Public Lecture, ‘Entirely New and Very Old Water’ 

Metcalfe Auditorium, State Library of NSW, Tuesday 15 August 2023, 5.00pm to 8.00pm AEST 

This talk, from Dr Andrea Westermann, addresses the entangled histories and elemental shifts of the Atacama mining desert in northern Chile, one of the driest places in the world. Though the desert’s industry has been making crucial contributions to national income for two centuries, Chileans have positioned the region as their faraway periphery. Today, the desert “wanders south,” encroaching both climatically and ideologically on Chilean society. Chile’s temperate central provinces including the capital of Santiago have in recent years felt the tightening grip of extreme drought. In this context Chilean citizens discuss drafting a new constitutional paragraph to protect glacial and permafrost environments to maintain the little ground water there is in the desert’s aquifers. Moreover, cities on the edge of the desert have been marked out for desalination plants. Like the constitutional reforms, this public sector infrastructure binds the desertic north of Chile to the country at large.  

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