There Where The Waves Shatter Poem by Pablo Neruda, Chilean Nobel Prize Winner
There where the waves shatter on the restless rocks the clear light bursts and enacts its rose, and the sea-circle shrinks to a cluster of buds, to one drop of blue salt, falling.O bright magnolia bursting in the foam,
magnetic transient whose death blooms
and vanishes--being, nothingness--forever:
broken salt, dazzling lurch of the sea.
You & I, Love, together we ratify the silence,
while the sea destroys its perpetual statues,
collapses its towers of wild speed and whiteness:
because in the weavings of those invisible fabrics,
galloping water, incessant sand,
we make the only permanent tenderness.
CHILE ES MAR - CHILE IS THE SEA
The planet's longest and narrowest country caresses the South Pacific Ocean for its entire length but averages only 100 miles wide, while its territorial sea extends 200 miles from the coast.
Although mining, mostly copper, is the greatest income producer, the culture is that of the artisanal fisherman. Their colorful yellow, red and blue dories are everywhere along the coast. They fish with nets and market their catch at local stalls. They are a powerful political force -- you can't buy factory ship caught fish or any fresh fish at the supermarkets, which includes Lider -- the name of Walmart in Chile. You have to go to areas near where the fish and shellfish are offloaded and prepared for sale.
The El Nino is persistent in Chile and is implicated in warming of the area where salmon are farmed, creating toxic algal blooms that have devastated the industry. When salmon aquaculture goes bust, large arrays of cages are abandoned and plastic pollution becomes a huge problem as the infrastructure breaks apart with lack of care.
Artisanal fishermen's derelict nets also cause problems. However, an initiative supported by the Chilean government is making a difference. Bureo, a company started by Ben Kneppers, David Stover and Kevin Ahearn to fight ocean plastic pollution, by collecting old fishing nets from Chilean fishermen and recyling them into skateboards. They provide collection stations along the coast with their logo, "Net Positiva". They have locals compacting and preparing their collections for shipment to Santiago where they are turned into plastic pellets that are molded into skateboards and other products, like sunglasses. The program has been so successful that the Chilean government has invited Bureo to take part in the second phase of their program to expand existing recycling operations.
As in nearly every country of the world today, whether an advanced industrial society of a developing one, plastic recyling of consumer goods in Chile is in its infancy. However, Chile is special in its response to the problem for it is the only country in the Americas to have promulgated a law calling for "Extended Product Responsibility".
ARICA - May 17. During my first series of talks in Arica, Chile's most northern city, I was privileged to speak at Escuela D-4 Republica de Israel with the local Minister of Environment, known as "Sermi Medio Ambiente", about this new law the day after it was signed by Presidente Michelle Bachelet in Santiago. You can read the Spanish version here The day before, I went scuba diving with the green turtle conservation group, "Tortu Arica". The group is very active in environmental education n the Arica area. This was my second visit to the City. The first was sponsored by the American Embassy's "American Corners" program last September in the run-up to Secretary of State Kerry's "Our Ocean" Conference, in Valparaiso. Embassy Program Organizer, Ximena Miaguau, was very helpful in scheduling a meeting during my current visit with the Port Authority in order to become familiar with Chilean Ports of Call and facilities for the 2016-2017 South Pacific Gyre Expedition.
ANTOFAGASTA VIA IQUIQUE - May 18-19. In order to explore the sparsely inhabited coast of northern Chile, we drove from Arica to Iquique along Highway 5 through the Atacama Desert. After spending the night in this summer resort town, we traveled the highway where there were many rough detours as heavy equipment worked to repair numerous parts of the road damaged by earthquakes and landslides. The reward for this harrowing driving experience was the beautiful coast with easy beach access in many areas. This offered an opportunity for a snorkeling break in the 62 degree water to enjoy the habitat below the surface.
On to Antofagasta , the main campus of Universidad Catolica del Norte, where an environmental fair was being held in celebration of a Chilean Naval Holiday on May 21. I gave a talk at the University Auditorium and attended the Fair, where I was interviewed by TV 24 Chilean News Channel. They were more interested in the salmon die-off in Chile resulting from El Nino influenced red tides and my interview was not aired. One of the Fair displays was an example of a simple hydroponics system which are popular in the country because they save water in severe drought conditions in this area near the Atacama --the world's driest desert.
The next day we stopped by La Portada, a beautiful rock formation, and then visited Parque Reciclado Escorayen. This resource recovery park is a great example of material reuse otherwise destined for landfill, or worse -- the natural environment. In just 7 months, this Park grew out of barren desert. They retrieve damaged solar panels which will be the Park's source of energy as they expand to six times their current size on the arid desert sand. Some of the materials the collect will be recycled by industrial operations, but few for recycling operations. I was greatly impressed by the sheer brilliance of these zero waste pioneers.
