Few landscapes remain as pristine as Patagonia, home to some of the most dramatic landscapes on the planet. Between the striking Andes mountains, the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego and the roaring rivers that wend through the region, Patagonia is a veritable wonderland — a showcase of natural bounty.
Unfortunately, in places where natural wonders abound, humans often find ways to harness the energy behind it all; in the case of Patagonia, its rivers are being eyed — and could be exploited — for their power, literally.
A consortium of European and Chilean mega-companies seeks to place a total of five dams blocking the rivers that are the lifeblood in the heart of this diversely rich region. Two of the dams are slated for the Baker, Chile’s longest and highest flowing river. The other three would be built along the Pascua, Chile’s third highest flowing river. Both rivers serve critical ecological functions that would be lost forever as a result of damming.
Rios Libres has had a recent resurgence since its humble beginnings in 2009, when wildlife biologist and conservationist Chris Kassar and photographer James Q Martin started talking about the threats Patagonia’s rivers were facing against dams at that point. Today, Patagonia’s rivers remain under threat, so Rios Libres is ramping up to fight for them again.
Kassar recently wrote up a blog post about Rios Libres and the Patagonian rivers being threatened. In it, she writes:
… despite our best efforts and those of our partners, Patagonia’s rivers are still under attack. The environmental review process for these dams has been plagued with corruption and the full impacts of the project – particularly the 1,300-mile long transmission line needed to transport the energy – are still unknown.
In May 2011, the government approved the dams. Tens of thousands of Chileans took to the streets in opposition and six weeks later, the court halted all construction due to a pending appeal. This was the first time a Chilean authority challenged the project. It was clear that the fight to protect Chile’s pristine rivers, wildlands and tranquil way of life was not over.
At this point, we knew we had to go back. We couldn’t sit by as a battle brewed in the heart of this pristine land – a place we had grown to love…
So, this April, Q traveled south once again. His mission: to enter a situation that was volatile and in a state of constant flux to gather current, first- hand information so we could give voice to the Chilean people and illuminate what a new energy paradigm looks like in Chile.
He arrived on the heels of another landmark decision – the Chilean Supreme Court voted 3-2 in favor of HidroAysen and against appeals filed by opponents. Since 79% of Chileans oppose the project and support alternative energy options, Q found himself in the thick of some of the largest protests the country has ever seen.
Over the next few months, Rios Libres will release a series of short powerful and educational videos that will show what Q discovered on his latest expedition and in hopes that their words and imagery will entertain, educate and inspire people to act.
You can learn more about Rios Libres and the rivers it’s aiming to save by visiting the Rios Libres website. What’s more, you can personally take action by signing the Rios Libres petition against HidroAysen’s proposal to dam the Baker and Pascua here.
PHOTO Via: Rios Libres
Here at Osprey, we’re committed to protecting the world around us. Each Thursday, we share stories, action alerts or news from the groups we support. To learn more about our commitment to the environment, please visit our website.