The Birth of Cryoactivism
The Birth of Cryoactivism
Juan Pablo Milana and the environmentalists of San Juan Province left a memorable impression in the mind of Argentina’s Environment Secretary, Romina Picolotti. But she realized that fighting a glacier protection battle against the very well entrenched mining industry could be a defining con¬frontation for her tenure as Secretary. If she lost the battle, it would mean her inevitable resignation as head of the agency. In her short time inside politics, she had already learned to pick her battles carefully because the political stakes were always at the highest level. The loss of any battle, however small, could be the end of her political favor with President Nestor Kirchner. And, in her case, because she was a public figure brought to the administration on technical expertise and not because of any political track, that would probably mean the end of her political career. Environment was not a priority issue for Argentina, although, as in many parts of the world, it was slowly gaining social recognition and consequently political force (these generally come in that order). As such, any politically unmanageable problem from the low-profile Environment Secretariat could mean unnecessary and unwanted political conflict for the executive branch. It would not be tolerated. Furthermore, both the president and his eventual successor Cristina Fernandez, for whom Picolotti would continue as Environment Secretary, were from prov¬inces heavily entrenched in industry—the extractive oil and gas industry—and their outlook on development was mostly aligned with and tied to the oil sec¬tor. They believed that large tracts of land without industry and development (of which Argentina has many) is land gone to waste. One preposterous plan to emerge in their home province of Santa Cruz, site of Argentina’s Glacier National Park, was to build a massive dam (Condor Cliff Dam, renamed the Nestor Kirchner Dam) by flooding a large glacier lake (Lago Argentino) well above its natural water line to harness hydrological power for downstream communities. This would flood and disturb numerous glaciosystems.But Nestor Kirchner had confided to Picolotti when he first brought her to his administration as Environment Secretary that his generation did not understand environmental issues.
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