The Good Route: Protecting Chile’s Wild (for Now) Rivers


Over at The Cleanest Line, Patagonia's do-good blog, you can track the progress of team Rios Libres, a pack of writers (including Greg Childs), photographers, guides and general adventure types who are have traveled to South America in an effort to bring attention to–and protest against–a major hydropower project being developed by a consortium called Hidroaysen that would erect two dams on the Baker River–Patagonia's longest and highest flowing river–and three dams on the Pascua, Chile's third highest flowing river.

The project aims at meeting Chile's growing energy demands with a “clean” source of power. Of course, building the dams and transmission lines would be far from benign on the region's ecosystems. A number of concerned parties are protesting the dams' construction, including activist (and The North Face co-founder) Doug Tompskins, past whose proposed Estancia Chacabuco, a massive stretch of conserved land that Tompkins wants to donate to the Chilean government, the Baker flows.

Anyway, the team is tracing the Baker from its headwaters in the rapidly-melting Neff Glacier, all the way to its terminus in the sea. Weekly posts are punctuated with Child's literary musings, team photog James Q Martin's images and even some videos (with are rather staged and stale–despite Timmy O'Neill's finger-pointing enthusiasm).This week, the team meets up with Jonathan Leidich (featured in Outside's 2005 feature on Patagonia) who talks about the speed at which the Neff seems to be disappearing.

But is it just me or do his observations seem a tad unscientific? Couldn't Patagonia find some climate scientists to join them on this journey? I don't get it. If you care to, tell me what you think…

Mary Catherine O'Connor is a freelance writer, covering the environment, sustainability and outdoor recreation. The Good Route, her blog for Outside Online, is focused on the places where the active life and sustainability merge.