From the archives (1995)
South America is a continent of enormous geographic and biological diversity. Spanning from north of the equator almost to Antarctica, the continent is home to both crocodiles and penguins. The peaks of the Andes rise up along the west coast and their eastern slopes drop down into the rich rainforests of the Amazon basin. From the hot plains of Venezuela to the frozen peaks of Patagonia, South America is home to enormously varied plants and animals and a wide array of natural resources.
Offices of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (E-LAW) in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina are working to advance legal protection for the environment. Advocates in these offices are helping write and enforce environmental laws and reaching out to colleagues through the continent. With generous support from the Tinker Foundation, E-LAW is pursuing a project to help South American advocates bring scientific information and expertise to bear on environmental policy debates in South America.
E-LAW U.S. Executive Director Bern Johnson traveled to South America last year. In Chile, Bern met with Fernando Dougnac, an experienced environmental lawyer who brought many of the leading environmental cases in Chile, including the case challenging plans to dam the Bio Bio river. He won that case in trial court only to be reversed on appeal. He is eager to begin working with the E-LAW network and sharing resources with colleagues through Latin America and around the world.
Fernando works in Santiago and Puerto Montt, a city of about 120,000 people located roughly 500 miles south of Santiago. Southern Chile is a beautiful land of pristine lakes, deep fjords and forested mountains. Bern flew over this country with Lighthawk pilot Brad Archer, who is working with the Carabineros Del Bosques – or forest police – to locate illegal logging in Chile’s forests.
From Chile Bern traveled to Buenos Aires, where he met with the advocates of E-LAW Argentina. They are working to challenge a full range of environmental abuses. Among their efforts are challenging plans to irradiate sludge, supporting legislation to require the use of recycled paper, monitoring efforts to clean up the Rio Riachuelo, and helping develop regulations to control incinerators.
Bern flew from Buenos Aires to Lima, where E-LAW Peru is working to reach out to colleagues throughout Peru. Bern met with Jose Luis Lopez and Doris Balbin of LABOR, a strong organization challenging the ill effects of copper mining in southern Peru. Doris is a lawyer who formerly represented employees of the Southern Peru Copper Corporation and now works to limit the environmental damage resulting from the mining.
Bern also met with lawyers from the Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA). E-LAW Peru originated in SPDA and the two groups still work closely.
This feature was abridged from the Winter 1995 issue of E-LAW