Natural Resources Offer a Unique Opportunity for Latin America

Latin America is a natural powerhouse, possessing 25% of the world’s forests, 33% of its renewable water resources and 12% of all arable land. It's also the home to reserves for mining and other extractive industries since the region contains 65% of the planet’s reserves of lithium, 49% of silver, 44% of copper and holds the second largest oil reserves in the world.


In terms of human resources, one of the region’s distinctive features is its demographic makeup, the product of improved health and longevity over the past few decades. A population boom today takes the form of a cohort of young people who offer the region a potential to create value and accelerate positive trends. Add to this the opportunities generated by the global technological revolution which speed information exchange and connectivity, and the result is possibly a dynamism never before seen.

 
This combination of positive assets represents a window of opportunity in the next two decades for moving Latin America decisively toward sustainability. How will the region respond?


One possibility would be to double down on the conventional economic growth paradigm, seeking to raise incomes in the short term by exhausting the region’s non-renewable resources. Latin America will have to define the natural limits of its economic and human development because demand will continue to rise.
In the coming years, deteriorating climate conditions, growing energy demand, power struggles for access and exploitation of natural resources such as forests, mines, land and water will be key issues in Latin American nations. Only a long-term vision can offset the pressures of this demand.


A strategic plan for the shared management of critical biomes is needed, one that combines action on the ground with a capacity to influence end consumers and the business and political decisions that impact natural treasures such as the Amazon and the South American Chaco. It will also be imperative to design energy scenarios that provide a sustainable energy matrix and encourage sensible consumption habits in the urban areas where the great majority of the population lives. Governments will have to promote economic alternatives that bring more benefits to the population while causing less harm to countries’ natural endowments.

 

The region has room to expand its production frontiers in both the agro-industry and extractive industries sectors if done correctly. Another great challenge of the region’s context will be to succeed in influencing land management plans, the climate change agenda and the valuation of ecosystem services. In the face of this analysis, Avina’s role will be centered on:

 

 

 

References
Primary sources: Research, interviews, and essays produced by Fundación Avina.

Secondary sources cited: