Peninsula Peace & Justice invites everyone to view
“The way the Andes divide Patagonia, Argentina gets most of the land and Chile most of the water. As shown in Patagonia Rising, a new documentary, the landscape on Chile’s side of the border is similar to coastal British Columbia or the Alaska panhandle: chilly, forested, mountainous and very wet.
As in many other Latin American countries, the water doesn’t belong to the people: The government utility that once controlled it has been privatized and is now owned mostly by European investors. Their goal is to dam the cascading rivers to generate electricity for the country’s north. Patagonia Rising makes a clear, if not particularly impassioned, case against this plan, which is well along the course to approval.
Five dams would rise on the Baker and Pascua Rivers, a $7 billion project in an area that currently lacks roads and utilities. The residents are mostly farmers who still travel by horse and ox cart; the only ones who have electricity get it from solar panels. There’s no Internet or cellphone service, although some people did recently get ham radios.
Director-editor-cameraman Brian Lilla’s film offers stunning views of the region and evocative glimpses of a near-vanished agrarian lifestyle. It also turns to environmental experts — mostly North American — to explain the effects of damming large rivers. These consequences turn out to be global.
On a regional level, the five dams would displace longtime inhabitants, degrade water quality and dramatically change the landscape. They could destabilize the area’s “warm glaciers,” which are just slightly below freezing and thus easily liquefied, and cause ruinous floods. The dams will also undermine a small but lucrative ecotourism trade.”