First posted on Futurechallenges.org
As Earth Day approaches, here in Chile we have suddenly woken up and started talking about saving our old Mother Earth. Newspapers, magazines, and TV are full of information spreading awareness about the degradation of the environment.
Most of these activities are kind of seasonal, a few days of sloganizing followed by a yearlong silence as everyone continues with their daily routine. However, in some countries civil society has recognized the importance of environment protection and is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to convince local government to adapt to the new policies and development models which can ensure sustainable economic growth in harmony with conservation of the environment.
A closer look at yesteryear’s public protests shows us that the average Chilean is concerned about the ecology and tries to protect it. In this regard, the survey conducted by a US based non-profit organization – The Nature Conservancy – on Chile shows that about 80% of Chileans demand government action in protecting green areas, water bodies and reducing air pollution.
Even many retail companies in the country are trying to cash in on public views of environmental protection by special Earth Day campaigns to lure customers with the promise of donating part of the revenue to reforestation programs.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Chilean society is on the right path, having first developed public opinion on environmental protection, the first and most essential step towards saving Mother Earth. Still, we have a long way to go, and the next step will be to convince the government to adopt and implement an environmentally friendly development model. We’ve seen a lot of action on the streets in Chile over the past year by environmentalist groups and the public at large. And any discussion on the level of environmental awareness among the general public in Chile would not be complete without a mention of the protests staged against the Hydro-Aysen dam project in south Chile. The struggle to save the virgin region of south Chile has met with many hurdles, such as the clearance of Hydro-Aysen project by the Chilean Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the spirit of the struggle remains strong and buoyant as protesters are again gearing up to fight in Patagonia.
Yet despite the srtength of all such popular views on environmental protection, it is inconceivable that without international pressure, local government will mend its ways and develop economic models which do not leave a trail of ecological degradation behind them.
As in many other parts of the world, popular pressure for environmental protection in Chile is an issue that is hardly addressed by the government. In such a scenario, the only way to convince the government to adopt policies which can pave the way to sustainable economic development and conserve the planet as the same time is to reach out to the global community and to turn the local protest into a global one. After all, saving Patagonia and protecting water bodies from contamination in the copper mining regions of Chile are not local issues which only Chileans need to fight for. Protecting the environment from degradation has become a global issue which affects billions of people right now. The day the world community will rise and fight for environment protection in every remote corner of the world will be the first true Earth Day.