unemployed. Cities with "cacerolazos" produced by those who have been robbed in their savings and investments of the petty bourgeoisie. A nation with a latent "social explosion" with a possible diagnosis of repression and violent social conflict.
In short, an Argentina big only in its size, which has lost by "privatizing" in the new neoliberal world economic framework the possessions of the state, common property of all citizens. Banking, industry, commerce, insurance, freight, fuel, energy, transportation, roads and communications; giving up their independent scientific and technological and aerospace progress. This announces that the worldview of a politically sovereign, economically free and socially just homeland, goals envisioned just fifty years ago, is far behind.
Our Argentina is no longer a pluralistic, participatory or supportive society, the death of feelings has occurred and its last wealth, common to all, the natural living space is in danger. It is urgent to carry out an authentic and clear analysis of the needs of the Argentine in the face of the demands of the ecological and the environment and of the progress of society and the relations of the human with the existential environment.
III. Wounded nature, ecosystem in danger.
Our country has not been absent from the problem of the slow destruction of our home Earth. The area of life that rapidly loses its non-renewable resources, including, for example, oil, the energy base of today's civilization.
The man caught in his excessive ambitions for materialistic power and in competition with others, lives in a state of suffering and fear that paralyzes him. It has a pathological existence. Aggression increases in the face of the failure to solve their vital needs, the situation worsens when living in increasingly smaller and overcrowded areas. Indifference towards others emerges and authentic solidarity dies, his world of affections is reduced and he is not educated to feel part of the greater whole. The notion of the homeland, the society and the nation is lost, it is the emotional death in life.
Genuine values exist in crisis in the human mass, it is based on the loss of cultural and historical heritage, this is only transmitted by education and culture that allows to contain impulses and channel them constructively. The social man, he is, being heir to the goods of civilization. In the present, the rupture of dialogue between generations is also the loss of tradition and origin. Hatred, resentment, contempt for the past is the basis for the loss of family and community hierarchy. The non-existence of valid behavior models for many only leaves the path of psychotropic drugs and dependencies, that is, decadence.
IV. Some concepts for a possible policy.
Philosophy asks about our origin, that is, where we come from, why we are and where we are going. Questions still valid for those who want to understand our past, analyze our present and evaluate our future.
Politics emerged from the philosophical, its objective is the "government of the city", today that of nations. Someone has expressed that humanity is divided into two classes of men, the "equal" and the "different." The drama occurs when many of the same think they are different. The authentic reflects, analyzes and makes decisions dictated by his logic and reason, often using a dose of creative intuition.
Environmental and social imbalances require clear and consistent responses and possible and applicable solutions.
Let us list some elements at stake for the possible structure of an eco-social policy:
a) Today it is about satisfying the needs of exploitation and production and it hurts the planet. Irreparable damage, pollution of space, weakening of the ozone layer, atmosphere, climatic changes, soil, water resources, flora, fauna and the alternation of natural cycles on which all living beings depend.
b) Man sees the increase in social marginalization and poverty. Diseases and epidemics supposedly eradicated are reinstated. New and deadly scourges appear. Infant mortality and illiteracy are on the rise and cultures are dominated and destroyed. A system of continuous wars and abysmal differences in the quality of life.
c) The current world suffers an institutional, social, cultural and physical agony, due to the separation of humanity from the natural world. The "dominating man" generates a perverse development model. Despite declarations of human and civil rights and many others, it is the dominating struggle of man over man, by ethnicity, gender, cultural and economic position, age, and so on.
d) The near future shows us in some irrational consumption, increase in unnecessary goods and continuous plundering of nature. For the remaining ninety percent, nothingness, frustration, violence, criminality, ignorance, isolation and marginalization. Life is not pleasant, it is only hell on Earth and we condemn the innocent to it.
V. A panorama that expands.
The industrialized world is largely responsible for the environmental ills that afflict the Earth. Humanity has become the owner of its own self-destruction.
One of the biggest challenges is air quality. Industries release large amounts of toxic substances into the atmosphere. For every doubling of the carbon dioxide values, a global warming of 2ºC is estimated. This reality generates significant changes in the climate and in the level of marine waters around the world. The high-altitude destruction of the atmospheric ozone layer allows the possibility of an increase in skin cancer.
Water is another challenge front. The overuse of water is already depleting the aquifer of Asia, Africa and North America. In the last twenty years, seven times more water has been extracted. To this is added the pollution of lakes and rivers. Pure water will be an element with constant increase in value in the coming decades.
