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INSAM homepage until January 2011

Last modified December 27, 2010 10:52

INSAM homepage until January 2011.

As a scientist/performer with my Roving Seminars on agrometeorological services, I do ten different performances of on average one and a half hour each (including question sessions), in three to five days, depending on local organizational potential of local contributions, of discussion rounds or of master classes. I have now done eleven of such seminars in eight countries and will continue them this year and early next year in (mostly southern) Africa. I was most recently doing this in Brazil and Argentina. One of the great advantages of such scientific travel is that one is also able to read local editions of international and national news papers and magazines on local issues with agrometeorological components.

In the International Herald Tribune, sold in Buenos Aires, of 18/8/’10, on p. 6, I was attracted to the title of an article “Latin America’s leftist divide” by Immanuel Wallerstein from Yale University. The summary of the issue said that “left-wing governments and indigenous movements are thrashing out a debate with global ramifications”. The “eye catcher” for the article said: “Indigenistas do not seek a larger use of natural resources, they want a saner one”.

The article starts to state that Latin America has been the success story of “the world left” in the first decade of the 21st century. This is true in two senses. The first and most widely noticed way is that left or left-of-center parties have won a remarkable series of elections during the decade. And collectively, Latin American governments have established for the first time a significant degree of distance from the United States. Latin America has become a relatively autonomous geopolitical force. Moreover, movements of the indigenous populations of Latin America have asserted themselves politically almost everywhere and have demanded the right to organize their political and social life autonomously.

The problem has been that the two kinds of lefts - the political parties that have achieved power and the indigenista movements - do not have identical objectives and use quite different ideological language. The political parties have made economic development their principle objective, seeking to achieve this at least in part by exerting greater control over natural resources. The indigenista movements have sought to get greater control over their own resources and better related arrangements. In general, the latter say their objective is not economic growth but coming to terms with “PachaMama”, or Mother Earth, respecting ecological equilibria.

As an example of the issues involved, in Ecuador the left-wing government had a most acute division over developing oil resources in an Amazon protected reserve. After earlier ignoring protests of the region’s indigenous inhabitants, the government offered an alternative: the wealthy governments of the world should compensate Ecuador for renouncing developments of that area, on the grounds that this was a contribution to the global struggle against climate change. When this was first proposed at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, it was treated as a fantasy. But now five European governments have agreed to create a fund to be administered by UNDP to pay Ecuador for not developing oil resources in that region, because this contributes to the reduction of carbon dioxide.

It is not always going as in the above example. A Dutch newspaper of 28/8/’10 reported that Brazilian Indians have lost their fight (and that of their many but not enough supporters) of more than 35 years. Because the government has signed the contract to build the controversial Belo-Monte dam for energy purposes in the Amazon region. Because some private investors withdrew, the Brazilian government invested billions of dollars in government owned money.

The question raises a more fundamental issue, Wallerstein says: the nature of the “other world that is possible” (to use the slogan of the World Social Forum). Does the path toward a better life for people in the global South lie in a socialist concept of society, coupled with constant economic growth? Or is it through what some are calling a change in civilizational values, a world of “Buen Vivir” – to live well. Though this debate is currently being argued among the forces of the Latin American left, it underlies many of the internal strains in Asia, Africa and even Europe. It may turn out to be the great debate of the 21st century, and it will not be easy to resolve.

Such issues of tensions are also dealt with in the introductory Part I and the introduction to Part III of the four Parts of the book “Applied Agrometeorology” that I have edited for Springer (Heidelberg etc.) with 113 co-authors [see for the detailed contents applied-agrometeorology]. The Part II contains 30 detailed examples of agrometeorological services, using the protocol developed for the related INSAM contest, as well as a large section on communication and extension issues. The largest Part III, with 570 pages exactly half of the text, deals with “Fields of Application in Agrometeorology”, that deliver the bedrock material for these and other operational agrometeorological services, in 95 sections on monocropping, multiple cropping, forest (agro)meteorology, agrometeorology of non-forest trees, animal husbandry, cropping under cover and some smaller subjects (fisheries and aquaculture, urban agriculture, precision farming). The last Part IV, on “Methods as Tools and Approaches Successfully used in Applications Leading to Agrometeorological Services”, deals in 20 Chapters with the scientific support systems for the previous applications, touching on but not dealing with Basic Agrometeorological Sciences. Because here the entrance to “Applied Agrometeorology” is through serving farmers and other stakeholders in agricultural production in the widest sense. The book also wants to create a renaissance in the teaching (that is education/training/extension) of applied agrometeorology at all levels, closer to the livelihood of farmers and other agricultural producers.

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