PICHILEMU - PUNTA LOBOS, May 25. I was fortunate to be able to go to nearby Pichilemu to make a presentation at Punto Lobos Reciclaje, a startup grass roots recycling effort at one of the world's most famous surf breaks - Punto Lobos. Javier Rojas is the dynamic leader of the group who organized a great event in the local Centro Cultural with talks, workshops and speakers, including a government official in charge of implementing the new Law of Extended Producer Responsibility. Also in attendance was Ben Kneppers of Bureo -- recycled plastic skateboards.
The room was filled to over capacity with the entire community represented from activists to skateboarders, surfers, students and politicians. The talk was followed with an energetic Q & A session.
I also took a tour of Punto Limpio that has a very well organized plastic recycling system and composting process.
CONCEPCION - May 17. Next stop Concepcion, for the SUMAR (Sustainability in Marine Sciences Conference (Ciencias del Mar) at the University where I presented a plenary on plastic pollution of the marine environment. Being last on the Agenda, I was able to listen to the first plenary talk by my colleague, Professor Richard Thompson of the University of Plymouth in England. He is a pioneer in plastic pollution research and is now taking his studies to the nano-sized plastic particles in polyester clothing in the environment.
COQUIMBO - May 28. Professor Martin Thiel and I flew to Coquimbo for conferences at the Universidad Catolica del Norte Campus Guaycan. This campus is famous for being the origin of the citizen science initiative, Cientificos de la Basura (Trash Scientists), sampling trash along the beaches of the entire Chilean coast. Thiel and his colleagues have developed excellent methods for students to monitor trash on their local beaches and they have published papers using citizen scientist data.
The first conference was a grand affair with members of the indigenous community on hand to bless the proceedings with drums and incense. An official MC handled the event with an outside student science fair. The audience was mainly middle school students. After the talk, I was interviewed again by TV 24 News which aired that evening following my second presentation to university students a the Oceanography Auditorium. Click here to see the interview in Spanish.
It was great to reacquaint with two Coquimo graduates from Algalita's First International Youth Summit, Class of 2011, in Long Beach, California -- Bastian Villalobos and Cristobal Silva. They are both now in university studying Engineering in order to help find solutions to the plastic plague. Here they are explaining what it's all about at a resource recovery center. As they say here, "Once a Trash Scientist, always a Trash Scientist." Viva Algalita! Vive Los Cientificos de la Basura!
The next day, I saw citizen scientists in action in the village of Tongoy, where I spoke with a class of Cientificos dela Basura at Henriquez High School.
VALPARAISO - June 1. On to Valparaiso to consult with Chilean Naval personnel regarding nautical charts and permits necessary for my upcoming expedition to the South Pacific Garbage Patch. John Koster, a retired Coast Guard Commander, put me in touch with Carlos Zuniga, in charge of their Oceanography Department where I was able to give my presentation to the Department staff. Learning about the extent of the plastic plague had a visible effect on them. They found the information plastic pollution depressing and inspirational -- my favorite contradictory emotions. I later gave my final presentation at the Universidad Catolica del Norte Valparaiso Campus.
SANTIAGO -- June 4. My last day in Chile, I met with two women scientists -- Valeria Hidalgo Ruz, Marine Biolgist specializing in sea birds, and Valeria Jimenez Thamm, whose specialty is Phytoplankton. Ms. Ruz may join us on the Expedition.
Chile is a wonderfully friendly and open country. Here are a few of my impressions that set it apart from other countries I have visited
1) Well-fed feral dogs are everywhere. It seems every block has its own dog, but none of them are skinny. They frequently enter classrooms and speaking venues, but I never did see a mean one.
2) You can’t rent a car with an automatic transmission. Every car in Chile it seems has a stick shift.
3) I’ve never seen so many young couples kissing and hugging in public. Chile is a love capital for sure!
4) Don’t go to Chile for the coffee. The main coffee consumed is instant Nescafe in small plastic packets. It is often impossible to get brewed coffee.
5) Strawberry juice is the most common in central Chile and as you go north, it is replaced by passion fruit juice. Maracuya’ as passion fruit is called there grows in abundance in Arica.
6) I have never seen seafood served in larger quantities at lower prices than in Chile. Food is generally mild from a spice point of view and not fancy. Lots of bread, but not a corn tortilla to be found.
7) Brightly colored murals are more common than bare walls in some cities, like Coquimbo and Valparaiso, but all the cities I visited had many beautiful murals.