“Sustainable development in Latin America and the Caribbean is at risk. We will only be able to attain well-being by favoring ecology and the environment. The market does not actually perceive the environment’s dilemmas, it treats them as externalities. The urgency of the situation must lead us to a systemic view,” Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), said during the Wednesday, October 28th launch of the book The environmental tragedy of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The book, presented during the regional organization’s thirty-eighth session, is the result of a collective analysis undertaken at the invitation of ECLAC as part of the discussions supporting preparations for this very same intergovernmental meeting, which is the Commission’s most important, taking place every two years.
“This book represents the achievement of a dream because it brings together a group of Latin American authors, foundational thinkers on sustainable development, who have theorized and analyzed in depth the relationship between development and the environment for several decades,” Alicia Bárcena explained, noting that the text “not only talks about problems in the region, but also the possibilities for change, for restoring ecosystems, reforesting, finding nature-based solutions, and adapting to climate change.”
The document’s main conclusions were presented by Nicolo Gligo, Director of the Center for Public Policy Analysis of the University of Chile, with comments provided by Manuel Rodríguez Becerra, Founding Member of the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Latin America and the Caribbean (CODS) of the Universidad de los Andes, Colombia; Lenin Corrales, Chair of the Scientific Council on Climate Change (4C) of Costa Rica; and Maureen Hyman-Payne, Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda. Moderating the discussion was Joseluis Samaniego, Director of ECLAC’s Sustainable Development and Human Settlements Division.
Latin America and the Caribbean is subjected to a development pattern based on globalized capitalism, immersed in a process of frenzied modernity, which is extremely harmful, because economic growth has been achieved by exploiting and overexploiting natural resources, Gligo indicated, adding that “maintaining the current development pattern would be suicide. As authors of this book, we pose the urgent need to search for an alternative way out, for a significant structural change.”
In his remarks, Manuel Rodríguez Becerra, of the Sustainable Development Goals Center for Latin America and the Caribbean (CODS) in Colombia, recalled that the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions produced by Latin America and the Caribbean comes from agriculture and deforestation, which means that an agricultural transformation is urgently needed to mitigate and adapt to climate change in the region.
Meanwhile, Lenin Corrales, of the Scientific Council on Climate Change (4C) of Costa Rica, praised the alarm being sounded by the book and called on the region’s countries to truly analyze what is happening with our ecosystems and truly consider matters of land management before engaging in destructive practices. “Ecosystems are what give services to societies,” he underlined.
Maureen Hyman-Payne, of Antigua and Barbuda’s Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs, recalled that the COVID-19 pandemic being faced by the world today “allows inequalities to take root and undermines the path to development. Unlike wealthy countries, we do not have a welfare system.” She added that: “This book comes at a very important time. We must react.”
“We must build thinking that allows us to protect the integrity of ecosystems, our natural heritage,” Bárcena indicated, praising advances such as the Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean, known as the Escazú Agreement. Among other things, it constitutes a “civic instrument so that the defenders of nature, those who give their lives for life, can have their rights recognized and their physical and human integrity protected,” she emphasized.
“We must give future generations some hope and that hope lies precisely in us changing our ways of producing and consuming,” ECLAC’s highest authority concluded.