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The extreme zone of the Chilean Patagonia has enormous natural rich resources, among which we can emphasize its numerous glaciers and clean waters. In recent years mega-projects have threatened to destroy the sector and today a growing unsustainable tourism threatens to deteriorate one of the last places in the world without pollution. The tourism industry is one of the most effective ways to protect in Chile, the Patagonia from large/destructive projects. But antecedents already occurring in Chile show how an uncontrolled invasive tourism can destroy more than develop. It is imperative that the Patagonian settlers are those who lead and have the tools and possibilities to be empowered in the rural and controlled tourism. We plan to create a non-profit autonomous organization that grants and manages all the necessary tools to promote sustainable tourism based on the local culture and care of the unique environment, managing to generate empowerment and leadership of the inhabitants and, therefore, the protection of culture and ecosystem, unique in the planet.
Chile is characterized by its natural and cultural richness, having a unique flora, fauna and geomorphology, as well as being located in its Patagonian territory, one of the most extreme areas of the earth, the purest water in the world(1). In fact, in the area of Patagonia, which is south of the country, isolated from large cities, there are 15,500km2 of glaciers, which represent 60% of the glaciers in Latin America and translate into more than 3,175km3 of Fresh water of the world(2). This sanctuary have been affected not only by global warming in recent years, but also by unsustainable mega projects of mining and energy as well as uncontrolled tourism in some sectors (11).
Unfortunately, Chile is also characterized as one of the few countries where water is privatized(3), where the environment is constantly threatened by mining projects or mega-dams, because of a weak law that defends glaciers (3) and the lack of detailed Sustainable tourism plans for the conservation of the environment and indigenous culture.
A few years ago we were able to see how the local movement “Patagonia Sin Represas”(4) managed to protect the most important rivers of the zone of a biological genocide. Now we can see how, thanks to this success, we might be able to save the most pristine water on the planet; Information revealed by scientific research that was released by the University of North Texas in collaboration with Chilean institutions (1). This study showed that there are less than 2 parts per million chemicals in the waters of Patagonia; A figure that broke records. At the moment the alarms were ignited again by mining projects that want to be installed near glaciers, which threaten to contaminate very large sectors of a unique bioethics.
On the other hand the increase in tourism in Chile has been explosive in the last 10 years, where the number of tourists has doubled to 4.4 million(5,6) in 2015 and the last year an incredible growth of 21.8%. Chile in 2016 was ranked 4th globally as a destination of tourist interest and Patagonia as one of the mandatory sectors to visit (7). This has provoked a huge movement in investments, a 37% increase in the economic activity of Patagonia between 2011 and 2014 (8). The creation of new tourist spaces in the sector have been an expected result considering all the previous factors. 2016 achieved a 98% occupancy rate. This shows that the trend will continue to rise, only in 2016 more than 200 thousand people visited the region of Aysen (9) (part of Patagonia). Recall that almost all the tourist attractions of Patagonia are sectors linked to nature and are exactly those that have had increases of up to 60% of tourists (10). Several towns in the sector are in full economic expansion and although this may sound like very positive news, the reality is that they are vulnerable to being consumed by foreign or local investors without considering the settlers, generating projects that come to carry the culture and the biotics of the place.
The above mentioned point is not an alarmist assumption, in Chile we already have several antecedents like those happened in: Pucón, Chiloe, Torres del Paine, San Pedro de Atacama and Cochamó (12); Where an exponential growth of tourism not driven by locals but by people outside the community ended up causing great damage for not being based on a sustainable but extractive model. Among these damages is the uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources, the loss of local identity, a flow of economic gain that does not remain in the sector but is transferred to investments outside the community and incredible damage to the original citizens of the Earth. But above all, those projects even if they are touristic, they do not consider the carrying capacity (maximum number of people that can access a natural area before causing irreversible damage) that has a certain place. Among the peoples of Patagonia, places like Cochrane and Rio Puerto Tranquilo have the same characteristics of exponential growth than the places already mentioned decades ago. Two towns in which its greatest attractions are the glaciers and the waters. We can only hope that if we do not strengthen the local community ahead of time, we will come to the same unfortunate outcome.
