Magazine article ReVista (Cambridge)

The Green Leap Forward

Magazine article ReVista (Cambridge)

The Green Leap Forward

Article excerpt

CHILEAN ARCHITECT CAZÚ ZEGERS ONCE stated, "The landscape is for Latin America whal the cathedrals are lor Europe." The cultural power of territory has evaded every intention to dominate it lor centuries. The Spanish conquerors unsuccessfully tried to impose the grid system mandated in the Law of the Indies, an operating system for territorial domination. And nowadays conventional urban planning has abdicated in the face of the spontaneous adaptation to the landscape of informal slums and architecture in all our cities.

With nearly 4,000 miles of coastline and expanding over more than 2,500 miles along the Andes mountain range, Chile features magnificent basins, fjords and glaciers, vast temperate evergreen rainforests, Patagonian grasslands and forests with some of the highest levels of biodiversity and endemism, as well as the driest desert on the planet and some of the most productive agricultural land in the continent. The Global 200 Initiative, promoted by the World Wildlife Fund (WAVE) together with the World Bank, has classified some of these ecosystems such as the Valdivian forest among the priority conservation sites worldwide.

In this context, the Chilean economy is strongly based on the extraction and exploitation of bulk copper, wood cellulose, salmon and fish powder, agricultural produce and most recently lithium. These highly intensive extractive activities produce environmental and social impacts at a regional, even planetary, scale that are challenging the country's development model. The massive wildfires suffered during the Chilean summer of 2017 were in part fueled by massive monocultures of pines and eucalyptus, but also exacerbated by the deliberate action of radical groups reclaiming land taken from indigenous communities. On the other side of the country, in the arid zones of the Atacama Desert, large-scale mining operations are also challenging traditional villagers over the use of scarce water resources. These tensions have led to unprecedented political conflicts such as the resignation of two ministers from President Michelle Bachelet's economic team in August 2017 because of the president's decision to stop a 2.5 billion-dollar investment for a mining project near one of the main marine sanctuaries of Chile. In a territory stressed by the dynamics of massive extractive economies and the public's awareness of its unique potential for conservation, Chileans begin to internalize the long-term commitments of such dilemmas.

In this context, the emergence of territorial and environmental conservation initiatives in Chile assumes great relevance. So far in the 21st century, the Chilean state has managed to establish national strategies for land conservation and biodiversity, with the ratification of the Convention on Biological Diversity and the approval of the Native Forest Act in 2008. Despite the lack of an appropriate legal framework, groups of philanthropists, individuals, corporations and foundations, as well as NGOs, have been leading initiatives parallel to governmental efforts to create a broad spectrum of private protected areas. This interest in the generation of natural, human and financial capital to generate a structure that allows the protection in perpetuity of private lands-particularly in areas of high environmental value-has been accompanied by remarkable innovations, both in legal and territorial planning areas. The first efforts to promote private conservation came from wealthy philanthropists such as Douglas Tompkins, founder of the clothing brands The North Face and Esprit, who invested nearly 300 million dollars in the purchase of more than 1.5 million acres of land in the Chilean Patagonia, or even wealthy locals like Chilean President Sebastián Piñera who bought 291,500 acres of native forest on the island of Chiloe in 2004 to create the Tantauco Park. In addition to these philanthropists, several foundations, corporations and individuals began to look for alternative ways to protect private areas in Chile. …

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