In Chile, Many Regard Climate Change As The Greatest External Threat

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Fernando Rojas has spent his life living by a large lake in central Chile. About seven years ago it began to shrink, and now most of the water is gone. He holds a photo taken when the lake was full.

Philip Reeves/NPR

Fernando Rojas is holding up a photograph of a pocket of countryside, between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains, that has been his home, his livelihood, and his passion for all of his 74 years.

His picture shows a lake, brimming with water, in front of a range of hills that are silhouetted by the sun. In the foreground, by the water’s edge, there’s a small boat, ready to set sail. Next to that, there’s a wooden jetty, jutting out into the waves.

You would hardly know that this image, taken in Chile just a few years ago, is of the same depleted landscape on which Rojas is now standing, grim-faced, puzzled and — he says — full of sadness.

 

What water is left in the lake is in the hazy distance — about half of a mile away, a languid puddle, less than 3 feet deep, fringed by weeds and white egrets.

The Laguna de Aculeo — as this lake’s known — used to be a favorite retreat for many of the 7 million citizens of Chile’s capital, Santiago, 45 miles to the north.

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A dock rests in a dry waterbed in central Chile.

Philip Reeves/NPR

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