The Pacific Ocean could quench the thirst caused by 10 years of drought in Chile, but the operation of desalination plants of various sizes has a long way to go to become sustainable and to serve society as a whole rather than just corporations.
Chile could change the course of its history and become a diverse and multicolored country this year with a “plurinational and intercultural state” that recognizes and promotes the development of the native peoples that inhabited this territory before the Spanish conquest.
The failure of Chile's immigration policy, with its toll of deaths, xenophobic sentiments but also shows of solidarity, will be a pressing matter for the incoming administration of Gabriel Boric, who takes office on Mar. 11, and for the drafters of the new constitution, who will include the issue in the text that is to be ready in July.
The effects of the covid-19 pandemic and high energy prices have had an impact on the consumption of polluting fuels in Latin America and the Caribbean, exacerbating energy poverty in the region.
Camps made up of thousands of tents and shacks have mushroomed in Chile due to the failure of housing policies and official subsidies for the sector, aggravated by the rise in poverty, the covid-19 pandemic and the massive influx of immigrants.
More than 90 percent of Chile's 17.5 million people have access to electricity. But many live in energy poverty because they do not have access to hot water, have unsafe connections, houses without thermal insulation and with indoor pollution, or can't afford to pay the monthly bill.
Communities in Arica y Parinacota, the region in the extreme north of Chile, are using solar energy and are being empowered by projects for shrimp and trout farming, the production of yarn from camelid wool, the production of tomatoes and cheese, and even the sale of surplus solar power to the national electric grid.
Chile is in a privileged position in the world to produce green hydrogen and boost the development of the new fuel thanks to the country’s optimal conditions for generating solar and wind energy, but the large investment required and the scarcity of water are two of the biggest obstacles to overcome.
The Atacama Desert, a giant reservoir of solar power, is the battering ram of the transformation undertaken by Chile to decarbonise its energy mix, in a country with enormous potential in non-conventional renewable sources.
While struggling to increase the generation and consumption of renewable energy, Latin America is beginning to see the rise of new technologies, such as the capture and storage of carbon and hydrogen from fossil fuels or wind and solar energy.
"The harvested water has helped us at critical times and the fog nets have also brought us visibility. Today we produce beer here and many tourists come," says Daniel Rojas, president of the Peña Blanca Agricultural Community in Chile.
Children from the neighboring municipalities of Ovalle and Río Hurtado in northern Chile are harvesting rain and recycling greywater in their schools to irrigate fruit trees and vegetable gardens, in an initiative aimed at combating the shortage of water in this semi-arid region.
A school in the capital of Easter Island (Rapa Nui, in the local indigenous tongue) gives an example of clean management with the use of solar energy, rainwater recovery and an organic vegetable garden, as well as rooms and spaces built with waste materials.
The right to land and water, as well as to multicultural education, are the top priority demands of Mapuche leaders working with their communities in the Araucanía region and in Santiago, Chile’s capital.
Eighteen national science prize-winners in Chile have called for a halt to the over-extraction of water in the four regions over which the Atacama Desert spreads in the north of the country, a problem that threatens the future of 1.5 million people.
The retention of rainwater which otherwise is lost at sea could be an excellent medicine against the advance of the desert from northern to central Chile, but there is no political will to take the necessary actions, according to experts and representatives of affected communities.
Consumers can be allies in curbing desertification in Latin America, where different initiatives are being promoted to curtail it, such as sustainable land management, progress towards neutrality in land degradation or the incorporation of the bioeconomy.
Chile has become a model country for its advances in non-conventional energy, and is now debating whether citizens who individually or as a group generate electricity can profit from the sale of the surplus from their self-consumption - a factor that will be decisive when it comes to encouraging their contribution to the energy supply.
A wave of Haitian migrants has arrived in Chile in recent years, changing the face of low-income neighbourhoods. But this oasis has begun to dry up, thanks to measures adopted by decree by the new government against the first massive immigration of people of African descent in this South American country.
Visionaries imagined it more than 80 years ago, as a way to strengthen the integration between Argentina and Chile. Today it is considered a regional need to boost trade flows between the two oceans. Work on a binational tunnel, a giant engineering project in the Andes, is about to begin.
A 75 percent drop in electricity rates, thanks to a quadrupled clean generation capacity, is one of the legacies to be left in Chile by the administration of Michelle Bachelet, who steps down on Mar. 11.