The climate strike, also in the streets of Argentina
Versión en español
In the context of the international climate strike, that last Friday brought about demonstrations in more than 150 countries and summoned a total of three million people, marches were held again on Friday the 27th of September in dozens of countries.
In Argentina, there was a central march in the city of Buenos Aires, where thousands of young people marched from Plaza de Mayo to Congress, and there were more than thirty rallies in seventeen provinces, including Mar del Plata, Bahía Blanca, La Plata, Chaco, Córdoba, Corrientes, Entre Ríos, Formosa, Mendoza, Neuquén, Río Negro, Salta, San Luis, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe and Tierra del Fuego.
The territorial widespread effect reached by the protests is due to the fact that environmental depredation is affecting people in every corner of the country. In a series of articles, we have been denouncing how different regions are affected by polluting mega-mining, fracking, deforestation, changes in land use, agrochemicals and the advance of monoculture [predominantly soy in Argentina]. Along with this exploitation of natural resources, the proliferation of open-air garbage dumps and the absence of waste treatment, as well as air and water pollution in industrial zones and the growth of floods, are getting worse in the cities. These are the reasons why large sectors of the youth took to the streets today. Banners against Jair Bolsonaro [Brazil’s fascist and pro-pollution president] and Trump were also present.
Among the most important claims made by the convening organizations, the problem of greenhouse gas emissions, and in particular the use of fossil fuels, ranks first, both locally and globally. In parallel, Argentine presiden MauricioMacri has been boasting about how his government has stimulated the generation of sustainable energy, when 86 % of the energy used in Argentina comes from gas and oil. Subsidies for production in the Vaca Muerta oil field and the dollarization of fuels constituted a gigantic boost for the monopolies that exploit hydrocarbons, refuting the president’s declarations. The fracking used to extract the unconventional gas from Vaca Muerta has already caused more than 4,000 environmental incidents since 2015, including "well explosions, fires with flames up to 15 meters high, spills in pear production areas, broken irrigation canals and 240,000 liters of toxic water spilled on farms, among others" (translated from the newspaper Página 12, September 27th.).
Alberto Fernández [the frontrunner candidate of the presidential election for the Peronist Frente de Todos], for his part, promises reassurances of guaranteeing the profits of the multinationals and greater incentives, not only for the oil companies operating in Vaca Muerta but also for the monopolies of contaminating mega-mining. These companies are the ones that turn the Glacier Protection Law into a waste of paper, as they spill cyanide in the meltwater streams. Coming from one political bloc or the other, the promise of a "green agenda" is deceptive.
Another problem with dramatic consequence, which was at the center of the demands in the march that took place in the province of Chaco, is the deforestation of large areas, driven by the advance of land appropriation by means of trusts established for planting and cattle ranching. The experience with the Native Forest Protection Law is also symptomatic, since this year, the budget assigned for this purpose was 4.7 % of what was necessary according to forest studies, and the budget for 2020 contemplates a greater fall as the state’s investment would only represent AR$ 10 (USD 0.17) per hectare of native forest. In the last decade, deforestation has advanced at a rate of 300,000 hectares per year. In Chaco alone, 40,000 hectares of forest are lost annually because of just a handful of corporations.
The environmental depredation, as we can see, is mostly the effect of the domination of large imperialist capitals that are plundering Argentina's resources. These companies dominate the economic life of the country, profit from the frenzy to buy US dollars and the devaluation of the Argentine currency, and –as shown by the recent crisis around the freezing of the fuel price- they count on governors and mayors as their own local lobbyists. In light of this situation, according to the Federal Environmental System, it is unacceptable that the provinces are the ones to exercise control over environmental matters.
However, the NGOs that played a convening role, such as Jóvenes por el Clima (Youth for Climate), Alianza por el Clima (Alliance for Climate) and others, promote a set of laws as a way out that completely waives these crucial issues. In particular, they are promoting a Climate and Ecological Emergency Law in order to create a commission that includes –along with legislators and provincial and national governments- representatives of civil society organizations, native peoples and peasant communities, who would be appointed by the Chamber of Deputies, as well as scientists proposed by the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET). In fact, this commission would not even have the right to veto projects with a strong environmental impact, but would merely have a consultative character. Under these conditions, the proposal may result useful to co-opt sectors of the movement.
These protests by young people and affected populations, and their demands against environmental depredation are clearly progressive. In a country shaken by the incessant demonstrations of the piquetero [jobless] movements and combative unions, and by the Chubutazo [an enormous struggle conducted by teachers and state workers in Chubut], the denouncement against the vultures that plunder Argentina along with the Industrial Monetary Fund and the financial capitals, is closely related to the social crisis suffered by the workers. A program to tackle the climate crisis must consider these aspects, because we can only make progress advancing against capitalist looters like Chevron, Monsanto and Barrick. Workers’ control of production and the right to veto by the affected populations, established within a productive development plan based on the nationalization of strategic resources and foreign trade, in addition to halting the financial colonization of the country by repudiating the payment to the usurious foreign debt, are indispensable conditions to open a different way-out for the country.
It was with this perspective that the group Tribuna Ambiental [Environmental Platform] and the Partido Obrero [Workers’ Party] participated in the march, led by a flag with the slogan "Capitalism destroys the planet, Let's destroy capitalism," in a common column of the Left Front-Unity [FIT].