Transforming National Identity: race, nature, and desertification in Argentina


Did anybody in Argentina’s capital care about the desertification happening in the country’s interior? Do environmental policy makers ever seek small farmers’ opinions on land use? What’s the word for “sustainable land use” in Spanish? Did I forget? As the elevator climbed to the six floor of Tucumán 255, an old office high-rise in the financial district of Buenos Aires, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that my “natural resources” Spanish vocabulary could not have eroded completely over the past two years. The last time I had come in to work at FARN’s office, the Argentine environmental non-profit “Foundation for the Environment and Natural Resources,” was in the summer of 2010. I had been an intern who wanted to know more about environmental social movements in Argentina; fresh out of 6 months of study in the University of Buenos Aires, and wrapping up a summer’s worth of interviews with a myriad of environmentalists regarding the largest obstacles facing a Greener Argentine Future. Now, ringing FARN’s doorbell in June of 2012, I was returning with a completed undergraduate thesis, “Uncovering Argentine Environmentalism’s; collective action, national identity, and environmental conflict”, and a whole new set of questions and obstacles that I had developed for myself after my first year of graduate coursework in UC Berkeley’s Environmental Science, Policy, and Management Program. FARN was to be my home base for the next two months, a place where I could contribute a pair of outsider’s eyes, and a set of rusty translation skills, to critical environmental policy issues through collaboration on various research projects. However, more directly related to my work at home, Tucumán 255 would once again be my launching pad for developing relationships, establishing new contacts, building a bibliography, and conducting interviews that would not only help me understand environmental governance and the production of “nature” in Argentina, but significantly shape the trajectory of my dissertation research. 

Ashton Wesner
Publication date: 
October 18, 2012
Publication type: 
Student Research