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During the month of June, filmmaker James Q. Martin are releasing a four-part series of Environmental Dispatches from Patagonia. These short films—which will be featured by National Geographic and Patagonia Inc.—examine the different aspects of the struggle to protect Patagonia from the destructive HidroAysén project and the potential that exists for a truly sustainable energy future in Chile.

The first of these excerpts explores the lives of the people living in Chilean Patagonia—their history and culture which is intrinsically linked with the extraordinary landscape that surrounds them. The first installment is accompanied by commentary from Juan Pablo Orrego, the president of Ecosistemas and member of the Patagonia Defense Council.

The Patagonia Without Dams campaign 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 biogem, its biodiversity and complex ecological mosaic. It is not only about saving the unique natural and cultural heritage. 

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. 

The Patagonia Defense Council, with its partners from many countries, has been able to produce a detailed diagnosis of the ills 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."

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.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY and ENERGY pages for more related news on this topic.

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