Vegetation is another element in danger. Thousands of square kilometers are affected by acid rain and other chemical agents. The loss of forests through logging, agriculture and urbanization increases daily. Deforestation generates soil erosion. Desertification is a growing threat caused by droughts, excessive grazing, and the use of marginal lands.
The area for agricultural use is increasingly reduced. At present, only ten percent of the land is arable.
Waste and residues grow rapidly. In the US it is estimated that by 2010 each person will produce ten kilograms of waste. A growing problem is radioactive waste. In large cities, the intensive consumption of pollution from the use of fuels associated with urban and vehicular industrial growth increases.
SAW. Some concepts to ponder.
In an ecosystem there is a complicated and delicate network of relationships between living things and what surrounds them. These relationships need to be respected and only climax when the balance between them is optimal. If a link fails, the chain breaks and organisms are affected. Each organism, however small it may seem, is important in the balance of the ecosystem.
Human activity causes definite impacts on an ecosystem. The size of the impact must be determined and compared with the benefit that it can produce, we can determine if that project or activity should be carried out.
At the beginning of the 21st century, Argentina's main challenge will be to reduce poverty and moderate the existing inequality between the different strata of the population. Without this there will be no development of individual capacities or exercise of democratic freedoms. The general social welfare will be possible through the generation of well-paid permanent employment. It will not be possible without education and culture and competitive economy.
Improving living standards and the human environment will only be possible as a government objective at the municipal, provincial and national levels. The requirement is the capacity for decentralization and self-management.
There will be no valid policy of ecological and environmental preservation without education. From initial education to university, the problem must be present. This awareness will include job training and education.
Social ecology has three fundamental points, one the notion of finite environmental space, two the measurement of the unequal appropriation of this environmental space through the "ecological footprints" and three the notion of "ecological debt" of the north with the south. We are one humanity, anyone should have the same rights to use the carrying capacity of the Earth's natural systems to satisfy their needs. An equitable distribution of biocapacity is necessary. According to recent studies, it corresponds to 1.7 hectares per inhabitant in the world.
To sustain its way of life, the United States needs 10.3 hectares per inhabitant.
The environmental deficit or ecological debt is the result of subtracting our ecological footprint from the available human bio-capacity. The northern countries appropriate an environmental space that does not correspond to them. To reduce the ecological footprint, that is, the impact on natural systems of the consumption of resources and the emission of waste, it is necessary to increase global eco-efficiency, that is: do more with less, profoundly change the development model to reduce waste. global environmental impacts for each unit of final human satisfaction. This is eco-efficiency. The foregoing raises a standard question: how much electricity can one person consume, so that everyone can consume electricity? At present there are two billion human beings without any access to the electricity grid.
Social ecology considers how to achieve eco-efficiency and environmental justice. The challenge is how to reorient our way of life today manifestly unsustainable and unjust towards different models of ecologically sustainable human development. None of this will be valid without a voluntary commitment from the entire society. One thing is clear, it is the poor countries who are paying the environmental costs of the excessive consumption of the rich nations. The richest twenty percent consume eighty-five percent of non-returnable energy resources. A child born in the industrialized world consumes and pollutes, throughout his life, what between thirty and fifty children in poor countries. The demand for wood and paper, which has doubled and quintupled, respectively, since 1950, has caused Latin America and the Caribbean to lose seven million hectares of tropical forest.
Leaded gasoline, used in backward countries, affects human health, permanently damaging the brain development of children. One billion people are affected and two million die each year from drinking and washing with contaminated water. Ecology requires a renewed awareness of the relationship between man and nature and requires a knowledge of the irreversibility of ecological changes and implies an ethical perspective committed to future generations and requires urgent national and international ecological policy efforts. The problem must be part of the social conscience. It is necessary to underline that the environment must be part of ethics, civics, values in society, it must be part of the new culture. Man has to recognize and respect the limits of nature and raise awareness that technology often generates more problems than solutions by not being clear about the effects. Costs on the environment are generally neither assumed nor recognized.
In this sense, sustainable development implies that people can overcome inequality and poverty, live adequately and with dignity without jeopardizing resources by seeking their own development and, in doing so, resources are being protected for future generations. An intergenerational commitment that few disciplines and policies care about.
In summary, we must assume that we must not damage, end or deplete resources in their use and have an adequate distribution of them. For example, fisheries or forest resources require management policies that do not generate poverty; When we refer to resources such as air or atmosphere that are global, they require world policies that avoid processes of inequality in their use and access between nations.
