Colonizing Last Frontiers: Energy Landscapes in the Chilean Patagonia

 This seminar will investigate the material and ecological processes related to the development of the Proyecto Hidroaysén (PHA) in the Chilean Patagonia. The PHA, a series of five hydro-electric dams and their associated infrastructure, is to be constructed along the Baker and the Pascua Rivers to supply a quarter of Chile’s future energy needs. The purpose of this seminar is to explore the economic, environmental and social impacts of hydro-electric generation. Rather than assume the position of environmental groups (not to build), or the government’s (it is a necessary infrastructure), we will instead focus our investigations on the transformative potentials of the PHA’s ecological, material and geographical byproducts.

Our working hypotheses will be that the operations associated with the development of an energy corridor can be engaged productively. Flooding, de/re forestation, quarrying, landfilling and the construction of dams, roads, power lines, and temporary workers camps, raise questions of landscape, infrastructure, ecology, habitat, economy, recreation, and settlement. More specifically, the seminar will focus on typologies of interface, and it will be organized thematically and around issues specific to hydroelectric generation. Examples of the topics that will be explored in the seminar are: the interface between land and water, specifically the various types of water of the rivers of the region (still, meander, rapid, cascade, etc.) and the many types of deposition associated with them (meanders, terracing, islands, etc.); the interface between forest and cleared corridor, the interface between productive and recreational programs; the potential synergies between extractive (mining), fill (landfill) and other topographical operations and programs; and temporary workers settlements and village expansions. The foundational character of the PHA implies that any strategy implemented for the materialization of the project will also acquire a structuring force in the (inevitable) colonization of the area.