Keywords: emergy accounting, ecological economics, sustainability, international trade, external debt, environmental justice, developing countries, Argentina, Latin America, sustainable development, natural resources, systems ecology
Emergy perspectives on the Argentine economy during the 20th century: a tale of natural resources, exports and external debt
Numerous approaches seek to incorporate the environmental dimension to macroeconomic indicators. In this study Emergy Accounting (EA), a methodology grounded in systems ecology and ecological economics, was used to assess changes in the ecological sustainability of the Argentine economy during the 20th century. Throughout the century, the proportion of Argentina's economy supported by renewable energy decreased from 67% to 55%. An exporter of commodities, Argentina provided buyers more emergy than it received in exchange. Argentina's international debt is still a burden, but in emergy terms, we calculated that the country has already paid its external obligations by 1985. The unfair emergy terms of trade for many developing countries are at the heart of the external debt issue. EA, integrating the economic and ecological values of commodities, may offer useful insights on how to achieve environmental justice for Argentina and other developing countries trading in the global economy.