Blogs

Exclusive Interview with Marcelo Castillo, Lawyer for the Patagonia Without Dams Campaign

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Marcelo Castillo, an environmental lawyer in Santiago, represents the Council for the Defense of Patagonia (CDP), a coalition of Chilean and international organizations campaigning to stop the HidroAysen project, an ambitous plan to build five large-scale dams in southern Aysen and send the power to Santiago via an enormous electric transmission stretching nearly 2,500 kilometers. At the end of June, HidroAysen is due to file a second addendum to its environmental impact study at the request of regional environmental authorities. The second half of this year, then, will be a critical time for determining the fate of this project. 
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The Right to Write About Patagonia

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Recently, I received a letter from Humberto Merino, the editor of Enfoque, a regional magazine based in Puerto Montt, in which he angrily tells me at one point that because he was born and raised in Chile that he has more rights than me to write about Patagonia. “I believe, Mr. Langman, that I have more rights than you to write about my country.”
 
Patagonia engenders strong emotions. For Merino, it appears to be jealous possessiveness toward foreigners. For me, after my first trip down the length of the Carretera Austral in March 2001, like so many others from around the world the region’s immense natural beauty provoked inspiring awe.  My strong admiration for this region eventually led me to write several articles, start on a book and found this magazine.
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HidroAysén’s Environmental Review Should Not Be Rushed, Despite Pressure From Italy

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Recently, the CEO of the Italian energy company ENEL*, Fluvio Conti, met with Chilean President Piñera to push for the rapid completion of the environmental review of HidroAysén  Mr. Conti complained that the process to consider the impacts of this massive proposal to build five dams on two of Patagonia’s wildest rivers was proceeding “very slowly”. He appears to believe that the President should exert his influence to short circuit the regulatory process. However, Mr. Conti failed to recognize that the cause of the delay is due to not to the government’s actions, but instead to his company’s inability to now twice provide full and accurate documentation of the impacts of the dams.  Instead of trying to ram this scheme through, ENEL should be helping the new Chilean Administration think through all of its options to achieve real energy security.  
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Salmon Expansion Accelerates in Patagonia: Financial Speculation?

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During a conference in January of this year in Coyhaique, capital of Chile’s Aysen Region, I showed the image above this article. Each orange rectangle there represents a sector in which the salmon industry has experienced modifications between January and November 2009. Each rectangle represents new salmon farming centers or, in some cases, “enlargements of production,” that are already underway and approved by the Aysen Regional Environment Commission (COREMA – Aysen). 
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Trekking in Cochamo Valley

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A few weeks ago I headed out for a solo trek through Cochamo Valley. Only a few hours from Puerto Varas, it has been hailed as the new Yosemite, a climber's mecca perched above a damp, dark rainforest alongside the Cochamo River, whose hues range from clear to teal. To get there, you have to wade through mud, cross a river on a slippery trunk and brush the brambles from your shins. With a pack, it takes around five hours to reach a new refugio with a panorama of granite peaks. From there, trails sprout to waterfalls, granite walls and peaks. Goodbye world. 
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Hydroelectric Mega-Dams: Again, Who Decides What, For Whom, and How?

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While the entire world celebrates this month the “XIII International Day against Dams”, in Latin America, the energetic fever stimulated by transnational corporations (mining, pulp, aluminum producers, oil companies, among others) keeps creating a phenomenon that we see growing everyday in a fearful way and without taking into account environmental and social considerations.
 
The trend of damming rivers to generate electricity had its peak in the 1970s: during that decade approximately 5400 dikes were built worldwide. The balance is that today more than half of the rivers of the planet are dammed and around 80 million people have been moved from their homelands. However, besides all the evidence that shows the huge risk these dams mean, today this anti-nature pharaonic project grows still more across the globe, like fungus after a rain. 
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"The Need for Adventure": Interview with Legendary Polar Explorer Borge Ousland

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Borge Ousland is one of history’s most accomplished polar explorers. He is the first person to ski across both the North Pole and South Pole alone. His last big solo trip, in 2001, was an 82-day odyssey that saw him cross the North Pole, from Russia to Canada, walking, skiing and swimming. He told National Geographic that the trip taught him to “never give up.”
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Maullin River: Good Fishing Nearby Puerto Varas

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For most fishermen, there exists the idea that to fish for big trout you have to travel far. Most fishermen believe you need to seek out remote places very inaccessible, where only a lucky few can ever hope to arrive. 
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This Country is Not For Sale

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The date January 20, 2010, should be remembered as the Maritime Miracle Day. For on that day occurred what was least expected -- the end to the process of the “privatization of the sea” and a happy adios to the so-called “progressives” and “socialists” of the Michelle Bachelet government.
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