Posts Tagged "Andes"

A Glacier Makes a Cameo on ‘Madam Secretary’

Posted by on Apr 5, 2016 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

A Glacier Makes a Cameo on ‘Madam Secretary’

Spread the News:ShareGlaciers made an unusual appearance on a primetime American television network last month: the television series Madam Secretary aired an episode whose plot involved a conflict between mining interests and an transnational public over the fate of a glacier in Chile. The show, on CBS, stars a fictional Secretary of State, Elizabeth McCord (played by Téa Leoni). In “Higher Learning,” Secretary McCord is pulled into a conflict sparked a hemisphere away when protesters bar an American mining company’s trucks from entering an indigenous heritage site in the Andes. Viewers learn through protesters’ shouts that the miners intend to extract gold that lies beneath the glacier at the site. The miners planned to dig through the glacier to access the gold, and the opponents of the operation say this will destroy the glacier. The mining company is American, and has a contract with the Chilean government. When an American employee is injured by a protester, the company calls on the State Department to ensure the safety of its workers. The Secretary attempts to intervene on behalf of the company by negotiating with the Chilean government to shut down the protests. The issue hits her agenda just as she is preparing to leave on a trip with her daughter Alison to visit the fictional Rafferty College, which Alison hopes to attend. Stopping by the office, where she is briefed by her team of four staffers, she points out that she understands the protesters’ perspective, saying, “It’s not surprising that people would object to moving an entire glacier to dig the gold out.” An advisor, Jay Whitman, played by Sebastian Arcelus, also points out that the whole affair has “a strong whiff of neo-colonialism.” However, the White House Chief of Staff pressures her to respond to the mining company’s interests because the company is based in the home state of a potential ally of the president. Furthermore, the mining company has a legal contract to extract the gold, so the Secretary is left in the position of having to try to protect their right to operate. The story takes another twist when the Secretary arrives at the college campus she is visiting with her daughter and is confronted by a group of vocal students who demand justice for the Chileans and for the environment. The students jumped on the issue when the media picked up the story of a solo protester who began a hike up the glacier saying he will reach the top to pay tribute to the glacier one last time, or die trying. Nothing fazes Bess, not even student protestors & a lawsuit. Watch #MadamSecretary now: https://t.co/BxeXmwy2lz pic.twitter.com/6UxTgLrT5B — Madam Secretary (@MadamSecretary) March 21, 2016 GlacierHub has covered controversy over mining in glaciated areas, for example when state-owned Codelco proposed expanding Chile’s largest copper mine in 2014. The expansion, which Codelco announced would continue, albeit with some redesigns, requires major operations near glaciated territory and the removal of six glaciers. The company initially claimed that there would be little environmental damage. Greenpeace responded to Codelco’s move by declaring Chile’s glaciers an independent “Glacier Republic.” This move was a sign of protest against the failure of the state to protect glaciers. Also, in Kyrgyzstan, the Kumtor gold mine’s operations has threatened glaciers and water. As these stories show, the episode of Madam Secretary is fairly realistic in its depiction of geopolitical issues. We see how transnational politics play a role in resource extraction. We also see how a Secretary of State uses political channels, leveraging US trade policy in a conversation with the Chilean ambassador, who she calls...

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Central Chile’s Valleys Irrigated by Glacial Waters

Posted by on Feb 4, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, News, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

Central Chile’s Valleys Irrigated by Glacial Waters

Spread the News:ShareGlaciers are an important factor for the success of agriculture in valleys in Chile. According to a recent study in the International Journal of Water Resources Management, the presence of glaciers at high elevation is one of the distinguishing factors that led to different degrees of agricultural development through irrigation among four valleys in Chile.  More glaciers were present in the higher peaks of the Andes, which are located to the east of the valleys they studied. Author Peter Frederiksen documented the expansion of irrigation and changing land-use patterns in the valleys through in-person and archival research between 2000 and 2014. The study looked at the Petorca, La Ligua, Putaendo, and Aconcagua valleys of Central Chile, which is a major fruit-growing region. The southernmost valley, the Aconcagua Valley, had the greatest water resources, measured in streamflow, while the northern valleys had less. The difference was correlated with altitude, which allows for the presence of glaciers, and a larger catchment area, Frederiksen writes. More water meant greater development of new fruit orchards, since irrigation was aided by the availability of surface water. While irrigation and fruit plantations expanded in all four valleys during the 14 years, there were differences in the amount of irrigation and the patterns of water use and allocation, with Aconcagua Valley having the most expansion of agriculture. In addition to studying changes in patterns of natural resource availability and agricultural development, Frederiksen shows that who controls water and land resources has changed with globalization. He found, through interviews with local residents and stakeholders, that large companies and wealthy individuals are the main developers of new irrigation. The pressure of new irrigation increases the demand on water resources, and Frederiksen documents how development plans for fruit export led by wealthy and powerful influences outmatched water management groups that had self-organized. Looking to the future, Frederiksen identified two trends that will impact irrigation development: climate change and the continued expansion of water resource development. Increased heat in the Andes will melt glaciers, which have already been retreating over the 20th Century. While snowpack is the main contributor to streamflow, glaciers become more important to water supply during dry years, such as La Nina years, when precipitation is usually low. Glacier meltwater thereby reduces the year-to-year fluctuations in water supply. The government plans to meet the growing needs of fruit irrigation with future dams, improvements in irrigation including canals and use of drip irrigation, and harvesting of groundwater. But if glaciers melt and precipitation decreases, these steps might not be enough. Frederiksen writes, “The two opposite tendencies – the policy and plans for continued irrigation development, and climate change – define uncertain futures.” Frederiksen’s study is motivated by the need for “wise, intelligent, and informed strategies” for bringing together water institutions and agents with the goal of protecting water resources, in the face of challenges including climate change, globalization, and development of water resources in more parts of the world. The study puts forward a model for understanding water resource development that is useful, Frederiksen writes, in overcoming confusion and barriers to implementation in water resource management.   Spread the...

