Latin America Green News: 1/19 - 1/26/2017

Fire in Chile
Credit: Gabriela via Flickr

Chile suffers worst fires in history, primates on the path to extinction, Uruguay to criminalize environmental destruction

To get the weekly Latin America Green News blog delivered directly to your email, subscribe here.

January 19 – 26, 2017

Climate Change

As Chile faces its hottest temperatures in close to two decades, it grapples with intense forest fires and choking smog in the capital. President Michelle Bachelet has called for international help in fighting “the worst fires in the country’s history.” According to the National Emergency Office, the country has solicited help from six regional partners, from Argentina to Canada. Since July 2016, more than 150,000 hectares have burned resulting in dozens of lost homes and at least 30 injured firefighters. In addition, more than 100 vineyards in the country were decimated in the fires during the past week. At the same time, Santiago has been covered by a blanket of smog and a heat wave with record temperatures of up to 100°F. (El Dinamo 1/20/2017, La Vanguardia 1/21/2017, Chicago Tribune 1/25/2017)

According to researchers at the University of Berkeley and Stanford, personal incomes in the year 2100 will see a 23% reduction from their base projection due to climate change. Extreme heat, which harms the world’s economy, is the primary culprit behind this reduction. Higher temperatures, for example, will reduce the productivity of agricultural activities and threaten food supplies. The percentages will not be even throughout the world, as the global south, including Latin America, will bear the brunt of the reductions. Most troubling, the poorest 60 percent of the world could see 70 percent of their personal income reduced, as climate change will hurt their economies the hardest. (Publico 1/22/2017)

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has called upon global leaders to fulfill the promises made at the COP21 Forum. He specifically listed the United States, France, China, and the European Union as signatories that should be held accountable to the promises made at the Paris meeting in 2015. Santos called 2016 the “hottest year in the history of the planet” and branded climate change as a threat to humanity. He stated that Colombia is the world’s richest country in terms of biodiversity by square kilometer and that biodiversity is highly sensitive to temperature increases. Santos reiterated his commitment to ending deforestation of the Colombian Amazon by 2020. (EFE Verde 1/23/2017)


In response to President Donald Trump’s indication of a possible revision of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Mexico has stated they will abandon the agreement if renegotiations fail to make further gains for the country. Mexico’s Secretary of Economy, Ildefonso Guajardo, and Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray will meet with Trump officials in Washington today for high-level discussion on trade, migration and security issues. Of the NAFTA, Guajardo said “This treaty has to come with a win-win strategy. It's impossible to sell it here at home if there are no clear benefits for Mexico.” At next week’s meeting with Trump, it is expected that President Enrique Peña Nieto will seek no tariffs or quotas from the new administration. (America Economia 1/24/2017)


Uruguay’s government announced that it will introduce a bill to Parliament making environmental damage a criminal offense. The decision comes after the Environment Minister issued a US$58,800 fine to the organizers of a party in a protected dune area of Balneario Buenos Aires, a pristine beach town. Public prosecutors and the Ministry of the Environment have agreed the bill would create an additional tool besides economic penalties to prevent environmental destruction. About the bill, Alejandro Nario, head of the National Environment Directorate said, “social condemnation is the best environmental control we can have.” (Lmneuquen 1/18/2017)

Pygmy Marmoset
Credit: Karra Rothery

60 percent of primate species are on a path to extinction, according to a new report from Conservation International. “Soon the world will face large quantities of extinctions, if effective action is not taken immediately,” said Anthony Rylands, an investigator who commented on behalf of his colleagues at the University of Illinois and the Autonomous National University of Mexico. Among the list of impacted species is the marmoset, a small monkey species native to South America. Urbanization, industrialization and the hunting of wild animals for meat are the main reasons behind the fast decline in these species. (El Ciudadano 1/20/2017)

The Colombian government has announced that it will begin environmental conservation projects in the western department of Chocó as part of the FARC peace agreement. Among the proposed projects are a solid waste treatment plant and a network of nature trails, the latter of which will reinforce the already strong tourist industry in the department. Locals hope the projects will reduce littering due to the current lack of resources. (Terra 1/21/2017)


A number of social groups gathered in Cobquecura, Chile, to call for a boycott of Chilean salmon to protest the threat it poses to human health and the environment. The groups demanded that the Fisheries Law be repealed since they allege the salmon trade has caused environmental destruction, displacement of both local economic activity and native species, the spread of infectious diseases, and abuse of antibiotics usage. According to the group, Chilean salmon has 400 times the amount of antibiotics as that allowed by Norwegian law. Additionally, the groups demanded the government respect the rights of local inhabitants in territories affected by fisheries and urged them to consider their interests first when approving development projects of extractive industries. (El Ciudadano 1/19/2017)

This week's blog features contributions from Michael Khayan.