The Argentine environmental plot and education

The Argentine environmental plot and education

By Lic. Diana Durán

Fighting against droughts, locusts and floods, with his tireless work he manages to amass a fortune. Wang Lung, who had settled in the city, decides to go to his good old land to die.

"- It is the end of a family ... when they start to sell the land ... - he said with a broken voice. - From the earth we left and to the earth we must return ... and if you know how to conserve your land, you will be able to live ... no one can steal your land.

And the old man allowed his few tears to dry on his cheeks, where they left a few salty stains. And he got down and took a handful of dirt which he held in his hand, muttering:

- If you sell the land, it's the end. And his two sons held him, one on each side, taking him by the arms, and he squeezed the handful of loose and hot earth in his hand.

And his sons overwhelmed him, his eldest son and his second son, repeated to him ad nauseam: Be calm, our father, be calm. The land will not be sold. But, above the old man's head, they looked at each other and smiled "

The Good Earth. Pearl Buck. Editorial Youth. Barcelona. 1935

“Everything suggests that the Earth is on its way to becoming an overcrowded desert ...

This funereal and unfortunate landscape is the work of that kind of people who will have laughed at the poor devils that we have been warning about for so many years, arguing that they were typical fables of writers, of fantasy poets ”.

Ernesto Sábato. Before the end. Seix Barral. 1998.

Ernesto Sábato explained in his latest book - Before the End, 1998 - that those who proclaim environmental problems are crazy people who are not very credible to society. The recent National Constitution (1994) declares the right of Argentine citizens today and in the future to have a healthy and environmentally sustainable environment. The Federal Education Law includes among its articles that the environment should be a subject of “transversal” study in schools. Enrollment in the new undergraduate and graduate environmental careers scattered throughout the country explodes. All politicians have an environmental discourse. Environmental slogans can be read in schools, on the streets and in public spaces. The non-governmental organizations that are dedicated to environmental issues are many and have a great reputation in society and in the media. Seminars of planetary significance that summon environmental specialists from around the world are held in our capital city.

And yet:

  • The fires in the Patagonian-Fuegian Andes, in the Patagonian steppe, in the Peripampean mountains and in many other Argentine environments devastate populations, animals, plants and human works, in addition to shared hopes.
  • Forests and jungles are being cut down every day by large transnational companies, reducing our threatened biodiversity.
  • Soil erosion is already the first national environmental problem, as the National Institute of Agricultural Technology has warned for decades and determines the sustainability of soils and the expansion of agricultural profitability in many regions.
  • Risks such as floods and droughts are aggravating and spreading in step with climate change and government inefficiency, stalking both marginal populations and the most privileged populations from the socio-economic point of view.
  • In the eternal struggle between "bugs" and people, it seems that the first are winning, judging by the emergence of new diseases that are almost forgotten, such as cholera, dengue or tuberculosis.
  • Urban pollution not only ruins landscapes but also affects environmental health. Every day in the media appears the clamor of people punished for the location of their homes near industrial establishments that do not keep primary environmental standards in the disposal of their waste, especially those that are dangerous.
  • Vast rural landscapes are diminished in their beauty by the eternal fluttering of plastic bags - I have seen them in Peninsula Valdés, a world heritage site - or the accumulation of mountains of rusty washing machines, refrigerators and other electrical appliances - especially perceptible in the urban peripheries .
  • Insane stenches spread on the peripheral roads adjacent to large accumulations of urban waste, such as the “Camino del Buen Aire” - worth the contradiction - in the province of Buenos Aires.
  • Urban noise in city centers and peripheral neighborhoods depresses the spirit, confuses ideas and impairs human activities.

Aren't these some examples of the contradiction between ecology and economics? In our country it is key: the stability and convertibility so appreciated do not depend on the extent and severity of Argentina's environmental problems. Before they were little recognized by society. Now consciousness has hatched and it is not possible to deny them. However, there is still a singular social confusion regarding the hierarchy of these problems. The school teaches and the media deals with emphasis on issues related to the death of penguins caused by oil or the death of fish in polluted streams and rivers. However, problems related to erosion and desertification are not disseminated with the same intensity and frequency or there is no continuity in the prevention of natural risks. It seems that there is social consensus regarding the environmental problem in a broad sense, but there is also a divorce between discourse and facts and this is where the role of environmental education begins to become central.

