Charli Fritzner: Climate justice, constitutions, and Chile

The Cordilleras, which can be seen from all of Santiago on clear days.

Santiago is flanked by the towering Cordilleras, a mountain range that can be seen on non-smoggy days from everywhere in the city. These peaks come up not only in view between buildings, but also often in conversation, with native Santiaguinos saying they feel disorientated in cities without this natural giant. I am in this city to research through conversation, interviews, and texts, what the future relationship between the environment and Chile looks like based on the impact of the new constitution and its climate justice elements. The constitutional draft is currently being refined before being voted on in a national plebiscite on 4 September. This rewrite is the result of a referendum held last year that was triggered by the estadillo social (a social uprising from 2019-20). It has been drafted by a committee elected by the people and if accepted, its would become one of the most progressive constitutions in the world. It includes, among much more of course, a recognition of the rights of nature and codifies far more protection for the environment than the current, Pinochet-era constitution. 

Posters for a website encouraging people to learn about and discuss the new draft constitution.

My research explores the impact of the estadillo social and the (potential) impact of the constitution through the eyes of those who are impacted and through a sociological and historical lens. With particular focus on the opportunities and risks that are created by the process and by what happens in September for climate justice and climate activists. Currently, the debate around the constitution can be tracked on the news, in conversation, and on the streets. Depending on the political leanings of a neighborhood, there are buildings covered in posters promoting the constitution, or graffiti calling the new President Gabriel Boric a sellout, or nothing at all. Whatever happens in September, that a social movement brought about a process to reconfigure the political system and shape it in a more climate-forward and progressive way shows an avenue for change.