In 2010, photographer, James Q Martin and I joined forces to begin Rios Libres, a non-profit dedicated to keeping Chilean Patagonia wild. Reading about a proposal to place five major dams on the Baker and Pascua, two pristine rivers in the heart of Patagonia, inspired us to take action. We headed to Chile with an outstanding team, traveled from source to sea on the Baker, and immersed ourselves in the landscape so we could arm ourselves with the knowledge needed tojoin the fight to protect Patagonia’s wildlands and the people who depend on them.
After returning home, we made an award-winning documentary called Power in the Pristine that documented our source-to-sea adventure and highlighted the various threats to the region, but quickly realized that our work was not finished.
The Chilean government has volleyed this proposal around for years and most recently, in April 2012, the Supreme Court voted 3-2 in favor of HidroAysen and against appeals filed by opponents. This decision was a setback, but it was not a green light for dam construction. Now, appeals from local and international environmental groups continue, legal actions from affected communities mount, and movement on the analysis of the power line needed to transport energy from the dams has halted.
Q (as James Q Martin is called) arrived in Santiago on the heels of this landmark decision from the Supreme Court. Since 79 percent of Chileans oppose the project and support alternative energy options, Q found himself in the thick of some of the largest protests the country has ever seen. Amidst the chaos, Q documented protests, interviewed experts, and visited some of the most remote reaches of Chile to create our latest, solution-based film, Streams of Consequence which is showing at the Banff Film Festival in November 2013.
For more on the Rios Libres project, please visit http://www.rioslibres.com.