Saturday, May 25, 2013

Declining Dakar: Ecuador Opts Out of Fossil Fuel "Sports"

Several times, in this blog, I have expressed my doubts about the Dakar Rally, an off-road automotive competition that moved to South America in 2008 after terrorist threats in Africa made it impossible to continue on its continent of origin. Since then, the event – whose starting point in my Palermo neighborhood I photographed in 2010 – has aroused objections from archaeologists, conservationist and others, but it’s nevertheless managed to expand from Argentina and Chile to Peru and, this coming year, Bolivia.
Dakar won’t be welcome in Ecuador, though, as its government has rejected an offer by France’s Amaury Sport Organization (ASO) in concluding that Dakar 2014 would cause more damage than it was worth. After the 2013 event, environmental conservation groups in Argentina, Chile and Peru argued that their governments frequently permitted the ASO to ignore their environmental requirements – the Chilean NGO AcciónEcológica maintains that Dakar has destroyed more than 200 archaeological sites but, obviously, the Rally's money and influence have allowed it to continue.

Meanwhile, though, Dakar not only damages the desert environment and archaeological sites, but in the process it also kills and injures people – both participants and spectators. For the long-term health of the deserts and highlands of northern Argentina and Chile, and Bolivia and Peru, and the sustainability of the region’s tourist economy, Dakar’s departure would be a welcome development.

Moon Handbooks Chile, in Saratoga
In just a few weeks – Monday, June 17, at 7 p.m., to be precise – I will offer a digital slide presentation on travel in Chile at Santa Clara Country’s Saratoga Library (13650 Saratoga Avenue, Saratoga CA 95070, tel. 408-867-6126, ext. 3817). Coverage will also include the Chilean Pacific Islands of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and Juan Fernández (Robinson Crusoe), as well as southernmost Argentina (Tierra del Fuego and the vicinity of El Calafate) that appear in the book. I will also be available to answer questions about Argentina and Buenos Aires. The presentation is free of charge, but books will be available for purchase.

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