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    Don't Dam Patagonia - Now Is the Time to Dig In

    As the new Patagonia catalog hits your mailbox, we asked Craig Childs the author of "Rios Libres," the environmental essay in that catalog, to give us a little background on the essay. - Ed

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    [Taking the power of the Rio Baker's still-wild waters. All photos: ©James Q Martin]

    We did good work down there - interviews and camera lenses. We sat in a bishop's house in Coihaique, his cigarette tucked into his palm as he blew smoke to the ceiling and told us Chile's water is not for sale. A young man sitting by a warm cocina in a one-room shack explained to me that he is a habitante, one who inhabits this place. Because of that, he said he was necessarily an activist.

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    [Clean water cannot be replaced, and is one of the invaluable assets provided by unspoiled wilderness. (The water line here hits right about the middle of the hand in the picture). ©James Q Martin]

    In the end, after filming our own trek down Chile's largest river, the Rio Baker, we came out with a film called Power in the Pristine. We had hoped it would make a statement. Looking back at our home landscape in the Southwest (the film crew was from Arizona), we compared in the film what happened with the building of great dams along the Colorado to what is happening now in Patagonia. We are trying to say that this is a different era, no longer the 50s and 60s. Chile can follow an old and well-worn path toward unimpeded growth and dissolution, or it can break the barrier and try something new by not consuming the very land it lives on. I was down there as a promoter of Chile's future, imagining what could become of this introspective and well-developed nation if it changed the course of history starting with not building these dams. We were surprised, but not really, to hear the government gave the OK in May. But it's not close to decided. This, in fact, is the moment to dig in. Contact the Chilean embassy and suggest a stronger, more viable future, one without dams. Your voice will be heard.

    Craig Childs

    Author Craig Childs' essay "Rios Libres" can be found in the early fall Patagonia catalog, available in your mailbox or by request at 800- 638-6464 or on-line.

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    [Team Rios Libres. ©James Q Martin]

    Find out more about this issue, as well as our our current environmental campaign: Our Common Waters.

    For updates on the dams project in Chile:

    - Natural Resources Defense Council's Save BioGems Campaign

    - The 180º South-inspired ¡Sin Represas! effort

    - Conservacion Patagonica

    - International Rivers

    - The Rios Libres effort

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