Welcome back friends! I am pretty worn out after celebrating Independence Day in Santiago. I mean, before that I toured the driest desert in the world, learned about Chile's amazing food, and visited the ancient island of Rapa Nui! Whew! It's been a busy and exciting month!
Southern Chile-Photo By raimundoespana [CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)] via Pixabay
The Coastline of Chile
Today I'm writing to you about my trip into the southern regions of Chile. If you remember from my first blog about Chile, it is a long country. Very long. Being the longest country from north to south, Chile has over 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) of coastline! On my way out, I visited the Estación Costera de Investigaciones Marinas (ECIM), a research station who helps the ocean in Chile. I got to speak with the amazing staff there, who told me all about Chile's coastline.
There are so many different species of animals and plants living off the coast of Chile, that scientists believe they may only have discovered 2% of them. That's like walking into a toy store and only knowing what's just inside the door, while the rest of the store is waiting for you to find out what's in it. Woah!
All of that coastline holds a very complicated ecosystem. An ecosystem is a community of interacting organisms and their environment. Everything in the ocean has to maintain a certain balance for things to work. The coral and seaweed, the krill and shellfish, the fish, the sharks and whales, they all have to have just the right conditions in order to live and thrive. Conditions like, enough food, not too many predators (but not too few either), clean water, and ocean temperatures that the animals have spent thousands and thousands of years evolving to live in. If it gets too hot, or too cold, certain populations of fish will either move, or die out.
But those conditions are in danger. When humans overuse fossil fuels like gasoline, or burn too much coal for energy, they raise the temperature of the planet, and change the amount of water in the oceans, as well as the temperature of it. Another threat is too much fishing. The people of Chile have relied on the ocean for food for a very long time, and they have created some amazing dishes with seafood, but too much fishing can lead to an imbalance in the ocean, with predators not having enough food, and prey being able to overpopulate an area.
The good news is that we can find a balance, if we work together and try! When governments limit fishing zones and permits, that helps prevent using up natural fish populations. Switching to alternative energies like solar and wind power can help slow global warming too!
In the meantime, here are some things you can do at home to help our planet:
Remember to not waste food so that there isn't as much demand for more, and remember to do the same with water and power
Turn the lights off when you're going to leave a room for a while
Read a book instead of watching more TV
Turn off the water when you brush your teeth
Watch this video to see some of the amazing things Chile is doing to try and create a better balance with their oceans:
Chile's Beautiful Rainforest
Chile also has ten special areas that are part of the Unesco World Network of Biosphere Reserves. These special areas contribute to the care of natural resources and ecosystems. After learning this and more about the coastlines, I decided to take a trip farther south to Valdivia, Chile, to learn more about the rainforest in that region. Chile has 248,100 square kilometers (95,800 square miles) of rainforest and is even bigger than the rainforest in my home of Sumatra. I went to the southern tip of Valdivia to a village called Caleta. There, I was introduced to the Reserva Costera Valdiviana, a chunk of land that has been turned into a nature reserve to try and protect some of the special flora and fauna found there.
Valdivian Temperate Rainforest-Photo By Albh (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
The Valdivian temperate rain forest is the only temperate rain forest in the South America, one of only five in the whole world! Because of the ocean to the west, the Andes mountains in the east, the desert in the north, and the Antarctic in the south, the rainforest has developed on its own for millions of years. This means that some of the plants and animals are endemic, or unique to only that rainforest. Animals like the world's smallest deer, the pudú, or the Juan Fernández firecrown, a very unique hummingbird.
Photo of Pudu By poudou99 (own work, photo personnelle de Poudou99) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Juan Fernández Firecrown By Héctor Gutiérrez Guzmán [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Deforestation in Chile
But Chile, like Sumatra, has a real problem with deforestation. That's when forests are cleared away to make room for farms or plantations, or for mining. This destroys natural habitats, or homes, for many animals and upsets the delicate balance of nature in that area.
In total, only about 19% of the land is Chile is protected. According to reports from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) - whew, what a mouthful! - that still leaves a lot of animals in danger, including 22 types of mammals, 32 species of birds, 20 species of amphibians, at least 9 species of fish, and 40 types of plants. Animals like the South Andean huemul, the tundra peregrine falcon, the Chilean woodstar, the ruddy-headed goose, and the green sea turtle are all still in very real danger of disappearing from Earth forever.
And that's not the only problem with deforestation. It also damages the land itself, because without trees and diverse plant life to hold the ground together, soil erosion becomes a big problem, leading to landslides and other disasters. Air and water pollution from industry are also an issue, because the population of Chile has doubled in the last 30 years. That means there are now twice as many people using up natural resources. But it also means there are twice as many people who can help work on solutions!
Chile has tried very hard to protect the nature there, giving responsibility for environmental matters to parts of the government like the Ministry of Health and the National Planning Office, and even the Ministry of National Welfare and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are involved. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is also doing great things to let people know what is going in Southern Chile and in other parts of the world, how they are helping and how others can help as well. Click here to visit their website and learn more.
There are many ways you can help reduce deforestation from your home too!
Reducing the amount of paper you use means paper manufacturers don't have to make as much
Using less toilet paper, napkins, and paper towels-then not as many need to be made and extra forests don't have to be destroyed
Draw on both sides of the paper, don't waste pencils, and remember to recycle scraps of paper
These are important steps because we only get one planet, and if we don't learn to respect the land we're living on, it will end as badly as it did on Rapa Nui. Like I have said before friends, no matter how big or small, we can ALL make a difference-one step at a time!
The Power of Respect
Respecting the land we live on is very important, just as important as respecting each other. Check out my latest short video about five ways to show respect:
Will you be part of the solution? I believe you can be! Together, we can help steer humanity toward a better way of doing things, so that humans, and nature, can thrive together! We only have this one planet-let's work together to respect it and make it the best it can be!
Special Note for My Friends:
I'm going to take a few months off from my normal travels so I can make some progress on some special projects (like my first book!) that I've been working on. I'll still get out for a couple of short excursions (trips) so that I can get away and share special holidays or festivals with you, so keep watching my social media and my travel blogs for those adventures and new coloring pages! This would be a great time for you ask a parent, guardian or teacher to help you send me your questions so I can write back to you with a postcard on my website! Or they can send me your coloring pages or drawings to share on my website. Also, please don't forget to ask your parents, teachers, or caregivers to sign up for my newsletter so you can stay up to date with what's happening.
I had such an amazing time here in Chile and have met some friendly people, seen some beautiful sites and learned much about a rich and fascinating culture! I have also realized even more how important it is to respect each other and our world from my visit here in Chile. Here are two amazing drawings/messages from my friends Raksha (6 years old) and Arya (7 years old) from California, U.S.A., who have shared what respect means to them:
Raksha (left picture) shares a picture of her class with all her friends and ME (awww, thanks Raksha!) Here is what she shares on how to show respect to others:
"We should all respect and help each other!"
When asked how she respects herself, Raksha said:
"Keeping myself clean and eating good food!"
Arya (below right picture) shares three ways to show respect:
"Respect is when somebody looks different you shouldn't be rude."
"If somebody has different skin tone it doesn't matter."
"When you clean your room that is respect."
Thanks so much for sharing with us Raksha and Arya! And thank you for sharing this adventure with me!
Take care of yourselves, and your nature, friends!
--Joy Sun Bear