Hello again friends! I am back!
It has now been almost 10 months since I graduated (what a weird thing to say!) Since then, I have done what most millennials do upon graduating: try and figure out what I like, what I don’t like, and what I want to do for the rest of my life. I feel lucky because for me that has meant working in Philadelphia at PennEnvironment as an organizer on a climate change campaign. I learned a rising tides worth of knowledge and made friends that would outlast any climate disaster. But, after that ended in January, I came back to Florida to live with my parents until my departure to Argentina in March. Because of the welcomed new presence of our two kittenish-cats, I have really been left feeling a lot more like a babysitter trying to rope in unruly toddlers than a freeloading, recent postgrad. Alas, I’m glad Finn and Fitz enjoyed watching me parade around the house catching them from eating our electrical cords, gnawing on the plants, sucking on the socks, and berating them for getting stuck in the pantry.
My fellow climate defenders and bffs, Skyler and Galen
Finn and Fitz looking surprisingly angelic, despite their devilish personalities
I have decided to revitalize this blog to recount my tales as I head off on my second stay in Buenos Aires, Argentina this time not as a student, but as a full-time researcher. I have graciously been awarded a Fulbright grant to conduct research on a social movement that formed to protest poor water conditions in Claypole, a community an hour outside the city of Buenos Aires. The water in this community is contaminated by sewage, due to the lack of this infrastructure, which has led to water-borne illnesses and health problems. While the community began a movement eight years ago to demand the water company and municipality change this, progress has been slow.
A small river that runs through the town of Claypole.
This project is a continuation of the research I did for a month during my study abroad experience and I am feeling excited, nervous, is it time to go, do I have to go, ready, not ready, I can speak Spanish, do I speak Spanish, this research will make a change, will this research make a change, motivated, hopeful, expectant, inspired, grateful.
My fear of research is that it often tends to get trapped in the academic vortex where good intentions and good ideas go to die. My huge internal conflict with this assignment is that I hope this research is not just research for research sake. My goal is for this research to escape the disastrous vortex and somehow make it’s way into the hands of policy makers, municipal officials, journalists, who can expose this information and/or make the change necessary. Whatever comes of this project, whether it’s coming up with a comprehensive report of the social movement and the successes and failures, or whether it is working with the community to establish a strategic plan to reach the goal of improving access to clean water or something entirely different – I hope it will be useful.
So that’s that. I leave on March 14 so I have about two and a half weeks left until I leave. Why don’t I give you some news updates on Argentina now.
Obama is visiting Argentina on March 23-24. While the Cuba visit of course, will be the highlight, drawing worldwide attention, the visit to Argentina is also hugely significant. It has been nearly two decades since the last visit by a U.S. president to Argentina. Besides bonding over fútbol and their love of dogs, Obama and the newly elected president, Mauricio Macri will discuss trade and investment, renewable energy and climate change, and citizen security. After learning of Obama’s visit, Ana, my host mom from when I studied abroad, sent me a Facebook message asking me, “Did you get an interview?”
In other news, over 30 indigenous communities from the northern Argentine provinces of Jujuy and Salta said on Tuesday, February 23 they would go to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights after having exhausted all national legal sources to accuse local authorities of exploiting local salt mines for lithium extraction without prior consultation. Similar to fracking, this of course, causes water contamination and potential water scarcity.
My classmates and I watch the indigenous workers clean the salt.
This news alert was interesting to me because I visited these communities when I was there studying abroad. We talked to the indigenous that lived and worked on the land and what we learned was that these salt falts, Las Salinas Grandes, have become a place of huge development. Many auto companies and other businesses have come in search of lithium extraction, which has brought up many issues with the rights of these indigenous people. In 1994, a law was implemented to ensure the rights and culture of these people, yet the fight still remains a problem. The indigenous groups took their fight to the country’s supreme court in 2010, but the court denied their request two years later. Similar to fracking again, no reliable study has ever specifically outlined what additional chemicals they use to extract the lithium and local authorities rarely carry out environmental controls. The indigenous are not necessarily opposed to lithium mining, but demand to have their rights protected and to be able to choose the development model, which in my opinion, is not too much to ask.
Of course, there are more news worthy topics, but I think this is long enough. On a sad note, Chris Christie endorsed Trump yesterday. Scary times, scary times…
Until next time,
Emily “17 more days” Kennedy