Buen Día de La Granja Rocksheim! On the small organic farm where I spent three months as an intern, I experienced firsthand how the relationship between people and the technology they have access to differs vastly in Argentina versus the United States, which directly impacts resource use. Thus, this internship tied directly into my global theme, technology and society, and my global challenge, resources and sustainability. As these topics intertwined, I observed many principles of the circular economy model, even though the flow of Argentinian technology and resources through society overall is still linear.
Most people in Argentina don’t have access to technology we take for granted in the US such as the latest iPhone, reliable electricity, or clothes dryers. Because new technology is not available, people repair and reuse what they have instead of buying something new simply because it exists. Therefore, it is common to see cars from the 1980s and 1990s ambling around dirt roads. Their engines shudder and their brakes squeal, and their owners learn to repair them themselves to avoid the expenses of a mechanic. As a result, consumer demand for new resources is much lower and resources are used at a more sustainable pace. It isn’t exactly a circular economy, but valuing recycling and longevity of products is a step in that direction.
Below is the old farm van, used every week to deliver pollos, huevos, and other goods to the farm’s clients.
Living in a society with a “repair and reuse” relationship with technology instead of one in which the fanciest, newest technology is constantly sought out made me realize how toxic materialism is in the United States. While the Argentinian relationship with technology is a result of general poverty and not to be romanticized, some aspects are a good model for the circular economy. While taking apart a fence on the farm, I was instructed to save the half-rotten posts and rusted sheet metal and wire to be re-used. The farm owners lamented that the plastic cloth and chain-link fencing were too destroyed after years of service to be reused. I spent hours carefully sorting out all the materials and moving them under the trees to be stored safely for later use. When wire was needed to repair a fence, or sheet metal was needed to build a new roof for the pig enclosure, we would look first to the resources we already had.
The pictures below shows how palets were repurposed in a fence for the sheep pasture, an air b-n-b made from shipping containers, and a small earthship community.
True sustainability also existed on the farm: waste from the chickens and hens was valuable manure for the vegetable garden, and weeds from the vegetable garden were fed to the hens. Meat from the chickens, eggs from the hens, and veggies from the garden provided energy for farmworkers to care for all three. Many such ecosystem-like energy transfers existed on the farm to realize sustainable resource use.
Below are some thriving arvejas (peas), whose beds I dutifully cleared and fertilized before planting, and some repollo (cabbage) which survived the winter.
I usually consider myself a resourceful and sustainability-minded individual. I’m accustomed to composting my apple cores and checking plastic types to correctly sort my recycling. But the extreme reuse of materials in Argentina made me realize how lack of new technology lowers resource demand; if new technology isn’t available, people will reuse what they have out of necessity. In a circular economy, the purpose isn’t to grow and expand wealth, and Argentinian attitudes toward resource use are a clear example of why this is key to the circular economy model. The irony in Argentina, however, is that the lack of rapid expansion comes from lower socioeconomic standing.
After my internship, I was also able to spend some time camping and climbing in Frey, a couloir surrounded by incredible granite spires. I befriended climbers from all over the world and climbed Torre Principal with a few of them.