EGU General Assembly 2020
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the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

The reason versus the emotion and the perfect Wave. Report of a witness.

Eduardo Marone
Eduardo Marone

Social networks based popular movements are a new phenomenon promoting societal changes, usually with legitimate claims, although moved more by beliefs and emotions than reason. Geoscientists, as citizens, will have to know how to explain what makes justified beliefs justified when the decisions will affect the environment or the social system (1), including the understanding of the mechanisms that move societies.

Mendoza, Argentina, at the piedmont of the Andes, is a semi-arid region (less than 250 mm of rain per year). Agriculture represents one important activity (consuming around 80% of the water). A little more than 10% is for human consumption, around 4% for recreational/environmental use, 1% for Industry and 1% in the oil and mining industry (2). All this water came from the melting of the Andes ice and snow, resources depleted due to climate changes.

Mendoza has a very advanced and environmentally friendly Mining Code but seen as too restrictive from others. It limits projects in glacier areas and the use of chemicals to extract minerals like gold and others. At the end of 2019, the new Government decided to modify the Mining Code keeping near glacier limitations but allowing the controlled use of chemicals for the mining.

The perfect social wave appeared when the new law was being approved by the local Congress. Protestors closed roads, claiming the water would be contaminated, that agriculture would suffer from pollution, and other panicking scenarios, all supported by the extended feeling that the corruption is a central problem that will not help in establishing the proper controls, and fed by the lobby of the agricultural industry.

As the scarcity of water is an endemic problem in the region, the fear, as a psychological virus, did spread through the social networks, moving concerned citizens to win the battle and forcing the Governor to cancel the new law.

Scientists, data, the offer of external audits, tried to convince, by the reason, that responsible mining is possible and, if the water is a problem, the initial point to improve is its use in agriculture (were a loss of almost 50% occur by inefficient irrigation practices), but emotion and fear won the battle.

These dilemmas are not easy to deal with and, giving the complexity of the world around us, a systemic Geoethical approach should be the right one to confront the ethical dilemmas in the Geoscientists’ spheres of action. The IAPG White Paper on Responsible Mining is a fundamental tool to be used by geoscientists/citizens to cope with the dilemmas that appears when the emotions overshadow the reason and, probably, we have to follow the suggestions made by Begon (4).


  • (1) Marone E. and Marone L. 2019. Ethical dilemmas of the citizen Geoscientist doing science, technology, and profession. EGU2019
  • (2) Departamento General de Irrigación. Mendoza. 2019.
  • (3) Arvanitidis N., Boon J., Nurmi P. and Di Capua G. 2017. White Paper on Responsible Mining. IAPG -
  • (4) Begon, M. 2017. Winning Public Arguments As Ecologists: Time for a New Doctrine? Trends in Ecology & Evolution 32 (6): 394–96.

How to cite: Marone, E.: The reason versus the emotion and the perfect Wave. Report of a witness., EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-13200,, 2020


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  • CC1: Comment on EGU2020-13200, Giuseppe Di Capua, 06 May 2020

    Well-known problems. At the end all losers.

    Responsibilities all of stakeholders are not clear. Responsibility towards others need always to accept that our freedom, beliefs, and expectations have limits to be accepted.

    Many thanks Eduardo, "beautiful" experience to touch real problems to be faced, involving lot of ethical and social issues.

    Your slides are useful.


    • AC1: Reply to CC1, Eduardo Marone, 07 May 2020

      Thanks Giuseppe. I was witnessing what Jan and all of you have been mentioning in your works. I think it was valuable to report and to think over it with all of you. Cheers 

  • CC2: Comment on EGU2020-13200, Martin Bohle, 06 May 2020

    Well, at first sight, it looks like an experience that 'a social licence to operate (SLO)' is neither implemented by law nor promoted by communication. I wonder about missed opportunities to build bottom-up the conditions from which an SLO may emerge. Also, us of chemicals in mining is a tremendous threat to a healthy environment. Hence, I suppose, getting it accepted under an SLO process would need experience of a successful SLO process. The dilemma seems evident.

    • AC2: Reply to CC2, Eduardo Marone, 07 May 2020

      Hi Martin. Yes, indeed, the social contract was included in the old and new law.  In fact, the southern department (municipality) of the State was overwhelming in favor (it is one of the poorest but very rich in mineral resources), but the opposition of the urban and agricultural areas was the base used by the government to cancel the law. The point is that the SLO includes all State citizens, from urban people that, for instance, do not accept water gauges at their homes, to agricultural actors not interested in reducing their consumption and lack of efficient irrigation practices. Very, very wicked system. And yes, the use of chemicals is very dangerous, although here the code proposed very strict quality control of the operations, fines, and so. In the end, all is a problem of trust. Our governments and authorities are so unreliable that this is the key issue, but the wave against the new law was mostly based on emotional, not scientific information, or wrong ones, while a minority was against for the right reasons  (lack of trust, which are also scientific, but from the social side). If the opposition is for good reasons, room for dialog is possible. Otherwise, no way.

    • CC4: Reply to CC2, Jan Boon (deceased), 07 May 2020

      Usually the terribly named SLO concept is applied to the relationship between a company and the communities that surround it. In this case the phenomenon covered an entire povince and the actions of both sides to the argument were broad-based (legislature and environmental organizations). I presume that the term"social networks" that the author uses refer to social media, a subset of the overal term "social networks". Social Network Analysis is a fairly standard sociological tool that can be applied to both "social media" and "social networks" that are not necessarily enabled by internet technology. The word "Licence" in "Social Licence to Operate" suggests that we are dealing with a transaction and nothing is farther form the truth.

      • AC4: Reply to CC4, Eduardo Marone, 07 May 2020

        I used Social Network in the internet sense (Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc etc), not in the sociological analysis. And in the title, I used the word Wave inspired by the novel The Wave, by Morton Rhue and the tv show Wir sind die Welle. Just giving the proper credits.

        • CC5: Reply to AC4, Jan Boon (deceased), 07 May 2020

          Thank you

  • CC3: Comment on EGU2020-13200, Jan Boon (deceased), 06 May 2020

    I am well aware of what happened in Mendoza, and previous history, political instability and other factors all played a role. From my perspective it all boils down to trust. The COVID 19 pandemic shows that the medical authorities are trusted and that this trust carries on into the science on which they base their decisions. Trust is sorely lacking in Argentina in many areas, and in many other Latin American nations. Past mistakes by mining companies also play a big role in Argentina. The Esquel case still hangs as a shadow over the Argentine mininig scene. Building and maintaining trust is essential and difficult

  • AC3: Comment on EGU2020-13200, Eduardo Marone, 07 May 2020

    Thanks, Jan. And I just mentioned the trust (or the lack of) as the main reason for the failure on my answer to Martin's comments. And very appropriate to recall the Covid19 case and the trust in the health professionals. I got good lessons witnessing the protests and the conflict. Cheers (and hoping you are OK at home)