Environmentalism in 2005

Environmentalism in 2005

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By Carmelo Ruiz Marrero

In Puerto Rico, the mistake made in the United States is repeating itself, where activism is dominated by so-called non-governmental organizations, or NGOs. These NGOs specialize in specific issues, some in AIDS, others in crime, or poverty, etc.

We need to envision the country we want

If it wants to progress, the Puerto Rican environmental movement needs a vision for the future of the country and not focus so much on immediate and short-term things, that was the opinion of environmental leaders interviewed by CLARIDAD about the environmental challenges of 2005.

"Looking ahead to 2005, the entire country needs to make a thorough and reliable diagnosis of its physical situation, of the use of natural resources," exhorted Juan E. Rosario, spokesman for Misión Industrial.

"In the absence of such a study we depend on a lot of loose data out there and opinions, some of them ill-founded. One of these is about water, its supposed abundance, that the problem of water is not a scarcity but simply a a matter of using it well. I argue that we are not even close to having enough water for everyone here on the island. "

Of equal or greater importance to such a diagnosis is "envisioning the country we want," Rosario said. "We must dare to sit down and put in writing a vision for a radically different country, and we did so at a time when left-wing sectors of the country dared." He explained that in progressive sectors this custom has been lost over the years due, among other things, to the fall of the Soviet bloc. "What prevails now is the feeling that there is nothing else, that all there is is this crap from the neoliberal capitalist system."

According to Rosario, in Puerto Rico the mistake made in the United States is being repeated, where activism is dominated by so-called non-governmental organizations, or NGOs. These NGOs specialize in specific issues, some in AIDS, others in crime, or poverty, etc. In this way the groups specialize in very particular specific issues in order to be more effective. Rosario told us the height of specialization: a case of "a group that deals with recycling but not with the problem of garbage, could you believe that?"

"The moment you accept that arrangement, you stop seeing the complete reality, you start to lose information that is vital. You end up leaving the development of a vision in the hands of the other side, the businessmen and bankers. They do see things integrally, and they envision the country they want. We have delegated the right to dream to them. And then we complain that nothing we are dealing with works, because we can continually win battles and still lose the war. "

It is heard everywhere saying that today there is more environmental awareness than before, and then why do environmentalists continue to pick up peels? Rosario argues that the type of environmental awareness that has been generated in this country is "to shore up the system by making it more efficient, but without really questioning it and without considering changing it? The environmental movement has to some extent become depoliticized, more and more and more. in a technical question of discussion on efficiency, not on politics and power. "

What the Misión Industrial spokesperson proposes is a discussion of longer-term issues, a discussion that will not be popular or simple, but rather complicated and multidisciplinary that will have to touch on rugged issues such as water, population problems and the role of mechanisms. market.

"Such a discussion will be more difficult to sell to the communities, because they have atomized them. They are attending to the details, particular problems, in exchange for not looking at the whole, and not coming together. The big interests do not want the problem to be touched in the background, which is an economic and political one. "

When one understands the need for a vision then one sees the great absurdity of the government of Puerto Rico in paying $ 4 million to an American firm, AT Kearney, to precisely develop a vision for the future of Puerto Rico, says Rosario. "The government paid that company to do what it's up to us to do."

"But they brought that vision in a ready-made briefcase. They put some details here but in the end it is nothing more than the global vision of neoliberal capitalism that they want to promote. There are even people from the communities talking about it as if it were the last cocaine. tail of the desert, because they don't have analysis tools. In the end we could end up with the bankers developing for us the vision of the country that we should have. "

According to Rosario, the country's ruling class seems to have learned things from the left of yesteryear that the left of today seems to have forgotten. "Bankers and businessmen do not take to the streets without having agreed on where they are going. We did that in another time, it is not something new for us. We dared to dream of a radically different world. street in the 60s and 70s to some activity we were not moved by the immediate moment but by a transformative vision. "

"But now everything is practical, we never decide anything fundamental. We spend it covering broken. The fact that we have raised the cover of broken to the category of virtue is really worrying."

An independent agenda

For his part, Alexis Massol, director of Casa Pueblo, points out that each environmental group must develop a more dynamic and coherent strategy with specific goals to advance their processes. "In the short term we need the struggles to achieve their objective. In the medium term each group must give support to other groups and at the same time maintain leadership in the space that has been gained."

However, Massol, winner of the 2002 Goldman Environmental Prize, does not yet see the creation of a National Front for Environmental Struggle, an idea that some have raised but whose time has not yet come.

Regarding the elections, he advised fellow environmentalists not to depend on whether this or that party wins or loses. "Every four years, whoever wins, we are left skidding in the same place. The economic power is so strong and some mistakenly believe that by aligning with a political sector one will be able to struggle. We at Casa Pueblo have our own work agenda that does not depend on who wins the election. "

Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero
Director, Biosafety Project
Research Associate, Institute for Social Ecology
Senior Fellow, Environmental Leadership Program

CLARITY, January 6, 2005

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