Confluence of Baker and Neff Rivers, Patagonia, Chile
Confluence of the Baker and Neff Rivers in Patagonia, scheduled to be flooded as a reservoir if dam construction goes forward (photo: James Q. Martin.

With debates raging across the United States about whether or not to remove dams that were built at a staggering rate on countless American rivers over the last 50-60 years, dams that are now widely recognized as responsible for severe habitat and ecosystem destruction and are largely considered more economically costly than beneficial, it is hard to imagine that the residents of perhaps the most pristine and intact natural ecosystem on the planet are facing a heated debate about whether to construct dams on the rivers which are the lifeblood of their region. In Patagonia however, on the shores of the Baker and Pascua Rivers, that is exactly what is happening.

There is little debate amongst the people of Patagonia on whether the dams should be built. In fact, almost 75% of Patagonians are opposed to the construction of these dams. Unfortunately, as a result of the fact that a former Chilean dictator sold off Patagonia's water rights to multinational corporations before being deposed, the citizens of Patagonia have no formal say in whether hydroelectric construction will take place.

Patagonia (the company) has partnered with Rios Libres -- an organization dedicated to keeping Patagonia wild and its rivers free of hydroelectric dams -- to produce a five-part series of short episodes introducing the issue, the people, viable energy alternatives and other important aspects of the issue surrounding the damming of Patagonia's rivers. Be sure to check out Episode 1 above. The series is based on Rios Libres' recent film Streams of Consequence.