Rios Libres Video #1: Keeping Patagonian Rivers Wild – The People

This is part 1 of 4 in the Rios Libres video series. The goal of the series is to highlight four different aspects of the fight against five proposed dams in Chile’s Patagonia region. Articles written by experts in the field will accompany each video. The videos will launch each Monday in June.

This video series is not only about saving two of Patagonia’s most magnificent rivers, the Baker and Pascua. It is not only about protecting the legendary, magical beauty of this planetary bio gem, its biodiversity, and complex ecological mosaic. It is not only about saving the unique natural and cultural heritage.

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While exploring the region’s adventure potential, climber Timmy O’Neill samples the bouldering in the Neff Valley, Patagonia, Chile; Photograph by James Q. Martin

It is, of course, about all of these things, but our campaign is also about helping our country to avoid the terrible, unforgivable mistake of building an unnecessary and destructive hydroelectric complex in Patagonia when many sustainable alternatives are at hand. Our hope is that this movement can make a serious, collective contribution to radically changing the paradigm guiding energy development in our country.

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Colonia glacier, Patagonia, Chile; Photograph by James Q Martin

The Patagonia Defense Council, with its partners from many countries, has been able to produce a detailed diagnosis of the of Chile’s energy model and has created a concrete proposal that would gradually, yet deeply reform the energy paradigm and re-orient it toward one that is socially and ecologically sustainable.

The overwhelming scale of ecological destruction that accompanies large dams is the direct consequence of current patterns of economic growth and of particular modes of so-called “development.” Bottom line: humanity’s life or death challenge today is not how to generate more but how to curtail demand and consumption. This effort must start with saving and conserving energy and using it more efficiently, but then we need to look deeper into how, for what purpose, and for whose benefit we are “developing.”

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Climber Timmy O’Neill climbs on a bridge over the Rio Desague, Patagonia, Chile; Photograph by James Q. Martin

The options are literally infinite, but mysteriously, some lead us toward entropy and death while other options lead us toward synergy and life. Quality of life for all beings of the biosphere should be our goal. Patagonia and its glaciers, rivers, forests, pumas, huemul deer, seas, dolphins, whales and its people, past and present deserve protection. They are guiding us in the right direction just like pure, strong winds align a weather vane. As a friend said, “if we can save Patagonia, we can save the world.” The reverse is not an option.

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