We can attribute the phenomenon of destructive tourism to two main factors. The first is that this phenomenon happen in such a short period of time, that there is not an adaptation and anticipation of the settlers as well as a governmental action issued. The second, and most important, is the almost nil support to local community and commerce compared to the investment in the outskirts. As mentioned earlier, the local residents are at great disadvantage of opportunities to implement a rural tourism, which respects local culture and resources, to larger projects that do not have a sustainable basis. This does not mean that the projects of greater investment are bad or not necessary, but if these are not accompanied by a healthy citizen growth, they have to be avoided; The imbalance that forms, ends consuming the total available resources generating an irreversible natural destruction and damage to the local and world society, as it would be in this case.
The incredible audacity of the villagers to defend their nature, their history, their effort and lives, has led to find solutions that manage to stop the loss of one of the last places on the planet where the destruction of civilization has not arrived. Propel the sustainable rural tourism industry in the area is a great alternative to protect it from harmful projects. But it is necessary to support the inhabitants, both young and old, to achieve this goal allowing them to lead the “baton” of sustainable tourism. They need to be able to empower themselves and equip them with the capabilities and opportunities to create a sustainable future and to be the guardians of an invaluable treasure for humanity.
Patagonia, which owns the cleanest water in the world, 60% of the glaciers in Latin America and have unique biospheres, are in danger because of the threat of dam construction and mining. Promoting sustainable rural tourism is an great alternative to protect the resources and culture of the place, something possible thanks to the increase of tourism in the area. Unfortunately the history of Chile shows that the emergence of tourism without plans for containment and support for citizenship causes destruction by not taking into account local people, not based on a sustainable model and be mostly foreign investments that do not favor or care about the local culture and identity. In addition to not generating both social and economic development in an egalitarian and ethical way. It is necessary that the inhabitants educate themselves, have spaces of entrepreneurial empowerment, networks of professionals and constant support. Empowering their territory is key to sustainable tourism; Directed, managed and led by them. This can ensure the expulsion of the area of future mega-projects. As well as a smartly managed tourism, inspired and developed under the “Design Thinking Process” not to cause the same disasters that happened in Chiloé, Pucón, Torres del Paine, Cochamó and San Pedro de Atacama.
It is necessary to create a non-profit entity that has the capabilities to educate the population, unite efforts, provide tutorial help, generate nodes of national and international collaboration, have technological tools, educate both entrepreneurship and management and generate a Space of knowledge transfer and leadership so that the citizens will know much better their territory and they will be empowered to protect it. In this way the settlers themselves will be able to know how to invest in their territory and create a sustainable tourism that helps social development, cultural protection, sheltering the enormous wealth of water and biotic of the place. To be able to form local leaders who have the knowledge to be able to direct a correct tourist development that guarantees the protection of the Patagonia. Consequently the territory can not be invaded by megaprojects that attack nature, destroy the purity of waters, accelerate the melting of glaciers and affect the flora and fauna of the sector. It is important to point out the importance that this non-profit entity can adopt a financing method that assures its permanence in time.
To ensure that the most important sectors of Patagonia have an increase in the sustainable rural tourism industry, led by local agents to protect the culture, geomorphology, biotic, pristine water and glaciers of the place.
Generate a physical space managed by an autonomous and non-profit entity that provides, parallel to government institutions: new technologies, develop studies, coordinate entrepreneurship tools, national and international working nodes, talks and tutorials that aim to empower And empower local actors by providing them with greater opportunities
Generate a culture of sustainable local tourism that counteracts foreign invasive investment that could destructively exploit the territory.
Regulate the dichotomy of ecological and social development and destruction. Bone protect a healthy transition in periods of investment.
Generate a business model based on donations and state contests that allows it to ensure its independence and permanence over time.
Support existing organizations to play a key role in knowledge transfer and citizen representation.