Ana Stipicic's fight for the environment

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Four years ago, Ana Stipicic became the spokesperson for “Alerta Isla Riesco,” a citizen environmental group determined to protect Riesco Island in southern Chilean Patagonia from the impacts of big mining. Five large open-pit mining projects are proposed for this area to extract coal, threatening one of the most pristine ecosystems in the world and home to unique flora and fauna found in a few other places.

Ana StipicicAna StipicicOf these five projects, one of them, Mina Invierno, has already received approval and is underway. Nevertheless, Stipicic and her group are monitoring closely the project while continuing to build greater support for conserving the island. Called by The Atlantic Monthly “one of the 8 most beautiful places in the world,” Riesco Island is spectacular, filled with hanging glaciers, ancient forests, valleys, as well as huemul deer, condors, humpback whales and dolphins.

Born in Magallanes, Ana knows well this and other wonders of Patagonia and is a member of the jury that will choose the winners of the Second Patagonia Photo Contest. 
How would you describe the beauty of Patagonia to someone who has never visited?
There is so much, its hard to explain in just a few words. To begin, there is the vastness, the seemingly endless landscapes. The multicolored skys, especially at sunrise and sunset and the deep blue vault that accompanies us in the evenings. The varied ecosystems: you have far- reaching pampa where one can almost see the circumference of the earth, mountains with eternal ice, green valleys, and of course the old-growth forests that almost invite you to visit them as if they were enchanted forests. The potent, cold, immense sea, and with winds sometimes arriving at over 100 km per hour, making everything in its path tremble at his strength. Finally the biodiversity, full of insects, birds, and mammals. Some species so small that it is hard to believe that they live in a land with such a fierce climate that is constantly changing, sometimes changing wildly within the span of a single day. And then there are other species larger and majestic, like the condor, cougar, huemul, humpback whales or dolphins that just show you their body perfection.
What is the current state of the campaign’s fight against Mina Invierno?
We are closely watching the advance of Mina Invierno and the enforcement of environmental and other laws. It is a big and complex issue, where there are many environmental, social and cultural variables. Our purpose as a group is that the world knows the island and these mining projects, and as such helps us to defend, care and preserve the island. That every Chilean and other people from around the world knows the extraordinary value of Riesco Island and that in turn this idea is manifested among our governments and businesses. We have also focused on to showing the environmental impact of such initiatives, both in the extraction process as well as the burning of coal and the impacts of thermal power in Chile.

Do you think that Chileans are more environmentally aware today? What changes would you like to see in Chilean society?
I think every day more Chileans are valuing our land, understanding that it is priceless and that its real value lies in its preservation for future generations. However, in our individual behavior, day to day, we still have a long way to go to achieve environmental awareness. I do not understand, for example, why we sill do not have recycling centers in every neighborhood and city. The tons of trash we generate is stunning and the planet can not continue to be abused by so much waste.  Its the same story with our energy sources and energy use, with the care and regulations of our nature reserves, etc.. For many years now, Chile has become almost exclusively an extractive country, and that has a number of costs that we have not yet dealt with.
As an environmental leader, how do you think photos of Patagonia can help campaigns and initiatives like yours in the region?
These initiatives foster understanding, emotion and awareness. Each person viewing the images of our land can not remain indifferent to its beauty and value. Such actions enable many people to know and marvel at the wonders of places like Patagonia, and hence want to know it, protect it and preserve it.
What for you is a great photo? What will be the main criteria for you when selecting the best photos in the contest?
For me a great photo is one that captures an essence, that manages to convey beauty, a moment, an experience, but above all a thrill. A good photo is something that will not only affect you by the fact that you are looking at it, but it also moves you, inside, affecting your very being and leaving a mark on you.
Photos courtesy Outdoors TV/Claudio Magallanes