Free the Patagonia


Today, I am going to give some space to the green voice inside me and talk to you about HidroAysén, a megaproject that aims to build five dams in Southern Chile. Picture this: a paradise of green forests, wild and free animals jumping around, and two large rivers completely flooded in order to produce 2,750 MW on average annually.  

What strikes me the most is the fact that the whole process of approving the hydroelectric power plants was quick and pretty noiseless, even if the impact this project would have is huge – it implies the flooding of six national parks, eleven national reserves, twenty-six conservation priority sites, sixteen wetland areas and thirty-two privately owned protected conservation areas. Yes, there are zillions of dollars involved and a duopoly at stake: Endesa, a majority-owned subsidiary of the Italian utility company Enel with a 51% and the national firm Colbun S.A, owning the other 49%. 

The good thing is that once this project was made public, many thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against it. So wide was the unrest that there were people rallying all around the world, from Paris to Sydney…but the company kept saying the dams are “environmentally friendly” and a “low impact solution” to the nation’s growing hunger for energy.

One may not be an environmentalist, but implementing this project would mean the destruction of a large area of the Chilean Patagonia. Of course, if we adopt a short-term perspective, maybe the first five years it wouldn’t matter the flooding be cause people that live there would be relocated and the company would even create new jobs. 

But what would happen in the long term? Most probably a devastating environmental damage will occur. 

There is much more that the simple approval of the dams at stake. The fact that President Piñera is closely related to the companies involved in this project (his brother-in-law, Eduardo Morel, was a Technology Advisor for Colbun SA until march) adds another layer to the series of irregularities detected since this project was made public. For instance, the 5,000 page environmental impact assessment provided by Hidroaysén poorly addressed the essential issues – such as the impacts on the local flora and fauna, and the demographic impacts on local communities. Also, there is the undeniable fact the Chile has other (economical) energy options such as solar radiation, geothermal, and wind – and the International Energy Agency recommended that the country foster them. And lastly, the project has chosen to ignore the volcanic gap at the dam sites, where an undiscovered volcano may be resting hidden between two ice fields.

Latest news, Colbun SA put the project on hold, citing lack of government backing. Thus, there are no dams in the horizon of the Chilean Patagonia at the moment. 

Picture of the day: The Golden Horn

Credits: FlâneuseMag

 

When in Istanbul, one thing you will have to bear in mind is that you have two main divisions: the “old” and the “new” parts of the European side, and the Asian (or Anatolian) side of Istanbul, right across the Bosphorus.

When in the European side… go by the Galata Bridge (Eminönü) and buy a balik-ekmek (fish sandwich) from a fishing boat.

And enjoy!

Favourite spot #3: Cemeteries

I am sure I’m not the only person in the world who likes to walk around cemeteries.

There are two main reasons why I like them: first, old cemeteries are hidden jems, witnesses of history and often, an art gallery in itself. And second, the silence. Going for a walk in a cemetery helps me focus and put some order in my head, and even if I don’t go there every week, it’s a highly appreciated promenade.

Old cemeteries are filled with surprises. Not only because of the famous guests you can find there – at Highgate cemetery in London there is Marx, at Père Lachaise in Paris there is Jim Morrison – but also because of the pieces of art that are built in memory of the loved ones. Most of the time, when visiting a new place, first thing on the list I will check is whereabouts is the oldest cemetery and how to get there. Of course, not always there will be an old fashioned cemetery to visit because some cities rather have the aseptic and “modern” version – with the white head-stones lying and the endless green park.

Among my personal favourites, Vyšehrad cemetery (Prague) and Montmartre (Paris) are on top of the list (the other two I mentioned above are fine too). Vyšehrad was a pleasant surprise because a) it’s on top of the hill; b) it’s filled with sculptures and pieces of art; and c) many people from the world of arts and sciences are buried there (like the composer Anton Dvořák). I got there by chance, just walking around and getting lost, but I had the perfect afternoon learning a bit more about the Czech culture.

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Then, Montmartre cemetery is a special one for me. Probably because the first time I was there it was snowing and it was the first time I experienced the snowy cemetery visit. What I also like is the geography of the place – the alleys are in different levels, so you go up and down the whole time, and there is a bridge outside and above from where you get a nice view of the cemetery. Although there are not as many ‘stars’ as in Père Lachaise, Montmartre has a list of interesting characters to pay a visit: Berlioz (composer), Degas (painter), Sacha Guitry (actor & director), Emile Zola (writer) and François Truffaut, to count some. Since it’s kind of a small cemetery, you can go there in the morning and afterwards walk ten minutes towards the Basilique du Sacré Coeur, to watch the sunset in Paris.

You can check here some pictures of the Montmartre cemetery under the snow.

What do you think? Are there other cemeteries you would recommend to visit?