When the residents of Armstrong, a town of 15,000 in western Argentina, began to meet to discuss a renewable energy project, they agreed that there could be many positive effects and that it was not just a question of doing their bit in the global effort to mitigate climate change.
Nearby is an agroecological garden and a plant nursery, further on there are pens for raising pigs and chickens, and close by, in an old one-story house with a tiled roof, twelve women sew pants and blouses. All of this is happening in a portion of a public park near Buenos Aires, where popular cooperatives are fighting the impact of Argentina's long-drawn-out socioeconomic crisis.
It’s a Monday morning in April on Florida, a pedestrian street in the heart of the Argentine capital, and a small crowd gathers outside the window of an electronic appliance store to watch a violent scene on a TV screen. But it is not part of any movie or series.
In 1994 Argentina recognized in the constitution the ethnic and cultural pre-existence of indigenous peoples. However, enforcement of respect for their rights has fallen short and almost 30 years later the question of land is generating growing conflicts, which sometimes pit native communities against the rest of society.
They began to arrive en masse in Argentina in the second half of 2022, a few months after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They are pregnant Russian women who land in the capital to give birth, with the hope of gaining an Argentine passport, given the fact that so many countries refuse to let in people with Russian passports today.
Martín Rapetti, a fourth generation farmer in the province of Corrientes in northeastern Argentina, has already lost more than 30 cows due to lack of food and water, as a result of the long drought that is plaguing a large part of the country. “There is no grass; the animals have to sink their teeth into the dry earth,” he says with resignation.
With large projects held back by the economic crisis and lack of infrastructure, Argentina seems to be looking at an alternative path towards a more sustainable energy mix involving small renewable energy projects, promoted by environmentally aware industries, businesses and private users.
They were on the brink of shipwreck and did not leave happy, but did feel satisfied that they got the best they could. The countries of the global South achieved something decisive at COP27: the creation of a special fund to address the damage and loss caused by climate change in the most vulnerable nations.
COP27 is unlikely to produce new commitments to reduce emissions of climate-changing gases, but the global energy crisis will eventually prompt more action by countries to move away from fossil fuels. That is the positive feeling that many observers are taking away from the annual climate summit being held in Egypt.
Indigenous peoples are no longer content just to attend as observers and to be seen as victims of the impacts of the current development model, at the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) on Climate Change. That is why they came to the summit in Egypt with an agenda of their own, including the demand that their communities directly receive funding for climate action.
When asked about the impact of incorporating solar energy at the school he runs in Atraico, a remote rural area in the Patagonian steppe in southern Argentina, Claudio Amaya Gatica is unequivocal: "Life has changed, not only for the school but for the whole community.”
The Padre Carlos Mugica neighborhood looks like another city within the Argentine capital, which most people usually see from up above as they drive past on the freeway but have never visited. It is a shantytown in the heart of Buenos Aires, of enormous vitality and where women are organizing to confront the various forms of violence that affect them.
Argentina, which has one of the largest unconventional hydrocarbon deposits in the world, has been forced to import gas for 6.6 billion dollars so far this year.
Darío is a locksmith in Flores, a traditional middle-class neighborhood in the Argentine capital, who will have to stop working in the next few days. "Suppliers have suspended the delivery of locks, due to a lack of merchandise or because of prices," he laments. His case is an illustration of an economy gone mad in a country that once again finds itself on the brink of the abyss.
The multitude of solar panels stands out along a dirt road in an unpopulated area. Although located just an hour's drive from Buenos Aires, the new solar park in the municipality of Escobar is in a place of silence and solitude, symbolic of the difficulties faced by renewable energies in making inroads in Argentina.
For 30 years, Tomasa Chávez visited the Central Market of Buenos Aires and rummaged through the tons of fruits and vegetables that the stallholders discarded, in search of food. Today she continues to do so, but there is a difference: since 2021 she has been one of the workers hired to recover food as part of a formal program launched by the Central Market.
"At the age of 35, with a document that says who I really am, I went back to school and finished my studies, which I had left at 14 because I could no longer bear the bullying and mistreatment," said Florencia Guimaraes, a transgender woman whose life was changed by Argentina's Gender Identity Law.
"All we ever wanted was to keep working. And although we have not gotten to where we would like to be, we know that we can," says Edith Pereira, a short energetic woman, as she walks through the corridors of Farmacoop, in the south of the Argentine capital. She proudly says it is "the first pharmaceutical laboratory in the world recovered by its workers."
It’s a strange trial, with no defendants. The purpose is not to hand down a conviction, but to bring visibility to an atrocious event that occurred almost a hundred years ago in northern Argentina and was concealed by the State for decades with singular success: the massacre by security forces of hundreds of indigenous people who were protesting labor mistreatment and discrimination.
The space consists of just 300 square meters full of green where there is an agro-ecological vegetable garden and nursery, which are the work and dream of 14 women. Behind it can be seen the imposing silhouettes of the high rises that are a symbol of the most modern and sought-after part of Argentina's capital city.
Three giant concrete cylinders with inflated membrane roofs are a strange sight in the industrial park of Zárate, a world of factories 90 kilometers from Buenos Aires that heavy trucks drive in and out of all day long. They are the heart of a plant that is about to start producing energy from agro-industrial waste, for the first time in Argentina.