Restricted Access Pilot Project: Interdisciplinary perspectives on clean energy production and landscape conservation in North Patagonia

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Institute of Archaeology

Abstract

This pilot project explores the ways in which the designation of certain forms of conservation landscape (for example national parks and other forms of protected areas) facilitate specific forms of environmentally damaging "non-conservation" activities outside of their borders. This invites a radical rethinking of conservation histories. We suggest that conservation landscapes cannot be studied without looking at the broader landscape management effects-the "salvation" of certain designated areas and the "sacrifice" this facilitates of others. We cannot understand the gazettal of protected buildings or landscapes without looking beyond the gazetted structure or reserved area to consider the negative actions which such conservation activity permits. Conservation landscapes are themselves often related to attempts by the state to restrict or control access-like the landscapes associated with nuclear power generation or nuclear waste disposal, national parks and other conservation areas are also landscapes of exclusion (Galison 2015). The project will explore these issues through a focus on the archaeological and heritage landscapes associated with the failed quest for nuclear fusion on Isla Humuel within Nahuel Huapi National Park near Bariloche in Argentina, and the ways in which this project facilitated the subsequent establishment of a working nuclear reactor and atomic research institute in the same town and park, and other geographically associated attempts to develop alternative energy sources in the form of hydroelectric power schemes, alongside their broader affects on the landscape. This pilot study will form the focus for the establishment of a transnational, interdisciplinary working group in preparation for the development of a broader project which will explore the relationship between conservation landscapes, statecraft, practices of power and relationships between "waste" and "wilderness" across Chile and Argentina in the Northern Patagonian region. The transnational North Patagonian Andean region is an area which has long been politically contested and in which the gazettal of the earliest national parks signals attempts to utilise protected areas to demark and impose sovereignty by both the Argentinean and Chilean states, and also an area that shares the paradoxical legacies of natural protection and the search for sustainable forms of energy extraction that invariably disrupt the natural environment. Over the past century this region has seen major changes in regional economies (in particular the shift from forestry to tourism), attempts to develop alternative forms of non-coal based power generation (including the development of both nuclear and hydroelectric power stations both within and immediately adjacent to conservation areas), changes in public policies (in particular relating to conservation and environmental protection of the Andean environment) and the creation of national parks (through the geographically mirrored parks of Nahuel Huapi in Argentina and Perez Rosales in Chile, located on each side of the Patagonian Andes). This makes it an ideal location in which to explore the past, present and futures of whole of landscape approaches to conservation and clean energy production. We aim to assemble an interdisciplinary, transnational network which would eventually enable us to consider how these historical and contemporary tensions might be considered collectively in the development of new policies and practices in clean energy production in the region.

Planned Impact

The primary objective of this proposal is to undertake pilot research to demonstrate the potential for whole of landscape approaches to alternative energy development and the management of natural and cultural heritage. The project does this by undertaking historical and archaeological research into the connections between landscape conservation and alternative energy production, with a particular focus on nuclear power in Nahuel Huapi National Park. The research will produce insights which will supplement the work of conservation biologists at Comahue University currently preparing a Plan of Management for Isla Huemul within the national park for the Office of the Environment of the Municipality of Bariloche in consultation with the National Parks Service (NPS). We will contribute to the revision of the plan to generate a model for conservation management planning within the region which considers and integrates the management of a range of complex, sometimes conflicting values relating to biodiversity conservation, history, cultural heritage and sustainable energy development. Through fieldwork and networking activities we will sediment our developing relationship with NPS in Bariloche to facilitate the dissemination of this model within the region, drawing on existing cross-border conservation initiatives and networks between relevant park management agencies in Chile and Argentina.

Our second objective is to engage Balseiro Institute/CNEA staff in the broader landscape conservation management issues which relate to their work on clean energy development, and we will prepare a 'pop up' exhibition which will communicate the results of our preliminary fieldwork on the Huemul Atomic project and its broader context in relation to the histories of conservation, power generation and statecraft, connecting them with contemporary issues relating to the politics and practices of 'whole-of-landscape' approaches to clean energy production, to accompany the workshop which we will run at the Balseiro Institute. The institute have particular interests in sustainable approaches to clean energy production and scientific communication. We will utilise our strong existing contacts with Balseiro Institute communications staff, who are committed to collaborate directly to develop this 'pop-up' exhibition with us to ensure it delivers impact in reaching relevant staff at CNEA and the Balseiro Institute, and to assist with coordinating our workshop. The exhibition will be developed as a direct outcome of the interdisciplinary workshop and pilot fieldwork and will assist with ongoing (post workshop) recruitment of researchers to form part of the wider interdisciplinary network we will establish, as well as communication of our work to relevant stakeholders.

Our tertiary aim is to build capacity for researchers in Chile and Argentina by developing a network to open pathways to possible future research development on clean energy and "whole-of-landscape" conservation practices in Argentina and Chile.

