Interview on Sustainability for the Juan Fernández Islands
with Aylie Baker November 18th, 2010
Aylie Baker, is a 2009 graduate from Middlebury College. Native of Yarmouth, Maine, she has travelled around the world to island nations, researching and documenting sustainability issues facingthe islands. She is one of ten fellowship recipients of the Middlebury College Fellowships in Environmental Journalism for 2010. Aylie is currently conducting her fellowship, focused on the “Effects of the recent Chilean tsunami on Robinson Crusoe’s Juan Fernandez islands”. The Fellowship Program Director is Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org.
Per Oikonos Ecosystem Knowledge’s Dr. Peter Hodum’ssuggestion—also a native of Maine—Aylie requested us to answer a few questions around sustainability and resilience on the Islands. Here is the transcription of our conversation.
1. How did you first become involved with the Juan Fernández Islands and how did you become interested in sustainability affairs?
Just by chance. Back in the summer of 1996 (I was 20), I came across a magazine articleon the Juan Fernández Islands, featuring photographs by Nicolás Piwonka—a well-known professional shooter in Chile—and I instantly became attracted to the landscapes of the islands. Particularly the flora at that point; that green large-scale density (over 60% of the plants on the archipelago are “endemic” or unique to this ecosystem). I immediately knew I would head there as my next trip, and soI did, just with the goal of doing my own photo set. A year later I bought a plane ticket and embarked on a solo trip to Robinson Crusoe for about a month. Once there, I confirmed the beauty of the land, the uniqueness of the place and its natural resources but, frankly, I got fascinated by the people there. The islanders.
I was an architecture student at Universidad de Chile at the time. Whileon the islands, I quickly saw an opportunity in combining my formal training in architecture and urban development with my interest in the natural environment, and the relationships between both. On 1998, I met Jaime Daroch, a professor in Urbanism at U. de Chile, who had written his own thesis on the islands exactly thirty years earlier (an incredible coincidence). He became my adviser and Ibegan the research phase of my thesis, looking for best practices and methodologies in terms of this relationship between built and natural environments. It was then when I first came across the definition of Sustainable Development. A fairly new and precarious concept at the time, however, it literally seemed tailor-made for a place like the Juan Fernández Islands.
2. I understand you wrote athesis as a student of Architecture at University of Chile. Which were your main recommendations for Robinson Crusoe Island to turn this Biosphere reserve into a sustainable community?
“Isla Robinson Crusoe, Presente y Futuro Urbano” is an integrated approach to understand the main island of the archipelago as a system. It first focused on inventorying (on-site) and diagnosing the state of allresources on the island: natural, economic, social, human, political, urban and physical. Only then I was able to revisit and compare the data available from 1968 and review the pro’s and con’s of the in-progress zoning code, to establish a set of 16 concrete measures to enable a sustainable future on Robinson Crusoe. Some of them may seem obvious today, but 10 years later hardly any of them have beenput into practice—with the result that some of the problems have gotten worse.
1- Establish a Marine Restricted Zone, free from Commercial Fisheries, to ensure a long-term presence of lobster and other highly exploited marine species within the ecosystem.
2- Encourage diversification of productive activities on the Islands, in order to balance the local economy and provide alternative...
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