It is commonly thought that the technologies used for economic growth have negative effects on the environment, due to the irrational exploitation of resources, the production of waste, etc. In many fields, environmental costs are generally not considered. Linking environmental issues with economic, social and political issues poses difficult challenges, we must have principles and bases that understand the problem. This requires the use of new technologies that are truly sustainable.
Currently, trends have not yet been reversed and the problems of air, water and soil pollution, deforestation and overexploitation of marine resources persist. Let us also evaluate that the advancement of technology has managed to modify organisms without knowing very well what the results may be once they are released into the environment. As a gender, we are facing a problem: the benefits that a living modified organism can have in productive terms (in relation to food) can have them for health and the environment and in the coming years humanity could regret it.
Another issue is the need to guarantee that globalization does not erase the multicultural, that it does not crush cultural or environmental diversity, that each country can guarantee a response capacity to respect its sovereignty, its cultures and its biodiversity. This is one of the great challenges for humanity.
Among the various environmentalisms that have emerged in the world in the last two decades, the most interesting is social environmentalism. It considers the socioeconomic causes of impoverishment between countries and the interrelationship between social inequality and environmental imbalances that affect many regions of Latin America, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, whose ecosystems are particularly fragile.
Social ecology postulates a new theory of material and spiritual needs that is critical of industrialism and induced consumerism and is at the same time sensitive and attentive to the ways of humanizing nature and which have been typical of traditional peasant cultures.
It is a political ecology of poverty that fights against attacks on biodiversity, the impoverishment of arable soils, desertification and water scarcity, and new forms of slavery and exploitation of wage labor. It is an attempt to move towards a new humanism that respects cultural differences and the environment in the face of a world dominated by the market and the money fetish. Understand that some international monetary institutions favor something like a barter, end of the century: external debt for ecology, a modern form of the old colonialism.
Sustainable development is a dynamic process of economic and social growth where all the benefits derived from the well-being that this growth brings with it are distributed equitably among all members of society, but without affecting the quantity and quality of renewable natural resources, to ensure the same expectation to the new generations that in the future will live on planet Earth.
The citizens of the nation must have the right to breathe clean air, use water free of contamination and enjoy productive soils, without alienating its natural heritage as a country under any allegation and without signs of extraterritorial dependency that violates these objectives.
A national policy will require stopping the process of environmental deterioration, making effective use of natural resources and solving the critical conditions of the population's quality of life.
Argentina can achieve an authentic sustainable development policy, satisfy the needs of the population and raise their standard of living. This will require a thorough review at all levels of the specialized agencies on the subject and of the current legislation and its application. Argentina has a great wealth of natural resources and habitat for human activity that allows it to develop a great diversity of ecosystems.
The ecosystems of the country offer great potential for their sustainable use. Biodiversity in Argentina is rich in varieties of species and in diversity of ecosystems. An important base of action for conservation is the National Parks.
In our country, according to data from the National Parks Administration, we find the following regions: High Andes, Patagonian Forest; Fields and Weeds; Humid Chaco; Chaco Seco; Delta and Islands of the Paraná; Spinal; Patagonian Steppe; Esteros del Iberá; South Atlantic Islands; Mount of Plateaus and plains; Monte de Sierras and Bolsones; Pampas; Puna, Paranaense Forest; Yungas.
Argentina has based an important part of its development on a flourishing agricultural activity, especially in the Humid Pampa, with significant levels of production and exportable balances. However, their soils have deteriorated substantially. This process is widespread and its importance in arid and semi-arid areas is vital. Physical deterioration (water and wind erosion, compaction); physical-chemical (loss of nutrients and organic matter, salinization).
Environmental problems in cities include the final disposal of household and industrial waste. There is no solution to the final disposal of the garbage, much less its reuse. The productive activity transforms the material into products, generating waste and wasting raw materials and energy.
Visual and noise pollution is another issue that is still uncontrolled. To this is added the contamination of surface and underground water. The generation of liquid fluents and their discharge into rivers and streams has seriously deteriorated the water courses, seriously affecting the health of the population. Another of the great difficulties are the periodic floods.
Everything mentioned will have no value without a true environmental awareness and the educational process is an essential part of environmental policies.
· Campbell Bernard. Human ecology. The position of man in nature. Salvat Scientific Library. Spain, 1994
· Kaminski Gerardo. Environmental psychology. Ed. Die. Argentina, 1979
Olivier Georges. Human ecology. Oikos - tau. Barcelona, 1981
· Theodorson Georges. Human ecology studies 1. Labor university library. Barcelona, 1974
· Theodorson Georges. Human ecology studies 2. Barcelona, 1974.