We will evaluate the effectiveness of these activities and the extent to which the network has been sustained through follow-up with participants within the grant period. Longer term impact will be assessed subsequently through further fieldwork funded as part of the PI's role as AHRC Priority Area Leadership Fellow in Heritage.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Los ecos del Proyecto Huemul 
Description The exhibition "Los ecos del Proyecto Huemul, 1949-2017", part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)-Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Restricted Access Pilot Project, awarded to Rodney Harrison (Professor of Heritage Studies, UCL Institute of Archaeology) and Trinidad Rico (Director of Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies at Rutgers University and Honorary Senior Lecturer, UCL Institute of Archaeology), was hosted for several months beginning July 2017 at the Balseiro Institute in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina. The exhibition was curated and presented in-progress research led by Rico and supported by Harrison on the 'echoes' or 'afterlives' of the Huemul Atomic Project, an early attempt to develop nuclear fusion technology which was established in 1949 and ran for several years under conditions of extreme secrecy on Isla Huemul, within Nahuel Haupi National Park, the oldest national park in Argentina. Their work has involved archaeological and ethnographic research on the Huemul Atomic Project, its material remains and their subsequent uses. The Balseiro Institute is the most prestigious nuclear engineering and experimental physics research and teaching centre in Latin America, and was founded in 1955 under the direction of José Antonio Balseiro, following his investigation into the Huemul Atomic Project's findings. Significant infrastructure from the Huemul Atomic Project was transferred from Isla Huemul and repurposed as part of the newly established Balseiro Institute. In addition to archaeological survey of the remains of the laboratories and other facilities on the island, Rico's work currently involves documenting these materials and their stories, whilst Harrison has been exploring the influence of contemporary and historical conservation practices on the broader landscape of the region, pursuing themes developed as part of his work on the linked AHRC-funded Heritage Futures research programme. The exhibition contributes to capacity building for interdisciplinary research on whole of landscape approaches to conservation in the region. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The concept and content for the exhibition was co-developed earlier in the year at an international, interdisciplinary design charrette involving representatives from the Balseiro Institute, historians, architects and archaeologists from Chile, Argentina, the US and UK. The charrette was hosted by Dr Jorge Muñoz Sougarret at the Centro de Estudios del Desarrollo Local y Regional (CEDER) of the University of Los Lagos in Osorno, Chile, in May 2017. A key outcome of the charrette has been the establishment of the Restricted Access Research Network, an international, interdisciplinary group of scholars concerned with exploring the nexus between arts and humanities based and science based approaches to the interconnected histories of conservation and energy production within the region. The exhibition will be on display in the Institute's Biblioteca Leo Falicov. Research assistance for the exhibition was provided by Dr Esther Breithoff (UCL), with further assistance from María de los Ángeles Picone (Emory University), Laura Garcia Oviedo (Balseiro Institute) and Christina Martinez (Balseiro Institute). 
URL https://heritage-futures.org/los-ecos-del-proyecto-huemul-exhibition-opens-in-argentina/
 
Description The research has highlighted the interconnected histories of landscape conservation and alternative energy production in the region. It has shown how developments in one field have impacted on the other, and has suggested ways in which conservation practices might be implemented on a "whole-of-landscape" scale and better integrated with attempts to develop alternative energy sources in the region. These issues have been communicated directly to researchers, stakeholders and policy makers involved in both nuclear energy development and biodiversity conservation/protected area management in the region through the associated workshop and exhibition. The workshop has contributed to capacity building by bringing together an innovative network of scholars across the region to explore possible cross disciplinary research on areas of shared interest and ready researchers for future international collaborations on relevant funding calls for larger projects.
Exploitation Route The findings will be taken forward directly by the Restricted Access Research Network and by the Municipality in implementing the recommendations of the Conservation Management Plan. The findings will be also potentially be taken forward by visitors to the exhibition which was hosted at the Balseiro Institute. We expect to see this materialise in the form of future research and engagement partnerships and activities in future years.
Sectors Energy,Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description The international, interdisciplinary workshop hosted in Chile; the exhibition; and contributions to the Isla Humuel Conservation Management Plan, all contributed to capacity building for applied interdisciplinary environmental research. The contributions to the Conservation Management Plan contribute directly to UN SDGs Goals 15-"Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss" and Target 11.4 which highlights the need to "strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world's cultural and natural heritage".
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Energy,Environment,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Contributions to Conservation Management Plan for Isla Huemul
Geographic Reach South America 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Recommendations from the Conservation Management Plan will facilitate better conservation outcomes for both historic and natural heritage of the Island. The involvement of the Restricted Access Network members in the project has facilitated capacity building for historic heritage conservation and management in the region.
 
Description UCL GCRF QR Faculty allocation
Amount £50,000 (GBP)
Organisation University College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2018 
End 07/2019
 
Title Annotated bibliography of sources relating to history of nuclear energy production and protected areas in North Patagonia Region 
Description Annotated bibliography of sources relating to history of nuclear energy production and protected areas in North Patagonia Region 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The bibliography helped us to produce both the exhibition and our contributions to the Isla Humuel Conservation Management Plan. 
 
Description Balseiro Institute 
Organisation Balseiro Institute
Country Argentina 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Development of exhibition to be hosted at Balseiro Institute and contributions to workshop/charrette to design exhibition
Collaborator Contribution Development of exhibition to be hosted at Balseiro Institute and contributions to workshop/charrette to design exhibition
Impact Los Ecos del Proyecto Huemul Exhibition
Start Year 2016
 
Description Restricted Access Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The concept and content for the Los Ecos del Proyecto Huemul exhibition was co-developed at an international, interdisciplinary design charrette involving representatives from the Balseiro Institute, historians, architects and archaeologists from Chile, Argentina, the US and UK. The charrette was hosted by Dr Jorge Muñoz Sougarret at the Centro de Estudios del Desarrollo Local y Regional (CEDER) of the University of Los Lagos in Osorno, Chile, 20-21 May 2017. A key outcome of the charrette has been the establishment of the Restricted Access Research Network, an international, interdisciplinary group of scholars concerned with exploring the nexus between arts and humanities based and science based approaches to the interconnected histories of conservation and energy production in Chile and Argentina.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://heritage-futures.org/los-ecos-del-proyecto-huemul-exhibition-opens-in-argentina/