Monday, January 18, 2010



Kyle Thiermann, Chile-photo Ryan Craig

Every single day, surf tourists from all over the world arrive in droves to exotic locales, hoping to score some of the dreamy waves they’ve been drooling over in the latest surf magazines and movies. These visitors come for a week or two, get their fill of fun and adventure, and then ship out, back home to their 9-5 jobs and crappy, waist high beachbreak. While surf tourism provides local economies with valuable income, many times these receiving communities aren’t being protected and preserved for future generations to enjoy.

Many destinations that surfers visit are in struggling, third world countries, who, despite having pristine coastlines with an abundance of perfect surf and diverse wildlife, don’t have it together enough to properly take care of their fragile environment. Corrupt governments, lax environmental laws, and uneducated local communities are just some of the challenges that these natural resources face. Subsequently, coral reefs are dwindling, oceans polluted, rare species threatened, and entire ecosytems put in mortal danger.

While we may not think about it too much, surf tourists, it could be argued, have more at stake than anyone when it comes to giving back to the places that have given us so many magical and unforgettable experiences. Isn’t it only right that we do what we can to help these threatened coastlines?

Santa Cruz’s Kyle Thiermann is a good example of a surfer who is using his voice to raise awareness regarding the destructive effects of a proposed coal power plant off the coast of Chile, in South America, which also happens to have some of the best surf in the world. Earlier this year, Kyle travelled with local photographer Ryan “Chachi” Craig to the town of Constitucion, Chile, a fishing community where a proposed coal power plant is threatening the area’s valuable resources.

During their trip, Kyle and Ryan interviewed the locals, asking them what they thought of the proposal, and how they believe it will affect their lives. “Across the board, the community was fiercely against the proposed plant”, says Kyle regarding the positions he encountered doing his interviews. In his interviews, the primary concerns revolved around the detrimental affects that the coal power plant poses, if in fact it is built.

Coal power plants create the largest source of mercury contamination worldwide, which would not only affect the local fishing economy, but the health of the people within the community itself So how is it that someone could get involved in protecting somewhere threatened by dirty industries?

With Kyle, it started with a little bit of research. “I did some research on the coal company, AES-Jenner, and found that such projects can’t go forward without funding from large banks”. Kyle produced a short Youtube video, in which, along with the interviews with the Constitucion community, clearly lays out how large banks use your money to fund projects such as AES-Jenner’s coal plant proposal in Chile, and shows how you, yourself, have the power to stop destructive projects simply by choosing what banks you put your money into. Instead of investing in large banks such as Bank of America, which happens to fund projects by AES-Jenner, Kyle urges concerned citizens to invest their money with local banks, who fund local projects that strengthen your own community.

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