The global climate change is shifting the paradigm of development in all countries. Three experts give their view of what we have and where we must go
"Venezuela's physical splendor is based on a triad composed of territory, biodiversity and natural resources. This set of three factors, closely related to each other, has been mirrored in its historical evolution, defining and differentiating this nation from others in the Western Hemisphere and the Netherlands Antilles. This occurrence has been marked with varied intensity, and its greatness has not been realized as appropriate by past and present generations." The bottomless description of our territory belongs to geographer, researcher and historian Pedro Cunill Grau, who, in his work "Geohistoria de la sensibilidad en Venezuela" (Geographical history of sensitivity in Venezuela), tells us the reason why this territory inhabited by us is a unique space.
In reference to next decades, Cunill said, present and future generations are lucky to be in a territory with many choices entering the 21st century. "I mean, this country has a convergence of factors which include not only natural resources, landscapes, but also human resources and its invaluable geo-strategic location."
In looking at the country chances to go ahead, we find that, in addition to the oil resource that has marked Venezuelans' lives over the part 60 years, there are its natural resources and the creative force of its people who, experts note, should be the target of public policies.
For Professor Cunill, few countries in the world have such extraordinary energy sources, such as water reserves and alternative energy sources. There are not only oil resources, but also non-conventional energy sources, such as wind, sun, tidal power and many others.
Alexander Luzardo agrees, and he adds that the eyes should set on sustainable development, far away from non-renewable resources. The professor of graduate studies in social sciences and management at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) notes that Venezuela used to be the largest oil producer in the world and this left an imprint on our economy, our culture and our way of living. But he regrets it to continue being the vision of the political leadership in the 21st century which again is pinning its hope on the development of the Orinoco Oil Belt.
In his view, our drama boils down to it. As early as in 1936, Arturo Uslar Pietri warned about the need to "sow oil," that is, a diversified, standalone economy.
Luzardo fears that oil cannot be sown anymore as proposed by Uslar Pietri. Oil is limited in view of the global climate change and it should be replaced in the medium term, because it is a fossil fuel and the country development cannot be sustained only with the oil resource.
Pedro Cunill notes that with alternative, duly developed and preserved, energy sources, Venezuela has a potential for many years to come and could even supply energy to the world. "But, most importantly, that energy should be utilized for transformation, inside the country, of what we could call downstream industry. Oil and mineral resources cannot be conceived in the 21st Century as sort of camp to be used and abandoned. Instead, oil drilling should pave the way to new forms of development and work for people; to give communities a better quality of life; to transform our wealth with new choices. For instance, beautiful landscapes, like Venezuela, should be used for different kinds of tourism. Every endeavor should be made to develop tourism in a comprehensive, planned manner."
Pedro Cunill warns against three big challenges in the world nowadays: the challenge of energy, but also famine and lack of water supply. Therefore, the issue of how to protect water resources is of the essence. According to the researcher, the humanity faces a bigger challenge at the beginning of the 21st century, that is, food security. Rather than trading natural non-renewable resources for imported food, extensive agriculture and livestock should be fostered.
Arnoldo José Gabaldón, a professor of the chair of sustainable development at the Simón Bolívar University, notes that the development of Venezuela and Latin America should be sustainable. However, in the Venezuelan case, the new vision is possible only as long as political leaders rectify. He is certain that such a project implies coming to terms in order to end the ongoing fratricidal war.
For Gabaldón, the present situation is similar to that of 1936 or 1958, when in both processes, in the face of deep political changes, the leaders at that time called the best experts to keep the country going.
Gabaldón points to an alternative project to the 21st century socialism, backed up by important case studies in all critical areas, such as health, poverty, public utilities, security and development, and involving the best experts. Big changes should be within the framework of social sustainability. This means a better quality of life based on management of the physical and natural environment. Gabaldón notes that there is lately increasing awareness and more demanding citizens. Better democracy, he reasserts, is to come.
THE HUMANITY FACES A BIGGER CHALLENGE IN ENTERING THE 21ST CENTURY, THAT IS, FOOD SECURITY
Translated by Conchita Delgado