Chilean Patagonia is a region of stunning natural beauty—mountains, rivers, glaciers, ocean, bays, forests, and more—and conserving it all is vital to the future of local communities there. And although science can explain why such protection is necessary, vivid visuals can also show what’s at stake. That was the motivation behind a photo exhibit in the halls of Chile’s National Congress from May 9 through June 8, organized by The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Chilean Patagonia team, Chile’s national forest service and protected areas agency (CONAF), and the Fundación Áreas Protegidas.
The exhibit—“Protected Areas: Chile’s Natural Heritage, Conservation, and Human Well-Being”— featured the work of seven photographers and highlighted how the protected areas are improving the lives of residents and visitors alike. The exhibit also carried an important message: that Chilean Patagonia is vulnerable to a range of threats and therefore requires effective management, along with robust and comprehensive legislation to add to existing safeguards.
Lawmakers and exhibit organizers attended the opening event May 9. Here are excerpts from their remarks.
“It’s always good to see what we in Congress have fought for with conviction for years, such as protected areas and the protection of biodiversity. In these photos, there is citizenship, community, and organizations that work to ensure that this part of our country is adequately protected. Today in Congress we’re discussing creation of the long-awaited Biodiversity and Protected Areas Service, and these images remind us of the need to advance effective protection so that we can advance as a State and as a society.
“I hope that all of us in Congress understand the need to make progress in caring for the environment, to make concrete decisions to help us face the climate crisis, and to bequeath to future generations all this beauty, which is part of our environmental and natural heritage and should endure.”
“We hope this photo exhibit helps us bring the protection of biodiversity closer to becoming a daily reality. Hundreds of people who work here are going to pass by and see this over many days. And the theme is extremely beautiful, covering various topics—from the oceans, Antarctica, and rivers to resilience. One photo shows a person in a wheelchair being able to access national parks. And another that really impressed me shows a young woman hugging an enormous tree. This is a new approach to talking about protecting biodiversity—not only focusing on how ecosystems are connected but also bringing the topic closer to the average citizen.”
“Today we’ve come to Congress with an exhibit that has brought together various national photographers to record the biodiversity of a remote, unique, and fragile area, showcasing Chilean Patagonia’s world-class natural heritage and inviting reflection and awareness about its relevance.
“The honorable members of the Chamber of Deputies will be able to enjoy this exhibit for 20 or so days—and in that time, we hope they’re inspired to find solutions to ensure the effective conservation of these fragile areas.”
“Walking through the halls of Congress and seeing what we’re often fighting for—caring for our natural world, our national heritage—encourages us to continue on our path. And I hope that those who are writing Chile’s new constitution also see these images, to help them realize why the environment must be included in the new constitution. The beautiful thing is that this exhibit shows our country not just to those of us who serve as legislators but also to everyone who passes through Congress each day.”
“Rivers are important not only for their impressive scenic beauty but also for everything those waters carry: nutrients, sediments, voices, cultures, and stories. From the mountains to the sea, rivers should flow free and healthy. They are the essence of life. Through these photos, I wanted to be able to reach people who have not yet had the privilege of knowing these bodies of water.”
And here are some of the photos from the exhibit.