|Impressions of Argentina, November 2011|
I hadn't visited Argentina for some time and, thinking it was perhaps
the most modern in South America, I expected to find an emerging
'first world' country. What I saw was what looked like a population
boom unlike any I had seen except in the jungle towns in Ecuador and
Brazil. Countless babies and mothers who looked like young teenagers.
Young children smoking cigarettes and 'dating' at very young ages.
The next thing I noticed were environmental considerations, of which I
saw very little. The parks, rivers, lakes and streets are littered with
plastic. Garbage is routinely burnt. Almost every transaction involves
a plastic bag and you have to fight with people to use your own. This is
in sharp contrast to Colombia where people routinely separate organic and
inorganic waste and even in the smallest cities plastic is packaged up
and sent to the larger cities. I admit on my previous trip to Buenos
Aires I saw an impressive 'post-consumer' recycling effort by the street
people, and I did not revisit that city.
All in all, I left Argentina feeling very little hope for the future of the
planet, and I did not have that feeling on the same trip in Peru. The last
time I felt that way was when travelling through southwest
Brazil a few years back, and please read my trip reports about this. The only
consolation I found was that Argentinians seem to have more respect for the tree
than in Brazil. Cities are always planting trees where they are missing, and I
saw an immense but alas failing tree planting project on the highway from
Concordia to Mercedes.
I discussed this with an Italian who commented that the only reason he thought
Italy's population growth was around zero was because of the economic problems
for the last twenty years. Perhaps the baby boom in Argentina is because of good
economic times? The Italian also noted that Latin America seems to have a good
separation of church and state in spite of being a very religious society, unlike
his homeland. Being a big believer that religion is the problem and not the
solution, I found this a welcome observation.