The landscape in Chile leaves me in awe time and time again. With the coast on one side and Andes on the other, Chile is a picturesque country. However, its land is not immune to being reshaped and extorted for natural resources. During my cultural geography course last night, my professor was discussing environmental issues in Chile.
The first example we talked about was a mine in southern Chile, the Pascua-Lama, that is contaminating the glacier water reserves. The mine was the first bi-national open mine in the world and extracts gold, silver, copper, and other minerals. The project, run by Canadian company, Barrick Gold, always was surrounded by protests to protect the ice and nearby environment. Originally Barrick Gold wanted to move the glaciers to make way for the mine. This did not happen because one of the 400 stipulations made by the government was that the glaciers may not be moved. Access to clean water for local agricultural community has also been a point of contention. The Chilean supreme court upheld Barrick’s permit despite fining the company the maximum amount under Chilean law for violating parts of the permit. The discussion had eerily similar issues to the ongoing DAPL issue in the U.S.: the interests of the rich and powerful pitted against the rights of the environment and native people, and water is at the center of both.
Yesterday reinforced that water security is an issue of global concern, not separate issues for countries to deal with individually. I know I take the fact that I can turn on a faucet and safe, drinkable water comes out for granted. I wish that everyone could take it for granted, but I’m learning how hard people must fight to protect a fundamental right. Access to clean water should be a fundamental right, not a privilege few can afford. Yesterday also made me think about the power we have over our environment and how dangerous that power is. The nature I hold so dearly is at risk of being reshaped or destroyed everyday.
“Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.” -E.O. Wilson, American conservationist
To learn more about the history of the Pascua-Lama project, I recommend this website: http://nacla.org/news/2016/03/09/defeat-pascua-lama