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Keywords:

  • neoliberal conservation;
  • ecophilanthropy;
  • virtualism;
  • Patagonia;
  • Chile

ABSTRACT

Successful North Americans, Douglas and Kristine Tompkins, have used their personal wealth and business know-how to become among the most powerful expatriate land owners in Chile and Argentina. In Chilean Patagonia's Aysén region, Kristine Tompkins' conservation foundation purchased the historical Chacabuco Valley Station, seeking to reverse the impacts of pastoralism and create a national park. Whilst in the United States and Europe the Tompkins' efforts have been applauded, many residents of the Chacabuco Valley area are concerned by the idea of outsiders holding decision making power on land use. The situation in Aysén speaks to a complex of broader anthropological debate regarding the neoliberalisation of conservation and, in particular, the role of ecophilanthropy in promoting capitalism. By examining the ways in which the Chacabuco Valley is undergoing transformation, this paper explores the relationship between ecophilanthropy, capitalism, and conservation. Of particular interest is how images are produced and then transformed into commodities as the strategies of business are incorporated into conservation policy and practice.