Climate catastrophe, impending doom; following the most recent IPCC reports, it seems there is a renewed sense of urgency to implement serious global change before it really is too late. Once laughable, bamboo toothbrushes, beeswax wraps and other re-usable products are now the future – a future worth investing in. Thrillingly, for the UK this is an accessible future too.
You’d be forgiven for asking, aren’t we a green, sustainable, eco-friendly society already? It’s true, these buzzwords are no stranger to us. But we continue to consume at an overwhelming and, crucially, unsustainable rate. This may all sound hyperbolic but it’s our reality. All that being said, we’re closer to a greener future than some.
The UK has the infrastructure to make huge lifestyle changes across all levels of society, education is still lacking, but I feel this is changing. The same cannot be said for Argentina; it’s still a developing nation. Buenos Aires may conjure up images of a fun and cosmopolitan city. And there are a few wholefood stores and vegetarian cafes in a few of the capital’s more affluent neighbourhoods but this is far from the norm.
Argentina is one of the world’s most carnivorous nations. But this could be changing due to the country’s current economic situation. At the moment, Argentina is dredging up the memories of the 2001 crash, which resulted in the greatest sovereign default in history. The ongoing crisis follows on from President Macri’s implementation of austere economic policies coupled with a drought that has devastated agricultural output – a huge part of Argentine economy.
Since January 2018, the Argentine peso has more than halved in value against the dollar and over a third of the economy is cash-based. When I arrived here in September, the inflation rate was recorded at 40.3%. Prices of food have increased by about 30% this year, making read meat a once-a-week kind of affair among the middle classes. It has also rendered basic foodstuffs even more difficult to come by for the most vulnerable.
The IMF bailout of USD $57.1 billion has meant that the peso has now begun to regain some value but will only lead to the imposition of further austerity measures as the IMF financing will be prioritised towards balancing the budget. Despite officials’ efforts to protect the ‘most vulnerable’ as they flesh out their economic reform plan, it is these people who will bear the burden of consistently high inflation and, therefore, the brunt of the crisis.
People throw the term privilege around a lot these days, but the sooner we realise the freedom of choice many of us have in the UK, the better. In fact, we need to recognise that we are afforded the privilege to worry about our carbon footprint. We need to recognise we can lament the use of fossil fuels and plastics that choke our groceries. We can condemn meat consumption ultimately because our lifestyle choices aren’t a matter of survival. We can and we should. We should all make sure we act responsibly and take a real concern in our individual impact on the planet and how we can best reduce this; but we cannot condemn those who don’t follow suit.
Working with Delicias de Alicias, I have been exposed t some of the most deprived communities in Buenos Aires. We’re a social enterprise that run free nutrition and cookery workshops for children in the ‘villas’ – the Argentine equivalent to favelas, where most live off less than $2 a day. Children’s diets mainly consist of torta frita (deep-fried dough), fizzy drinks and bowls of plain, with beans or an egg on top if they’re lucky. What government investment these inner-city children receive is more in the realm of recreational activities like rollerblading. But basic education of the fundamentals of nutrition is completely lacking, both in schools and in the communities. Our aim is to show them how to make healthy, nutritious meals, using accessible and affordable ingredients and, crucially, why this is so important.
We need to start educating all children about the importance of a healthy, balanced and sustainable lifestyle. In doing so, we give them the tools to focus in school and open up opportunities for themselves. This is the first step in freeing them from the poverty that surrounds them, creating a sustainable future for themselves and their communities.
And I can’t help thinking, while we attempt to educate these children, whose lifestyles are ultimately no choice of their own, shouldn’t those of us who can choose, make lifestyle choices that benefit both the planet’s health and our own?