Patagonia is a new land. Just over 150 years ago the first pioneers mainly from Yugoslavia, the UK and Spain started to colonise the land. The Chilean government awarded land to those brave enough to survive the tough weather and isolation.
Sadly in order to clear the land, these pioneers started massive fires that destroyed over 4 million hectares of forest between about 1850 to 1940s.
The Chilean government wanted Patagonia colonised and incentivised the farmers to clear the impenetrable forest to make way for cattle and sheep.
Some of these man made fires lasted for over 30 years as the roots and peat caught fire, which helped to move the fire from one area to the next. This environmental catastrophe scarred the land to date. Today from space and from the ground, almost everywhere you look you can see millennia old trees burnt but still standing like tombstones. I presumed that these were fairly recent fires and was really suprised to learn that the fires were over a hundred years ago.
Sadly the devastation did not end there. With the work of the rain, wind and massive overgrazing, the land has been terribly eroded which caused massive amounts of silt and soil to enter into the rivers over the years. So much so that the river in the Port of Aisen, silted over and in the 1960s they had to move the port to Chacabuco; creating significant negative social and economical impact.
Today the effects of these fire based land clearances are exacerbated by climate change, the increasingly extreme weather, and a volcano eruption or two.
Obviously the early pioneers thought they were doing the right thing. Probably like many of us who have been (over)using plastics these last few years, and helping to create an environmental disaster on unprecedented scale. Just as we judge the early Patagonian pioneers, our children will look back at our generation and ask themselves. How could they have been so stupid!
One thought on “Pyromaniac pioneers and their bad ideas”
It is just incredible to think that even after 100 years the damage from those clearing the land is still felt. Truly a very sad situation in such a desolate place.