The Plow that Broke the Plains was Re: Environmentalism and the American Socialist
Nestor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at SPAMinea.com.ar
Sun May 7 22:31:55 MDT 2000
En relación a The Plow that Broke the Plains was Re: Environmen,
el 8 May 00, a las 12:33, Gary MacLennan dijo:
> Australia too is a dry continent and the pastoralists here, as
> in the USA, have done massive ecological damage to the land.
Interesting. Now it comes to my attention that Argentina is also a
dry country (not a continent, but from the point of view of size it
is more or less like India, which is usually referred to as a sub-
But this idea is seldom recalled, particularly by Argentinians, when
talking on our own land. This has resulted in massive ecological
damage due to extractive activities in the dry fringes of the Pampa
region (to the South and the West) where harvest over harvest of
wheat was obtained until, during the 30s, tremendous wind and dust
storms blew what remained of soil North and North East. My own
grandfather (on my father's side) told sometimes of the "escape" from
the Jewish colonies in South Eastern Territory (Province since 1952)
of La Pampa, some 200 km to the Northwest of Bahía Blanca.
Pastoralism has also led to massive predation of our soils in
Patagonia, where sheep replaced South American camelids such as
guanaco. During the late 70s, financial squeeze by the "globalizers
avant la lettre" was added to mismanagement, and the whole central
mesas of Patagonia were tremendously overgrazed by desperate ranch
owners. The final result was a cold, dry, awesome desert that would
make the Dakota Badlands look like a lush rainforest.
Predation on dry woodland has also resulted in widespread
desertification, particularly in the province of Santiago del Estero.
Local quebracho woodland was systematically felled down and destroyed
in order to fuel the locomotives of the British owned railroads (and
also of the Argentinian owned ones). Our woodlands paid for the
benefits of the British commercial fleet. Argentina imported coal,
which was the main fuel for locomotives. But in order that the ship
would be travelling with full load in both directions, there was an
amount of coal that had to be supplied locally. Since mining research
had been systematically discouraged in Argentina, and even though the
Argentinian navy had discovered interesting coal fields in the
Southern tip of continental Argentina (Río Turbio, province of Santa
Cruz) by the early 1890s, the only supply of coal was British coal.
So that, where could we get the coal Britain needed to have their
ships travel at full profit? Why, in the woodlands, of course!
Thus, Santiago del Estero, a province that had been called "El país
de la Selva" in the early years of the 20th. century by Ricardo Rojas
(an Argentinian intellectual who had been born there) became, for any
practical purpose, a semidesert over half its 150,000 sq. km size.
It is noteworthy that, in spite of all this, Argentinians still do
not recognize that their country is mostly a semidesert or a desert,
and this is certainly not unrelated to the fact that in the general
consciousness of the country, those sections of land that are not
related with production for exports are not worthy of attention.
I still remember that I once tried to draft a short description of
Argentina for the Statistical Yearbook of INDEC, where these simple
facts were as simply exposed. It was rejected, with the comment "The
only important part of the country is the Pampa region, and that
region is not dry".
Good grief! (as Charlie Brown would have had it).
Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
gorojovsky at inea.com.ar
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