Chile is one of the most polluted countries in the world, and in certain parts, the sky isn’t even visible through the smog. As the country’s industrial production increases, toxic emissions are rapidly rising as well.

The climate and geography of Chile only intensify the pollution. Between mountain ranges, the pollution has no way to get out and accumulates with time. The majority of houses in Chile are built with poor insulation, and for that reason many Chileans (especially those living in the south) heat their houses with firewood because it’s the cheapest option, but this further pollutes the air. It’s not only the air that’s getting affected by this— cardiovascular and respiratory diseases have both been linked to the high pollution levels in Chile.

Valparaiso’s air quality is a lot better than some areas of Chile, but the air pollution is still considered “high”. Rainfall helps disperse the pollution, which we have been lucky to get plenty of this past year. Unfortunately, it is still predicted that rainfall will decrease by at least 30% by the end of the century.

Recently, on October 25th, 2017, Chile’s president Michelle Bachelet signed a bill to ban plastic bags in over 100 coastal areas. Plastic bags pose a serious threat to all marine life, and through the food chain, to humans as well. This is a step in the right direction for Chile and President Bachelet is looking at the big picture for not only Chile but for the world.

VSP’s beach cleans, done as a team with our students consistently throughout the year, is one way we as an organization combat pollution. We go to our local beaches, often the beach that we surf at, gear up in gloves, and make it a competition to see who can pick up the most trash. We gather garbage bag after garbage bag full of trash, and spend time talking to the kids about their thoughts on the way our beloved beaches are treated. We think that being a surfer and caring about the environment go hand in hand.

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Although this may seem like a problem bigger than yourself, there are plenty of easy things each one of us can do daily to reduce pollution. Here’s a list of some of the most practical:

Walk or ride your bike. On top of this being good for the environment, it’s good for your health!

Take public transportation, especially in big cities. It’s easy (and usually cheap) to use and decreases emissions immensely.

Turn off the lights and TV when they’re not in use. Conserving energy can easily be done by getting into little habits such as these.

Run your dishwasher and washing machine only when they’re full, and hang your clothes on a clothesline instead of using a dryer.

Plant a garden full of plants that give the air nutrients it needs to get cleaner.

Eat locally! This not only decreases energy by lessening food being transported long distances, but it helps your local economy as well.

References:

“Pollution in Valparaiso, Chile.” Pollution in Valparaiso, www.numbeo.com/pollution/in/Valparaiso.

“Gobierno De Chile – Ministerio Del Medio Ambiente.” MMA » Presidenta Bachelet Firma Proyecto De Ley Que Prohíbe Bolsas Plásticas En Las 102 Comunas Costeras Del País, portal.mma.gob.cl/presidenta-bachelet-firma-proyecto-de-ley-que-prohibe-bolsas-plasticas-en-las-102-comunas-costeras-del-pais/

Coha. “The Battle to Breathe: Chile’s Toxic Threat.” COHA, www.coha.org/the-battle-to-breathe-chiles-toxic-threat/.

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