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Towards a holistic approach to sustainability in the Argentine Patagonia: Research results and educational proposal

Cecilia E. Silvana Alvaro (Facultad de Ingeniería/Instituto de Investigaciones y Desarrollo en Ingeniería de Procesos, Biotecnología y Energías Alternativas (PROBIEN), CONICET- UNCo, Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Neuquen, Argentina)
Alida Marina Abad (Facultad de Ciencias de la Educación, Universidad Nacional del Comahue, Neuquen, Argentina)
Norma Sbarbati Nudelman (Academia Nacional de Ciencias Exactas Fisicas y Naturales, Buenos Aires, Argentina)

International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education

ISSN: 1467-6370

Article publication date: 17 September 2019

Issue publication date: 17 September 2019




Sustainability involves a strong interrelationship of ecological, cultural, technological, scientific, economic and social aspects and deserves to undertake a holistic treatment. Abundant evidence has being collected related to the several risks and conflicts derived from unsustainable oil exploitation and fossil fuel energy sources. In the past few years, several environmentally friendly technologies are being developed for oil exploitation in the Argentine Patagonia. The purpose of this paper is to examine them under a holistic prospect to provide an overall outlook for a wide audience and making it attractive for teaching sustainability in higher education.


The environmentally friendly technologies chosen to be examined are Green Chemistry, cleaner production processes and alternative energy sources. Vaca Muerta, located at Neuquén Basin in Argentine Patagonia, is one of the world’s major deposits of tight oil and shale gas. Fracking technology, required for this exploitation, is controversial; it poses critical issues concerning ecological risks such as oil leakage and serious soil damage.


Research results on the germination of a native gramineae in polluted soils are described in this paper under several conditions and show its potential for the phytoremediation of damages aroused from unsustainable oil exploitation. In addition, student’s feedback regarding fracking was examined by a questionnaire presenting different and contradictory perspectives with open and Likert-type items. This study complements previous observation on the open acceptance of the Green Chemistry fundamentals as the contribution of the scientific-technological knowledge to the sustainable development and higher education approaches from Argentina.

Research limitations/implications

A clear result of these experiences is that the immediate impact is stronger that that noted when just scientific and technological aspects are taught; teachers expressed they would try to repeat these exercises in their classes in middle and high schools. This feeling of fear is important for people to understand the severity of climate change, though it is also essential to help people move past fear, to use the urgency of the problem to motivate action. Results of this research suggest that the best way to understand climate risks is interactive learning.


This study describes related scientific, technological and societal research in the fields of soil remediation and sustainable production that are key values in higher education, as scientific and societal communities play an essential role. From a holistic approach to a complex problem, this paper describes research on different aspects that converge into the viewing of the radical change in the society’s behavior that is urgently required for a sustainable development in harmony with the planet. In spite of their importance, there are few publications with an interdisciplinary overview about sustainable development in Latin America. The value and originality of this work is that it focuses on the need of teaching sustainability in different areas of higher education with a holistic prospect.



Alvaro, C.E.S., Abad, A.M. and Nudelman, N.S. (2019), "Towards a holistic approach to sustainability in the Argentine Patagonia: Research results and educational proposal", International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 20 No. 5.



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