Protecting Patagonia With Rios Libres

I followed my feet and was led to Patagonia, Chile in 2010. I arrived with a handpicked team in order to understand the mega-hydrolytic scheme that threatens the pristine land. Our team was made up of videographers, writers, a professional athlete, a biologist and me, a photographer and aspiring filmmaker. Our quest was to bring back media that would inspire global action to protect this rich and diverse land from the threats of the proposed rampant hydroelectric dams. What a journey we had! It was a classic tale of misadventure – one of those trips that you stumble through and we learned as we went. We formed a name, Rios Libres, and our group set out to acquire media from a source-to-sea trip of Chile’s most voluminous river- the Baker. Since that fateful journey full of hard knocks and visceral memories, we have released two films and a handful of short videos internationally. These films and other media have bolstered the fight and I am proud of where our feet have taken us.

In 2010, five dams that are now scheduled to be built across two pristine rivers, the Baker and Pascua, had not yet been approved. But, in 2011 the dams were approved for construction and the Chilean people immediately cried out to protest the outlandish project. Not only did the Chileans speak their minds and take their passion to the streets, 70 NGO’s around the globe also took a stand, echoing the concerns of many internationally. These prayers have not gone unheard and in the past four years, as the director of Rios Libres, I have seen the arc of the project come full circle. Chilean President, Michelle Bachelet, ran on a platform that opposed the dams. She stated she doesn’t believe the dams are viable and should not go forward. The time is now to harness the momentum and let Bachelet and the world know that we want to keep Patagonia Wild. Please watch this short video to learn more about the recent updates, and go to International Rivers to send a message directly to Bachelet, taking a stand to keep Patagonia protected forever.

Timmy O’Neill, Ed George and Craig Childs in the Aysen Region of Patagonia, Chile. Photo by James Q Martin.

Timmy O’neill, Ed George, and Craig Childs in the Aysen Region of Patagonia, Chile. Photo by James Q Martin.