The value of the beauty of Aysen

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What better topic than to start the year writing about beauty? No small issue, for sure it requires more than a simple column. 
 
Beauty is commonly defined as the characteristic of a thing that through a sensory experience seeks a sense of pleasure or feeling of satisfaction. Thomas Aquinas defined beauty as that which is pleasing to the eye. Because it is a subjective experience, it is often said that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" (excerpted Wikipedia).
 
On the other hand, we saw in the seminar "Ethics in the Development of Aysen" that ethics allows us to consider principles or fundamental values of being that guide toward perfection and that nature itself has instilled in it these values, which are, life, love and beauty or happiness. That is, when beauty is affected, abused, destroyed - beautiful landscapes in our case - one can also deduce that this is a breach of ethics. That is why, among other reasons, the HidroAysén project is unethical.
 
While beauty is subjective and inherent in nature, there is some consensus on natural places and that the vast majority are of exceptional beauty as are many of the landscapes of Patagonia Aisen. No coincidence there is also some consensus that these landscapes, along with their cultural aspects, have great potential, which are just now beginning to generate value through tourism. In fact, even in a study such as the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the mega-project  HidroAysén they concluded that most of the landscapes that would be affected are of the highest quality.
 
What's more, a few days ago, four advertising experts analyzed for Eldinamo.cl the advertising campaigns of HidroAysén and Patagonia Without Dams campaign, concluding that one of the greatest strengths of the second was that it was based in the  the natural environment (beauty) of Aisen.

That's in regard to the conceptual value and philosophical basis of our actions and also some of that as tourism and imagery in advertising the beauty of Aisen. But there are those who also like to try to measure everything. So, while its incredible, at least I do not like it, some people manage to put a monetary value to these beautiful landscapes. Although difficult to accept, that is the cold and impersonal business world which large companies like so much.
 
In the past, the economist Robert D. O. Ponce of the Universtiy of Concepcion, with the Latin Twin project, developed a new method of valuing the environment. Through this, they interviewed 651 people from Coyhaique, Puerto Montt, Concepcion and Santiago and asked, photo in hand, even though only 12 percent knew the place, how many of them would be willing to pay extra on their electric, water or other bills in order to avoid the loss of two of the landscapes affected by the Baker 1 dam. More than 70 percent were willing to pay,  and those with higher incomes, even greater willingness. The main reason: its high value and legacy. The result was that these landscapes came to be assessed at 210 million dollars, a partial value that does not consider other uses and should be taken only as an indicator of total value. The question that Ponce poses at the end is that if only two such views are worth $210 million then "what will be the total effect (for those affected by all the mega-project)?"
 
Additionally, the economist also showed that, according to a tourism survey done by University of Concepcion and CIEP in 2007, the profits of the businesses in the tourism sector in the region were US$ 3 million a year and they paid workers $1 million a year, while the effect of the construction of the Baker 1 dam, which lasts only a few years, would generate an increase in jobs by just 2.3 percent and an increase in regional output during the construction period of 4.5 percent.
 
As you can see, the HidroAysén project, which to date has no further information on economic quantification, does not even come close, in monetary figures or contributions to the economy, to the value of the beauty of the Baker River landscapes. Moreover, HidroAysen is highly questionable in its regional economic contribution in comparison to tourism over the medium and long-term. If you add to these cold figures of business "the cost of losing scenic beauty" that would come from the electric power transmission lines, the negative economic impact of this dam project is stratospheric.
 
So for ethics, for regional identity and image, for our legacy, for regional sustainable development, and even for financial logic, better to stay as is, untouched, without dams or power lines, for the beautiful landscapes Aysen!! 
 
 
Photo by Jimmy Langman for Patagon Journal
 

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