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More and more voices - including Robert Kennedy, Jr. - call for the rejection of HidroAysén

Amanda Maxwell

Posted April 26, 2011 in Living Sustainably, Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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By May 16th, Chile’s environmental authorities will have decided whether or not to approve HidroAysén’s massive dam proposal in Patagonia.  As that date draws nearer, more and more people are raising their voices against the massive hydroelectric proposal and asking the government to reject it in favor of more sustainable options.  These people – including Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Chilean artists and intellectuals, local mayors, students and political groups – offer their support to the 61.1% of Chileans who are against large hydro development in the Patagonia.

On Thursday, April 21, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. sent a letter to Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, Minister of Environment Maria Ignacia Benítez and Minister of Energy and Mining Laurence Golborne, asking them to “protect Patagonia – one of Chile’s and the world’s unique treasures – from the construction of HidroAysén’s destructive hydroelectric dams and transmission line.”  His letter (available in the sidebar here) illustrates the high level of international interest that the controversy –now the largest environmental campaign in Chile’s history—has attracted.   Kennedy wrote that Chile’s “incredible array of energy alternatives to HidroAysén…solar, geothermal, wind and biomass resources combined with modest efficiency measures could more than meet the project’s estimated output.”

This argument was echoed by the 25 renowned Chilean artists, actors, musicians, and intellectuals who signed a similar letter, delivered to the Presidential Palace by actress Vanessa Miller, on Monday, April 25th.  Their concerns and arguments are clear:  Chile has better, safer and more modern energy options than HidroAysén, which would unnecessarily create huge impacts in the Patagonia.  The letter stressed the potential for renewables and efficiency to boost the country’s economy, create jobs and attract foreign investment.  The Chilean actress, Leonor Varela, commented:  "It is our shared wish, as Chilean citizens, to see our country prosper.  We will achieve this through economic growth, but that doesn’t mean anything if we don’t build by hand the conservation of our natural riches.  What legacy are we going to leave to future generations?”

Politicians, political groups and workers unions are urging the authorities to “vote their conscience” and not bow to political pressure.  The Student Federation of the Catholic University –one of Chile’s leading universities—published a Public Declaration against HidroAysénThe mayor of the town of Tortel, which would feel many of the impacts of the dams if they are built, called the project “damaging” and emphasized the negative social impacts that other dams have had on nearby towns.  All of this follows on a recent Ipsos poll which showed that more people than ever before –61.1%--are against large hydro development in Patagonia. 

A new spot asking for the rejection of HidroAysen

Today, Chileans will take to the streets in 17 cities, marching against HidroAysén.  Approximately 500 people have already marched through the center of Valparaíso, the city where Congress sits, this afternoon.  Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Leonor Varela, and many others have already supported them.  You can too:  please sign this petition which will be delivered to Chile’s government and decision makers, echoing the call to build a better energy future for Chile. 

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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