Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Chile Revisited



I recently completed a trip to Southern Chile to begin filming Save the Waves next movie project, All Point South. The trip, for me, was bittersweet. I have always loved the country of Chile. Since my first trip in 1992, I have returned every year. My friends would think I was crazy. "Why go to some frigid place when you could go to the Mentawais or Tahiti?" they would ask. I would just smile, knowingly, because I don't mind surfing in a little rubber, and they didn't know what they were missing. The points of Southern Chile are some of the best in the world - and to top it off, there are no crowds.

Especially on that first trip, surfers were sparse on that coast. Things have changed a bit since then. There are sometimes crowds in the water, and sometimes tempers flare, but in general it is the same place I went to some fifteen years ago. In the deep south, still my favorite place to go, oxen pull carts and boats up the sand, and men ride horseback from one town to the next. Crowds only come on the weekend, if at all.



The landscape of Southern Chile is forested, and the people that inhabit the coasts make their living mostly from fishing, farming, or diving. At first the forests seemed beautiful to me, until later I realized that the trees were non-native, and planted in rows. In fact, I recognized the types of trees themselves - Monterey Pine, which grows where I live, and Blue Gum Eucalyptus. Two of the fastest-groing trees in the world. Still, my curiosity stopped there. I figured they were growing them as a crop in order for lumber or firewood, and didn't question it further.

Later on in life, as I became involved with Save the Waves, I started to learn of the environmental devastation caused by these false forests. They were feeding a pulp industry with a voracious appetite, and one that was growing out of control and polluting most of the major water sources around my favorite surf spots. It was then that it all made sense to me, and after some further digging, I discovered that at one time this part of Chile was a lush green forest of hazelnut and allerce trees, with abundant indigenous flora and fauna. Pinochet (Chile's former dictator), in one of his grand economic schemes, gave huge incentives to clear the land and plant tree farms, and (surprise) some of his good friends made out like bandits. The rest of the local population lost their native landscape. Walk around under the canopy of a tree farm, and you will see nothing. There is no life under the trees. Where once there was a huge diversity of plants and animals that fed on them, now there is only bare ground. The first time I visited a reserve in this area - a small plot of land spared from the former clear-cutting - I almost cried. I was astounded at the beauty of it. I left with pockets full of fresh hazelnuts and a lump in my throat.



Now with further resolve, Save the Waves Coalition is going after the industry that destroyed it all. CELCO, a company with potentially one of the worst environmental track records on the planet, has just built a new mill upriver from my favorite surf spot in the world. The pollution will indeed be overwhelming.

Our trip to film All Points South consisted of a great group of surfers and environmentalists. We visited the town of Consitucion, where five great waves lie in the path of pulp mill effluent. Three of us braved the waters to surf a wave right in front of the effluent pipe (if you had seen it, you would have considered it, too). The water was putrid. We also surfed waves further to the south, where the new mill at Nueva Aldea is building their pipeline to the sea.

I have no doubt in my mind that we have a great film in the making. Not only were the waves great, but the scenery and interviews we captured were priceless. We will continue working on this film until we have a top-notch film that will make wave across the world. Until then, help us out by buying a t-shirt, or donating a little cash, as we need all we can just to get there.
- Will Henry

1 comment:

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