Octubre 26, 2022 #Knowledge & Science

Academics, scientists, entrepreneurs: Chile’s «captain planets» fighting climate change

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One of the greatest threats facing the planet at present is climate change. It is estimated that over the next ten years we will see an aggravation of water scarcity, droughts and fires if we continue at the current pace, as well as the extinction of several plant and animal species.

On International Day Against Climate Change, we have compiled a list of women from various fields who are contributing to mitigate its impact and looking for answers on how to confront it.

Anita Farfán

Anita Farfán founded Desafío Ambiente in 2017 in order to become a strategic ally for the recycling and construction industry. She is one of the few women working in this sector. Since its founding, she has placed Desafío Ambiente in the market via its Everwood and AislaPet brands, which offer different solutions to the construction and design industry, with products made completely out of single-use plastic waste. In 2019, she was recognized as one of the 100 Women Leaders of Chile. She has also received different awards, including being nominated for the Avonni National Innovation Awards in the Sustainable Cities category. Her goal for the rest of the year is focused on international expansion, taking the company to the United States, Peru and Mexico, and establishing her circular economy model for plastic waste in order to reduce the environmental pollution that it generates in different parts of the world. Everwood transforms plastic waste into plastic wood, a high quality, resistant and durable material. Plastics that would otherwise take hundreds of years to disintegrate acquire a new life as furniture, planters, composters and many other functional products. The development of plastic wood is an environmental commitment at the global level to reduce the felling of trees and reuse plastic waste.

Bárbara Saavedra

Bárbara Saavedra holds a Degree in Biology, a Master’s in Ecology and a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Since 2015, she has been Chile Program Director at the Wildlife Conservation Society. She leads the Karukinka conservation project on Tierra del Fuego, a natural laboratory of 300,000 hectares (741,316 acres) of great ecological importance, due to its biodiversity. About 25% of Karukinka’s surface area is covered by peat bogs, a type of wetland capable of absorbing twice the amount of carbon than forests, thus making them a key natural ally to mitigate the impact of climate change. Bárbara has been a member of the National Innovation Council since 2014. She also led the Committee for Biodiversity and Natural Capital Management, and promotes the Magallanes and Chilean Antarctic Natural Laboratory initiative. She has dedicated her career to promoting the knowledge and value of nature and biodiversity in different public, private, academic and social spaces.

Photo credit: Juan Jaeger

Tamara Contador Mejías

Tamara Contador Mejías is a biologist and academic from the Universidad de Magallanes. She is also lead researcher at the Cape Horn International Center for Global Climate Change Studies and Biocultural Conservation, the Millennium Institute BASE and the INVASAL Millennium Nucleus. Her interest lies in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic freshwater ecosystems, focusing in particular on the adaptation of aquatic insects to global warming. 15 years ago, she monitored the Róbalo River, which flows out into the Beagle Channel on Navarino Island, to study the various insect communities that live there. This long-term project has allowed her to detect changes in the geographical distribution of insects such as the Antarctic winged midge, which lives in the upper parts of waterfalls and is found at the mouth of the river, or the migration of the European wasp to Puerto Williams and Cape Horn. Tamara states that insects are ectotherms, which depend on ambient temperature to survive. They are therefore particularly sensitive to changes in the planet’s temperature.

Photo credit: Comunicaciones CHIC

Maisa Rojas

Climatologist, physicist and researcher of great international standing, Maisa Rojas is the current Environment Minister of Chile, from where she leads and promotes the country’s environmental policies. It was recently announced that she will play a key role in COP27, leading discussions on “Losses and Damages”. This will be one of the most important issues discussed at the next United Nations Climate Change Conference, to be held in Egypt.

She previously served as director of the Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR)2 at the Universidad de Chile, coordinator of the COP25 Scientific Committee for the Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation Ministry, member of the COP25 Presidential Advisory Council, and coordinator of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Climate Change. She was lead author of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) and coordinating author of the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Maisa is part of Imagen de Chile’s Chileans Creating Future Network for her contributions to studying and acting against climate change.

Natalia Rebolledo

Natalia Rebolledo is co-founder and executive director of Fundación Un Alto en el Desierto, a non-profit organization that seeks to support people, organizations and communities in developing strategies to adapt to water scarcity through environmental education, innovation and the development of low-cost water solutions. Un Alto en el Desierto has promoted the first network of water harvesters and recyclers in Chile. Located in the Cerro Grande Ecological Reserve in Ovalle, Coquimbo Region, they have 28 fog catchers that allow them to harvest an average of 1,537 liters of water a day, equivalent to almost 600,000 liters of water a year. This is one of the best fog harvest results in South America. Natalia is public administrator at the Universidad de Chile, and was recognized by the Fundación Mujer Impacta in 2020.

Rosario Hevia

Rosario Hevia is founder and CEO of Ecocitex, a company dedicated to eliminating textile waste by making wool from recycled clothes. For every ton of recycled clothing, they mitigate the equivalent of 5.8 tons of CO2 emissions. In 2020, the organization was selected as the initiative with the greatest impact in the region by “Emprender con Impacto” (Start a Venture with Impact), a Latin American training and acceleration program for triple-impact entrepreneurship, organized by Mercado Libre and Mayma. Thanks to their work, it has been possible to prevent tons of clothing from ending up in landfills.


Imagen de Chile