Monday, August 24, 2020

Geosciences for the Territory and its Ecosystems in a New Political Constitution for the Republic of Chile

by José Martín Cabello Lechuga*

Economic Geologist, Past President, Sociedad Geológica de Chile (Geological Society of Chile)

José Martín Cabello Lechuga

The role of Geosciences in policy definitions on climate change, sustainable development, mineral resources, water resources, coastal edge, maritime resources and geological risks in the territory of Chile is fundamental considering the country's aspiration to move towards lasting well-being for all its inhabitants. Greater scientific input is then needed to support administration tools such as territorial planning and strategic environmental assessment, among others. 
Accordingly, for a New Constitution, it is recommended to include at least one preamble recognizing the country as a rich and diverse territory in terms of its biotic and mineral nature, the greatest value of which lies in the human beings who inhabit it with a commitment to protect and sustainably develop its environmental ecosystems, reflecting it in an appropriate territorial order, legal, political and administrative.
In addition, it is proposed to deploy the articles required in the detailed text of the New Constitution and the regulations of the institutions that allow us to comply with what is demanded for a new model of development that allows us to move towards an egalitarian, just and supportive society.

Keywords: Geosciences, Ecosystems, Constitution, Chile


The Earth is the only planet in the solar system that has succeeded to generate life thanks to its size and ideal position allowing the evolution of increasingly complex species, of which the human being is the most recent result. However, the incredible expansion of the human population, with all its activities over the last century, threatens to endanger the fragile and complex ecological balances that reign over the planet. 
Chile is a country characterized by its geological and biological richness that provides a very diverse privileged nature. A better understanding of how this territory evolves is the key to learning how to better respect its valuable environment and thus ensure the well-being of future generations. 
It has become vital to understand how ecosystems work throughout the country, so that we can accurately assess their available limits and resources, be able to manage and develop them in a way that respects the complex and delicate balance on which a future sustainable development depends. 
Significantly in native peoples there is a sense of integration with nature that is perceived today as part of the groups that defend the national territory and its environment (ONU,2007; Meza-Lopehandía, 2016). 
Fortunately, much of the public has understood that a new constitution is required, so the community has a good opportunity to contribute and incorporate into it a good scientific and technological knowledge specifically the Geosciences in pursuit of a better country.

National Context

It can be safely said that Chilean citizens have been frequently calling for structural changes in the political and social organization of the country for at least a decade. Thus frequently happened important critical expressions regarding the educational system, the planned system, vulnerability of our children, situation of the original peoples, growing inequality, areas of high contamination and the unequal situation of women. This culminates in October 2019 when a major historic social movement, forced the obtaining of a political agreement that will allow a Plebiscite that should approve the realization of a New Constitution (NC) with citizen participation by first time in the country history.
It is worth noting that other global parameters that are also growing in Chile are added to the national context: overpopulation in mega-cities, mass immigration, drug addiction.
As is easy to assume, the citizen requests of the above-pointed demonstrations highlighting the fundamental right to live in a pollution-free environment (Galdámez, 2018), will be relevant in the discussions to build the NC. 
But it adds additionally and virtuously the opportunity to make it a modern document that also includes the extensive scientific and technological knowledge available to citizens.  
Above all, because we are in a world context of global warming, scarcity of water resources and increased natural risks. In addition, is a country where the extraction of mineral resources is the main industrial activity.

Geosciences for the National Territory

The Republic of Chile territory is located in the convergent contact of the Nazca, Antarctica and South America tectonic plates. This determines much of the geological, geomorphological, and geophysical peculiarities of the country such as seismicity, volcanism, climate, and the abundance and variety of its marine resources, water resources, mineral and energy resources, soils, landscapes and mainly its varied living forms (Ministerio de Minería, 2003). These characteristics influence the country's economy, the environment, the quality of life and the cultural imprint of Chileans. 
Environmental pressures come from impacts from different productive sectors (Institute for Public Affairs, 2018). The deregulated economic development of recent decades showed increased pressure on the physical environment, causing deterioration of natural heritage, high dependence on external markets, increased economic and social inequalities, among other impacts. The inadequacy of the role of state as an auditor has been influencing not to stop this process.
Chile has an important endowment of natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable, and in the case of the latter highlights the international positioning of its reserves and its production of metallic and non-metallic minerals (Altomonte and Sánchez, 2016). Mining, while improving its processes, given the environmental standards demanded internationally by the increase in ore exploitation resulting from mining expansion and grades decrease, is putting a sustained push on the environmental costs of its extraction and transport. In addition, there are serious environmental passive problems resulting from abandoned dumps, tailings and closed mines that have not had a remediation of sites. 
Also, serious problems from the sometimes illegal extraction of water volumes affecting the level of aquifers have been found in recent years. In areas of the Altiplano, bofedales that provide food for camel species have been affected. 
With regard to the population and the social factor, the high population concentration in the Metropolitan, Biobío and Valparaiso regions create high environmental pressure in the ecosystems they occupy and on surrounding land. Alongside the population factor, poverty appears as one of the main challenges to have greater environmental sustainability. 
Climate change has become a physical pressure facing the country. Highly attributable to this phenomenon are the anomalies of extreme temperatures and precipitation, the mega drought, the increases in sea temperature, the frequency and intensity of the tides and the narrowing of the beaches, as well as the acidification of the sea and the accelerated diminution of the glaciers. 
Almost all the forecasts and models that project the effects of climate change in the future suffer from the failure to consider the amount of natural resources as constant, as well as the absence of ecosystem deterioration. 
Unfortunately, a more comprehensive and effective tactic has been lacking, therefore no using growth policy on the basis of the higher purposes of a state strategy: improving the quality of life of Chileans, based on environmentally sustainable development. 
This complex context requires improving our understanding of the science-political interface to encourage correct and well-informed decision-making based on correct interdisciplinary information. It is even being proposed that the Earth may be the subject of law as a human right (Gilbert, 2013). 
For its close relationship, the role of Geosciences in political definitions on climate change, sustainable development, mineral resources, water resources, coastal edge, maritime resources and geological risks in Chile is fundamental considering the country's aspiration to move towards lasting well-being for all its inhabitants (Sociedad Geológica de Chile, 2005). In addition, greater scientific input is needed to support administration tools such as territorial planning and strategic environmental assessment (Hervé, 2010).

