In Constitución, “local” expands to include thousands of acres of plantation forest, the silent disaster that transformed the relation- ship between Chilean society and the landscape. I am referring to the managed exploitation of land, the ongoing processes that replaced the temperate rainforest with monocultures of Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) and Eucalyptus (E. globulus) plantations. The plantations pull the Chilean landscape in multiple directions, as watersheds are pacified by dams, soils are polluted by chemicals, and livelihoods are interrupted by iterations of colonial conquest and industrial development. Layers of infrastructure standardize everyday life, shifting patterns towards supply chain capitalism.
Pine & Eucalyptus
9One feature of the plantation economy is the replacement of scattered settlement and small-hold farms with industrial workers, housed to serve corporations, a society structured by management and consumption of global commodities.
According to Anna Tsing, supply chains are found in a legal gray zone that offer an in- triguing frame to understand capitalism: “One feature of the mid-twentieth century dream of standardized production was the institutional and ideological separation of the ‘economy’ from forms of communal identity and difference—‘culture.’ The economy would be transcendent and forward looking; culture would refer to particularistic communal forms imag- ined as having less and less relevance in the modern world. Culture would look backward to ‘noneconomic’ forms; the economy could look forward to increasing uniformity and abstraction.” Anna Tsing, “Supply Chains and the Human Condition,” Rethinking Marxism 21.2 (2009): 155.
Another contemporary feature in Chile is the rise of tourism, a sign of economic prosperity that expresses the diversity of the country despite the enactment of singular, objectified landscapes. The impact of fragmented vacations and eco-adventures draws attention to the rivers, coasts, and valleys by carefully avoiding the stretches of destruc- tion that fuel everyday life, which is why we surround ourselves with knowledgeable individuals linked to the local soil. There was no way to understand the over-engineered park without paying attention to the plantation system upstream because it is composed of only two hybrid tree species, each with a single genetic signature. More than a monoculture, the vastness of the endeavor shifts the potential risk from the coast to the entire watershed. Constitución has neither the political nor the social capacity to withstand the slower, more devastating effects of the tsunami of investment in Monterey pine and Eucalyptus plantations. As Thomas Miller Klubock writes, “The spread of pine during the 1930s and 1940s redrew southern Chile’s natural and social landscapes. The nature of Monterey pine itself drove the reorganization of land, labor relations and state agrarian policy.”
10This transformation is experienced across the land, but much of the plantation forests is privately held and difficult to reach since there are no roads. The scope of the plantation landscape hides without public access. We were advised to kayak the river in order to begin to take in the scope and scale of the “spread of pine.” The nature of plantations are best seen from the vantage point of the Maule River itself.
Thomas Miller Klubock, La Frontera: Forests and Ecological Conflict in Chile’s Frontier Territory (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014), 298–9.
Forest ecosystems grow and develop in contiguous stands along climatic, latitudinal, and altitudinal gradi- ents. Ranges run in parallel north-south units creating bands of difference that accommodate very different collective moods. High elevations keep temperatures cool, while the central region is temperate, humid and provides plenty of freshwater, as rivers cut deep into the terrrain before lashing out along the coast.
“In Chile, conservationist regulations developed over the course of the twentieth century hand in hand with state-directed industrial forestry. Rather than implement managed or sustained-yield timbering in native forests, as in other parts of the world, the Chilean state promoted a bifurcated approach to forest and forestry. The commercial forestry industry focused on exploiting plantations of exotic species, often cultivated to replace logged and burned-over native forests both on privately held property and within state-run forest reserves, while remote strands of temperate forest were preserved in national parks in the mountains. In both cases, southern campesinos, evicted from forest reserves and national parks, as well as from estates that turned to planting pine, encountered growing restrictions on their access to forest resources.”
Thomas Miller Klubock, La Frontera: Forests and Ecological Conflict in Chile’s Frontier Territory (Durham: Duke University Press, 2014),298-9. This comprehensive book was a key reference shared among our research team and provided a historical foundation to first-hand experience on the Chilean plantations. For a longer history of development regimes in South America, see also Eduardo Galeano, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent (London: Monthly Review Press, 1973).
— Thomas Miller Klubock, La Frontera
This is the coastal shore of Constitución, where black sand beaches are formed by epic geological processes. As magma from the center of the earth erupts, cools, and shapes ecology, the force also sheds black volcanic rock across considerable disatnces. These rocks are picked up by rivers at higher elevations that carry the black grains of sand down to the shore.