(Un-)sustainability update from Argentina

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We usually think we have long way to go in terms of sustainability and raising awareness of people in Sweden, but let me tell you, that is Nothing compared to Argentina.

I can appreciate that the problems people have here are so much more immediate that issues like the environment, pollution and other species aren’t even on the map. It’s deceptive to talk about ”Argentina” though. There isn’t one Argentina, but several.

The rich live in enclaves and maintain a rich-European lifestyle behind guarded fences. An army of menial workers arrive every morning (to clean the house, work in the garden, fix the pool, repair the electricity etc.) and they leave in the afternoon. The rich are worried about living in a country with a very high (35%) inflation, with populist politics and corrupt politicians, with an ever-growing army of violent-prone dirt poor people moving from the countryside to the cities. If they’re brave, they live in the city, but always in a building with a 24-hour doorman and always looking over the shoulder, searching for the would-be kidnapper. How high up on their agenda do you think the environment is? Their way to maintain the sanity is to live in a bubble and to recreate the American dream (shopping malls, cars, vacations abroad, new electronics and other expensive toys) together with a weekly visit to their psychologist (very usual). For me, it’s a consumerist nightmare come alive with no thought about tomorrow. The high inflation itself discourages people from saving money and instead encourages them to spend what they have today (because who knows what it might be worth tomorrow?). It might even make sense to buy a new car since it might be the case that the car devaluates at a slower pace than their currency does… Another alternative is to change their money (pesos) to US dollars.

The poor have problems of their own and these are of course bigger but I know less about them since I don’t meet the poor. But even they live the consumerist dream. Everybody buys everything on credit and the price is always divided into 12, 18 or 24 months of paying for your TV, your clothes, your motorcycle or your whatever. Everybody agrees the situation in the country is worsening year by year.

Around 40 million people live in Argentina but half (!) the population of the country lives in or around Buenos Aires. Argentina is a huge country but the provinces is yet a another Argentina. Money disappears on the way and prospects are poor in most places. That is one of the reasons for the influx of people to Buenos Aires.

Again, how high up on their agenda do you think the issue of sustainability is?

/Daniel

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