Environmental education has been conceived as a process of raising social awareness about environmental problems and their alternative solutions. This definition, words plus words less, is socially recognized by the general population, by those who actively participate in favor of the environment - called "environmentalists" - by professionals and expert scientists, and by educators. However, there is a remarkable distance between speech, that is, what is expressed verbally, and action, what is done. The practice does not seem to coincide with the well-known slogans because, if so, the contrast between the happiest economic results and the indicators of the threatened Earth consequent on over-consumption and poverty, the root of environmental problems, would not be so evident.

Environmental knowledge is interdisciplinary and has brought together a very solid theoretical framework, as can be seen in the book compiled by Enrique Leff, "Social Sciences and Environmental Training" (1994) whose reading I recommend. There it is defined that this knowledge is not a new field of knowledge or a new discipline but a field of knowledge in which the contributions of concepts and methodologies from various sciences that deal with complex environmental systems that function as sets of interactions between the different ones converge. spheres of the Earth and man.

Environmental education could be inserted into the basic contents to be taught agreed on the national scale as of 1994 because that environmental knowledge was developed in academic and professional environments. This is how all the curricular areas of the national educational system have contents recognized for their environmental character. As it has been repeated a thousand times, the environmental dimension has been widely inserted in what is to be taught and both textbooks and all other types of teaching materials reflect this cultural diffusion of the environment. However, in my opinion, it is possible to note the deficit of thorough and deep knowledge about environmental problems. In reality, a shallow, rather declarative knowledge of teachers, students and the educational community in general is revealed about environmental problems, but not a training that culminates in preventive or active actions in favor of solving them. On the other hand, the positive fact is that citizen participation increases day by day through forums, community activities, clubs, popular libraries, foundations, etc .; but this is not enough.

Instead of taking care in time that populations at environmental risk due to the location of their homes, jobs or environmental itineraries coinciding with the geographical distribution of some anomaly of nature in its relationship with society - flooding, pollution, volcanism, tornado, among others - be warned of upcoming events that could affect them; We do it "a posteriori".

Instead of warning agricultural producers not to advance their farms in areas at risk of drought or flooding, government policies promote speculative agriculture and livestock. Then they mourn the losses of crops or the liquidation of bellies.

Instead of locating new infrastructure works after evaluating their environmental impacts or building new establishments in areas where geographic logic so indicates, we regret the dire consequences of the reservoirs on the population and the landscape or we will have to eradicate them in the future. forthcoming new educational establishments built on underground arsenic “lakes” in an arid Argentine province.

In short, we act without foresight, we do not knowingly warn because responsible professionals and scientists have written and disseminated it, we do not teach enough on the subject. Because otherwise, the problems would be in the process of being solved or, at least their consequences, would not be so dire.

Let us agree that there are notable deficits in environmental policy and education. The environmental policy of the last decade has been lavish in Argentina in enacting laws, drafting and publishing documents, and convening meetings, seminars and congresses for institutions and professionals that have produced tons of reports and publications. Ultimately, a large environmental bureaucracy has taken shape. All these written papers could be eaten up by the intermittent forest fires in the south and center of the country. For the rest, there is a deficit of airplanes to put out these hells and the populations would be equally at the mercy of these environmental risks.

In relation to risks, it is notorious that warning systems do not work. Let us be grateful that our country is exempt from the path of hurricanes and cyclones because if we had to evacuate large cities, human catastrophes would be world news in the style of Asian cyclones or African droughts.

Despite the fact that our low demographic density reduces the number of victims in the face of natural and technological catastrophes, there are always environmental refugees in Argentina even if their suffering is not spread. Among them I can mention the populations affected by the 1999 drought in the Chaco region, which forced them to concentrate near the areas where the water supply was possible because their livestock died and their soils were cracking. Unfortunately this dramatic human situation did not make the news in our media so concentrated on economic, political or celebrity news.

This arduous Argentine environmental plot also has educational consequences. There is a notorious imbalance between the density of ecological topics included in the current curriculum and the possibility for teachers to teach these multiple contents. With very good criteria it has been explained that environmental education requires a commitment not only curricular but also institutional and community or social. However, the conditions in which the communities and educational institutions operate do not promote these actions. To teach environmental problems and alternative solutions, teachers have to have institutional time to, for example, learn new computer technologies that will help them show environmental risk maps or to plan interdisciplinary activities in combination with other teachers representing different areas of the curriculum. . These primary conditions are not yet in place and teacher training was exempt from environmental knowledge because it was simply not advanced when they studied the current litters that are in front of the class. For this reason, teacher training in environmental education is central and will have positive effects in terms of quality when it is permanent and with great disciplinary and didactic articulation.

* Lic. Diana Durán. Geographer
Educambiente Foundation
E-mail [email protected]

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