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Roundup: South American Glacial Research Efforts

Posted by on Jan 4, 2016 in All Posts, Featured Posts, Roundup | 0 comments

Roundup: South American Glacial Research Efforts

Spread the News:ShareGlacial and Social Model of Chilean Irrigation “The model showed how external influences (globalization, climate, mountains) and complex adaptive systems (water conflicts, institutions and markets) influenced the evolution of irrigation development (the extension and emergence of novel properties) towards constructive (planned irrigation development) and destructive (climate change) futures… The model showed how external influences (globalization, climate, mountains) and complex adaptive systems (water conflicts, institutions and markets) influenced the evolution of irrigation development (the extension and emergence of novel properties) towards constructive (planned irrigation development) and destructive (climate change) futures.” Read more about the story here.   Managing Water Resources in Peru’s Glacial Catchments “Water resources in high mountains play a fundamental role for societies and ecosystems both locally and downstream…Our integrative review of water resource change and comparative discharge analysis of two gauging stations in the Santa and Vilcanota River catchments show that the future provision of water resources is a concern to regional societies and must be factored more carefully into water management policies.” Read more about the story here.   French Lead International Collaboration in Andes “The IRD [French Institut de Recherche pour le Développement] funded the international GREAT ICE (Glacier and Water Resources in the Tropical Andes: Indicators of Changes in the Environment) program in 2011 to strengthen glaciological studies in the tropical Andes; promote collaborative projects between Andean institutions in glaciology, climatology, and hydrology; and develop education and student training programs with local universities.” Read more about the story here. Spread the...

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Peru Faces Tensions Over Water

Posted by on Dec 23, 2015 in All Posts, Communities, Featured Posts, Policy and Economics | 0 comments

Peru Faces Tensions Over Water

Spread the News:SharePeru will face a “new normal” as greater agricultural and energy demands, population growth and climate change chip away at what is left of its glaciers, according to a recent article in the Yale Journal of International Affairs. Glacial retreat could ultimately lead to conflict in the country, the author found. “Peru offers an early view of the challenges mountainous regions worldwide may face in coming decades,” wrote Peter Oesterling, the author. “The country—if successful—may also provide the world a model for effective policies to mitigate threats to environmental and human security.” For people in Peru, glaciers are the essence of their existence. Most people live on the west coast, an arid region, and rely on glacier meltwater for day to day use, crops, hydroelectric power and mining. But since the early 1980’s, Peru’s glaciers have shrunk by more than 22 percent. Further loss could lead to increased risk of flooding and water scarcity as well. Already, seven out of nine watersheds in the Cordillera Blanca are already past “peak water,” meaning that the glaciers have passed the upper limit of melt water they can release. At the same time, water demand in Peru is on the rise as water security dwindles. The population is projected to grow by 35 million by 2020, which will put pressure on the country’s existing land and water resources. Millions of households rely on the  Cañon del Pato hydropower plant on the Rio Santa, but as water availability declines, the plant could lose 40 percent of its power generating capability. The country’s mining industry also consumes a great deal of water. Eleven percent of Peru’s land is being mined for minerals. In addition to using water for mineral extraction, mining releases contaminated water back into the watershed. “Peru’s trends in water use and supply are incompatible,” wrote Oesterling. “Glacially-fed rivers are already at emergency levels—insufficient for the country’s agricultural and hydroelectric demands during the dry season.” The result has been socio-environmental tensions in the country, which have roots in the country’s history. Peru’s government historically cut indigenous communities off their land and limited their access to water resources for the sake of economic development. Still now local populations are dis-empowered and unable to take part in any decision making processes on their land even though they are the first to suffer from water contaminated by mining. Oesterling discusses a protest in which angry villagers blocked a major highways for several days, even though they were physically attacked by police, in order to bring attention to the concerns over pollution from mines. To prevent future conflict, the country will need better regulatory processes that shifts the responsibility of environmental impact assessments away from private companies and into the hands of government bodies, said Oesterling. Existing regulatory government bodies could also benefit from being strengthened. “With a sound response that addresses clean water access, environmental protection, and public participation in resource allocation decision-making, Peru can mitigate the effects of glacial recession and acclimate to new environmental realities,” he concluded. “Yet—much like Peru’s water supply—the time for effective action against glacial recession is dwindling—and quickly.” Spread the...

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Photo Friday: The Snow Star Festival

Posted by on Aug 28, 2015 in All Posts, Art/Culture, Communities, Experiences, Featured Posts, Images | 0 comments

Photo Friday: The Snow Star Festival

Spread the News:ShareIn the Peruvian Andes, tens of thousands of pilgrims climb to the Sinakara valley to participate in an annual, multiple day celebration – Qoyllur Rit’i, or the Snow Star Festival. Held under a waning moon, the festivities are surrounded by the looming glaciers of Mount Qullqip’unqu. The Catholic festival celebrates not only Jesus, but also the mountain gods that indigenous  South Americans worshipped before the adoption of Christianity. Photographer Timothy Allen had the rare opportunity to document the annual festival, which was originally featured on BBC here. Feast of Pentecosts Feast of Pentecosts Feast of Pentecosts Feast of Pentecosts Feast of Pentecosts Thanks to Timothy Allen for giving us the permission to use his photos. He can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram.   GlacierHub posted a previous article about the Snow Star Festival that examines the effects of glacial melt on the festival’s traditions, as well as the origins of the festival. Check it out! Spread the...

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