Saturday, March 22, 2008

Environmental Justice and Foreign Interests

After traveling throughout the USA promoting our activities in Chile, I'm now back in mi querido chilito. It was over a month of feverish travels, meetings, presentations, film festivals and awesome people in great places: Point Reyes, New York, San Francisco, Ventura, Los Angeles, La Jolla. There is a lot of interest in Wealthy Developed Nations about Chile and pulp, fresh water and oceans. Sometimes in Chile, angry or frustrated people target this "gringo environmentalist interest" as a bad influence that destroys their culture and co-opts their resources.

I've been accused of "exposing" quiet, innocent Chile to the outside world of voracious capitalists and drunken surfers. Hmmm. RFK, Jr., has been accused of promoting a dam-free Patagonia merely to protect his adrenal rafting trips and mystical fly fishing rivers. These are extreme accusations, perhaps, but they do make a point: what's in it for the local people, this foreigner-driven protection of their natural resources, their clean coastlines and empty rivers? One thing is for certain: locals must benefit clearly and convincingly, because the macro-economic benefits of giant dams and industrial forest plantations are all too convincing as well.

My ongoing and deeper collaboration with FIMA (Fiscalia del Medio Ambiente: "Environmental Prosecutors") has already reaped very positive results regarding our pulp mill pollution battle on the rich coastline of southern Chile’s 7th and 8th regions. This campaign to clean up the area’s industrial pollution from the forestry industry and empower local citizens has reached millions of people both nationally and internationally, but the fight continues more intensively. Our program for 2008 – 2009 involves a deeper commitment to local empowerment and the direct involvement of activists, legal advocates and local citizens affected by the environmental problems facing this coastline.

Save The Waves and FIMA will continue a series of legal workshop training seminars with local fishermen, surfers, public servants and other Chilean coastal dwellers to educate and empower citizens regarding their rights and duties in the face of forestry industry pollution. The first workshop was held in Cobquecura in November 2007 and more are scheduled for 2008. Participants in this workshop receive specific instruction on the legal structure of the court system and how to defend the environment through legal means on a local level. This is top-grade environmental justice made local, made available to all economic and ethnic groups, and best of all, it's successful,

We closely monitor the construction of the massive 52-kilometer pipeline adjacent to the Itata that is being built to dump forestry industry waste into the ocean; this monitoring includes legal action and investigation through FIMA, film recordings, media reality tours, local observation, and water quality testing by the Universidad Austral in Valdivia.

The specific goals of this program are: a.) To achieve the empowerment and education of local Chilean citizens to stand up for their legal and human rights to a clean and safe environment free from industrial pollution from the forestry industry; b.) To legally assist and represent in Chilean and international courts of law, the local citizens of the affected regions to protect their coastline and livelihoods from the forestry pollution currently being dumped into the Itata. c.) Permanently establish stricter legislation and third-party oversight of the forestry industry to ensure the environmental health of the region, its biodiversity, its micro-economies and its inhabitants.

The foreign interests involved in this issue lend valuable experience because the USA, Canada and Europe already experienced the environmental ruin of unbridled industrialization decades ago, and we believe it's best to avoid this in Chile. We have something valuable to show our compatriots in the Developing World: Otro mundo es posible. Another world is possible.