Santiago (Mon., 3/9/09) – Enviros, Investors, and Alumni…Oh My!

Reflection on our official first DEL day in Chile

Monday proved to be a study in contrasts.  The offices in which our meetings were held provided telling clues to the diverse natures of our hosts.  First we arrived at the dusty and cluttered meeting room ofThe TERRAM Foundation, which lent itself to our group dividing into two factions to chat with its representative.  Next on the schedule, we walked from our hotel to the clean and expensive corporate offices of Larrain Vial, where we were served water and diets sodas by a butler in uniform and presented with a very technical PowerPoint on the Chilean economy.  Our third adventure took us to the in-town residence of Duke-alum and former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos; here the receiving room functioned as a spectacular museum displaying of gifts bestowed upon the world leader.  Our final stop for the evening was a dinner party where almost the entire Chilean faction of Duke Alumni, with the exception of Lagos, showed up for the event.

By the time we reached the Alumni dinner, my head was swimming as I absorbed the day’s events.  How often do you get to sit down in the home of a very down-to-earth UN Special Envoy on Climate Changeand candidly discuss strategies to manage world carbon emissions?  Conversations at our dinner table provided me with much insight into Chilean culture.  We discussed the events of our day, our coming scheduled activities, and high points of possible Chilean sight-seeing and adventures.  Our companions were eager to provide advice and strategies for the week I have decided to spend checking out the country after the rest of the group departs.    As we closed our first day of scheduled activities in Santiago, I reflected on our diverse interactions.  Like much of the world, Chile is at a crossroads.  There are many opportunities here for making sustainable decisions, and actions put into effect now will determine whether its people are able to find crucial balance in resource management.  I cannot help but return to the design wisdom of Permaculture: care for the Earth, care for people, and share the surplus.