Title

Dams Versus Conservation: The Politics of Scale in Southern Chile's Aysen Region

Presentation Type

Poster

Abstract

HydroAysén is a controversial megaproject that aims to build five hydroelectric power plants in southern Chile’s Aysén region. The proposed dams would generate up to 20% of the country’s electricity. Most of this would be destined for transport to mining operations in the north, a pillar of the national export economy. The project was approved in 2011 but placed on hold in 2012 due to protests from environmental NGOs. HydroAysén is supported by the country's conservative president and many interests from Chile’s business sector, but has received harsh criticism for its possible environmental effects. The project will flood national parks, reserves, wetlands, privately owned conservation areas, and may negatively affect local residents including small eco-tourism operators. Using the geographic tool of scale analysis, this paper takes a spatial look at the controversy. The research draws upon social theory, where scale is considered to be socially constructed, to interrogate the Chile case. Data about the case is drawn from news media and personal communications. Arguments for the project often cite Chile’s national economic interests, while arguments against it often cite regional interests of the Aysén residents, and simultaneously global conservation and tourism goals. This paper will look at how arguments made at local, national and global scales interact, are pitted against each other, and align in surprising ways. This investigation may help inform how scales are created and navigated strategically by different environmental actors, and how this may affect the physical landscape in the Aysén.

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Apr 12th, 11:00 AM Apr 12th, 12:00 PM

Dams Versus Conservation: The Politics of Scale in Southern Chile's Aysen Region

UC Ballroom

HydroAysén is a controversial megaproject that aims to build five hydroelectric power plants in southern Chile’s Aysén region. The proposed dams would generate up to 20% of the country’s electricity. Most of this would be destined for transport to mining operations in the north, a pillar of the national export economy. The project was approved in 2011 but placed on hold in 2012 due to protests from environmental NGOs. HydroAysén is supported by the country's conservative president and many interests from Chile’s business sector, but has received harsh criticism for its possible environmental effects. The project will flood national parks, reserves, wetlands, privately owned conservation areas, and may negatively affect local residents including small eco-tourism operators. Using the geographic tool of scale analysis, this paper takes a spatial look at the controversy. The research draws upon social theory, where scale is considered to be socially constructed, to interrogate the Chile case. Data about the case is drawn from news media and personal communications. Arguments for the project often cite Chile’s national economic interests, while arguments against it often cite regional interests of the Aysén residents, and simultaneously global conservation and tourism goals. This paper will look at how arguments made at local, national and global scales interact, are pitted against each other, and align in surprising ways. This investigation may help inform how scales are created and navigated strategically by different environmental actors, and how this may affect the physical landscape in the Aysén.