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Glacier Republic - Environmental Politics At The *Bottom Of The Earth*

A political and environmental coup de théatre by Greenpeace has drawn attention to the need to protect the melting glaciers in Chile's southern reaches.

Greenpeace activists planting the Glacier Republic flag
Greenpeace activists planting the Glacier Republic flag
Loreto Oda Marín

SANTIAGO — They were white, literally and metaphorically. Thanks to an omission in the Constitution, a practically forgotten area in southern Chile — at the ‘bottom of the earth’ — has become a place of possibilities. That place became an unofficial micro-nation on March 5, after Greenpeace founded its Glacier Republic there in a bid to save the millennial glaciers.

This “new country” is an act of protest over the legal vacuum that fails to recognize glaciers as one of Chile’s resources and part of its sovereignty. The founders of this 23,000-square-kilometer republic have chosen a flag and opened embassies in more than 40 cities, including Santiago de Chile, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Amsterdam, Sao Paulo, Mexico City and Berlin.

The territory will be returned once Chile recognizes and protects the ice as the property of all Chileans.

News of the “coup” broke out when it was a fait accompli and had become a legal protest gone viral on Internet social networks. In fact, it was a slap in the face of authorities preparing to follow their leader President Sebastián Piñera out of office, and who could do very little about it. Applause — ChapeauGreenpeace!

The report struck me when I saw it early this month, for many reasons. One was the ingenuity of these defenders of nature in finding the legal vacuum, grabbing it and turning it into an initiative to reveal, elegantly, how Chile’s ruling class has neglected the glaciers, by omission or wittingly.

Many will say the new Republic’s territory is paltry, compared to Chile’s Antarctic territory, with a surface of 1,250,257.6 square kilometers. But that would be cynical and would miss the obvious, Greenpeace’s creative move, its symbolism and a successful communication campaign that denounces the destruction of glaciers by mining enterprises threatening the ecosystem.

It’s not for nothing they have more followers every day. The Glacier Republic has more than 68,000 citizens after just 20 days of publicity. In fact dozens of “Glacians” or “Glacierians” were markedly present in the “march of all marches” or mass demonstration recently held in Santiago. Among them was an illustrious and very spontaneous citizen of Chile, the “anti-poet” Nicanor Parra.

Passport in hand, the citizens of this republic now have one more element of social force to demand a Law to Protect Glaciers that would consecrate these as the common property of Chileans. Certainly, this is a door that has only begun to be opened, and we must wait and see how the administration of the incoming President Michelle Bachelet will react to the Glacier Republic.

Chile did have glaciers, we now realize, but they belonged to no one.

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Green Or Gone

Tracking The Asian Fishing "Armada" That Sucks Up Tons Of Seafood Off Argentina's Coast

A brightly-lit flotilla of fishing ships has reappeared in international waters off the southern coast of Argentina as it has annually in recent years for an "industrial harvest" of thousands of tons of fish and shellfish.

Photo of dozens of crab traps

An estimated 500 boats gather annually off the coast of Patagonia

Claudio Andrade

BUENOS AIRES — The 'floating city' of industrial fishing boats has returned, lighting up a long stretch of the South Pacific.

Recently visible off the coast of southern Argentina, aerial photographs showed the well-lit armada of some 500 vessels, parked 201 miles offshore from Comodoro Rivadavia in the province of Chubut. The fleet had arrived for its vast seasonal haul of sea 'products,' confirming its annual return to harvest squid, cod and shellfish on a scale that activists have called an environmental blitzkrieg.

In principle the ships are fishing just outside Argentina's exclusive Economic Zone, though it's widely known that this kind of apparent "industrial harvest" does not respect the territorial line, entering Argentine waters for one reason or another.

For some years now, activists and organizations like Greenpeace have repeatedly denounced industrial-style fishing as exhausting marine resources worldwide and badly affecting regional fauna, even if the fishing outfits technically manage to evade any crackdown by staying in or near international waters.

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