A picture is worth a thousand words: new National Geographic photographs feature our Patagonia BioGem

National Geographic’s website just published an incredible spread of photographs of Chile’s Patagonia that truly capture the unique beauty of this rugged and pristine place – and highlight the serious threats posed by plans for a massive hydroelectric project there.

HidroAysén is a joint venture company proposing to build five dams on two of the region’s wildest rivers, the Baker and the Pascua.  The dams would flood over 15,000 acres of untouched wilderness, and would require a new 1500 mile-long transmission line to carry the electric output to industrial demand in the north.  Chilean and international NGOs have united in opposition to this mega-dam scheme, creating the largest environmental campaign in Chile’s history. 

And without a word, these twelve photos perfectly describe the remarkable wildlife and wildlands that Chile stands to lose if these dams are built.  They show an Andean Condor in flight, an endangered Huemul deer grazing, the raw power of the Baker River, and absolute pristine quality of the Pascua River.  Tortel, the small fishing village on the Baker’s delta, sparkles in the night, and a gaucho on horseback herds sheep during the day.  Together, they complement the February 2010 printed issue of National Geographic, which also features Chile’s Patagonia and its environmental threats.

The photographers who contributed to this National Geographic piece were part of a Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition, or RAVE, a visual media initiative designed to bring new tools to conservation efforts.*  A RAVE consists of a team of select photographers from the International League of Conservation Photographers, writers and cameramen who quickly assemble themselves, travel to a threatened location and create a “comprehensive portrait” of that place to use for its conservation.  The Patagonia RAVE traveled to Chile in early 2010, and the results of their work are already on display in Europe, with upcoming exhibitions planned for in Santiago, New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., among other cities. 

I encourage you to scroll through the breathtaking photographs on the National Geographic website, share it with others, join the efforts to protect Patagonia from HidroAysén’s short-sighted dam proposal – and keep your eyes out for a RAVE exhibition in your area.


*The Patagonia RAVE is an initiative of The Patagonia Foundation.