Constitution and Governance

The Political Constitution is the highest and supreme law of a country or state. It specifies the main rights and duties of its participants, and defines the structure and organization of the State. Conceptually, it is the fundamental legal order of the community. It lays the guiding principles under which political unity should be formed and the tasks of the State should be assumed. It contains the procedures for resolving conflicts within the Community.
Governance is defined as interactions and agreements between rulers and governed, to create opportunities and solve citizens' problems, and to build the institutions and norms needed to bring about those changes. For both concepts considering what has already been expressed, it is essential to enrich their future effectiveness by clearly incorporating into them all the knowledge developed by professionals dedicated to Earth Sciences. Thus the Geosciences can administratively complement the territorial characteristics that favor the expression of a singular biology from north to south and from mountain range to sea (Ministerio del Medio Ambiente, 2017).

Constitutional Proposal from the Geosciences

Accordingly, it is proposed that in a future Political Constitution of the State should be incorporated as a preamble the following: 

"Chile is a tricontinental multi-national gender parity Democratic Republic with a rich and diverse territory in terms of its biotic and mineral nature, the greatest value of which is in the human beings that inhabit it so that the State and its Constitution are committed to protecting and sustainably developing all environmental ecosystems mainly their relevant components : anthropological, biological, geological, maritime, geographical, historical, social and cultural which should be reflected in an appropriate territorial, legal, political and administrative order that is also complemented and developed with a public and free educational system that is relevant and permanent."

From this preamble it is proposed to develop with the appropriate legal support, the articles that are required in the detailed text of the New Constitution and the regulations of the institutions that allow future governments to comply with what is required for a new model of development that allows the entire republic to move towards a more egalitarian, just and supportive society.


Altomonte H. and Sánchez R.J. (2016). Hacia una nueva gobernanza de los recursos naturales en América Latina y el Caribe. Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe(CEPAL), Santiago de Chile, 258 p.

Galdámez L. (2018). Constitución y medio ambiente: algunas ideas para el futuro. Revista de Derecho Ambiental. Año VI N° 9, p. 72-92.

Gilbert J. (2013). Derecho a la Tierra como Derecho Humano: Argumentos en favor de un Derecho Específico a la Tierra. Sur-Revista Internacional de Derechos Humanos. p. 123-145.

Hervé D. (2010). Noción y Elementos de la Justicia Ambiental: Directrices para su Aplicación en la Planificación Territorial y en la Evaluación Ambiental Estratégica. Revista de Derecho, Vol. XXIII–No 1, p. 9-36.

Instituto de Asuntos Públicos (2018). Informe País: Estado del medio Ambiente 2018, Centro de Análisis de Políticas Públicas ,42 p.

Meza-Lopehandía (2016). Territorio indígena en el derecho chileno. Biblioteca del Congreso Nacional de Chile. Departamento de Estudios, Extensión y Publicaciones, 7 p.

Ministerio de Minería (2003). Institucionalidad Geológica en Chile y Propuestas de Acción en Materias Geológicas en el Servicio Nacional de Geología y Minería. Documento final del Grupo de Trabajo Especial del Ministerio de Minería. Informe Inédito, 13 p.

Ministerio del Medio Ambiente (2017). Estrategia Nacional de Diversidad 2017-2030, GEF, PNUD, Ministerio del Medio Ambiente –Gobierno de Chile, 102 p.

ONU (2007). Declaración de las Naciones Unidas sobre los Derechos de los Pueblos Indígenas. Resolución aprobada por la Asamblea General, 19 p.

Sociedad Geológica de Chile (2005). Chile y su Institucionalidad Geológica: Necesidades Críticas en el Siglo XXI, Declaración Pública, 4p.


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