Tribute to Juan Aritzia
Each quarter, CURE features an individual who has quietly contributed to environmental progress even though not a traditional “environmentalist”. In the summer issue, we featured Howard Marguleas, founder of Sun World produce, who spent years demanding real restoration of the Salton Sea to avoid the damage to agriculture, the environment, and public health. This fall, we feature Juan Ariztia, a native of Chile, who decided to challenge a run of river hydraulic plant on the Achibueno River.
Juan, an civil engineer and MBA of the Catholic University of Chile, and an admitted conservative argued that a 40 km bypass pipe drying this pristine river to produce 100 MW was against any civilized standard and that it would be fiscally smarter to switch to solar to obtain the needed electric power. At the beginning of the fight in 2008, the pundits argued it was impossible to consider solar as a realistic alternative. Juan and colleagues formed Movimiento de Defensa del Achibueno, a non-profit and filed litigation against the project. In July 2017, the Supreme Court of Chile ruled against the hydraulic plant demanding redoing all environmental studies. In the interim, Chile has constructed several solar farms so that it appears the project is no longer economically desirable.
In challenging the bypass pipe, Juan saved one of the most pristine areas in Chile for future generations of people and numerous species to enjoy. Juan’s efforts demonstrate that taking a long-term view of resource management can be both environmentally sound and economically prudent — a theme that transcends much of CURE’s efforts.