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Biocitizen joins the Punta de Lobos Conservation Initiative

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Happy! Biocitizen School is teaming with Superfun Chile to run Now Voyager, an 11-day field environmental philosophy (FEP) expedición for college students who want to learn to teach FEP.

Departing from and returning to Santiago, Chile, we’ll journey from surf-paradise Pichilemu to the Andean peaks of the Tinguiririca range—

While I was in Pichilemu developing Now Voyager curricula, I had the pleasure of meeting Ismael Herreros who runs Oceanos, a surf school.

Ismael has surfed in Pichilemu for over 15 years with his best friend Emilio Garcia de la Huerta Sutil, who runs Superfun. This short movie expresses their connection to place, & the vibe there:

The small and growing city of Pichilemu fronts one of the most beautiful sand beaches the Pacific coast of Central Chile. At the southern end of the beach, or playa, are two stone towers that define Punta de Lobos (sea lion point). This spot is celebrated by surfers around world for the high-cresting tubular waves the mighty Pacific generates from winds, swells and deep currents born hundreds of miles to the southwest in the subantarctic. 80% of the waves come from there, giving Punta de Lobos a consistently surfable surf not found elsewhere. 20% of the waves—the really big ones—come from north, generated by El Niño.

You can see Punta de Lobos in this screenshot I grabbed from the Oceanos site:

For over a century, Chileans have enjoyed the playa for recreation; and surfing is a fairly recent arrival. Even more recent is the fame that Punta de Lobos has acquired because of its surf and its beauty, and because it is not overdeveloped yet.

In the past five years, things have really changed, though. The increase of visitors to Punta de Lobos is causing drastic and obvious negative impacts to the marine and coastal habitat. If something is not done now to conserve them, the very qualities that attract visitors will disappear.

Ismael describes the incredible vivacities of this unique place, and outlines the ecological, economic and political issues that define the conservation problem:

On January 17, 2016, Oceanos and Superfun met at Punta Lobos with conservation officials from CONAF, Chile’s version of the EPA and requested the area be declared a National Monument.

Emilio Garcia de la Huerta Sutil, Pablo Lobos CONAF, Valentina Carvallo Pirola, Marcia Ricci CONAF, Ismael Herreros, perro Buanco
As we viewed the habitat degradation, we discussed how the place could be cared for in the future.

There is no municipal plan of conservation and development that defines and coordinates appropriate activities at Punta de Lobos. To create a plan is essential, CONAF explained,  and scientific and economic studies need to be done; furthermore, the people of Pichilemu must be brought into the planning process, because the beach and the point are shared recreational resources. Put those studies together, submit them to us, said CONAF, and we will be able to oversee a conservation plan; when that is in place, rules governing activities can be worked out and enforced.

There are two conservation organizations rallying to protect Punta de Lobos and Superfun, Oceanos and Biocitizen will support, and contribute to, their efforts. These organizations are “Save the Wave” and “Punta de Lobos por Siempre.”

This short movie tells the incredible story of local hero & world class surfer, Ramón Navarro who is leading the conservation movement:

As a result of all of the above, Biocitizen was asked by Oceanos, Superfun and CONAF to invite professors and graduate and undergraduate students in the USA get these studies done:

  1. marine: a) the biophysical character of Punta de Lobos needs to be defined, through analysis of a data derived from collection buoy (which needs to be put in place) and through b) species inventories
  2. economic: an assessment of the present and future economic uses and values of Punta de Lobos
  3. civil engineering: a transportation study for Pichilemu that can provide the basis for the city to (re)design itself so that various modes of transportation are enabled, traffic is reduced, and appropriate visitor access to Punta de Lobos is provided.
  4. sustainability: a study that will help Pichilemu invest its time and energy to produce a cost-effective, sustainable infrastructure, in a way that enhances the area’s natural beauty and vivacities.

(NOTE: Biocitizen got its start in Chile when its director, Dr. Kurt Heidinger, collaborated with Drs. Ricardo Rozzi and (Biocitizen advisory board member) Francisca Massardo-Rozzi in the creation of 1) the Omora Ethnobotanical Park in the Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve, and 2) the international environmental studies program Tracing Darwin’s Path. Emilio Garcia de la Huerta Sutil assisted in both of these Field Environmental Philosophy initiatives. Superfun and Biocitizen regard their teaming together to promote the conservation of Punta de Lobos as continuing of a longterm collaboration and as an further expression of the Omora project.)

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