Securing Continued Economic Growth and Managing Ecological Constraints in Chile

by | April 24, 2012

Drs. Gordon McCord, Walter Baethgen and Kenneth Prewitt at the Opening Ceremonies in Chile.

A few weeks ago, I was in Santiago attending the launch of Columbia’s new Global Center in Santiago   The Center will provide logistical support for students and faculty doing research in Chile, including projects at CGSD.

Thanks to Center Director Karen Poniachik (former Minister of Mining and Energy), we were able to secure a summer internship opportunity for two of SIPA’s MPA-DP students. They will be studying the challenges of sustainable development in a small mining community in northern Chile. The community already receives social investments from Teck, the mining company operating in their midst.

In addition, Prof. Jeffrey Sachs and I met with the Finance Minister and a team of academics advising the government.  Most conversations returned to Chile’s ongoing challenge in securing continued economic growth while solving the energy and water crises.

I look forward to mobilizing the wide range of social and natural science expertise in CGSD and the broader Earth Institute in order to contribute to Chile’s continued success. Dr. Vijay Modi is interested in studying Chile’s potential for state-of-the-art technologies combining wind and hydroelectric power infrastructure, and Dr. Walter Baethgen’s ongoing work with agricultural water management technology in northern Chile will play an important role in the related challenges in the mining-intensive areas of the north.

Chile is a perfect example of how economic development can run up against ecological constraints, and only careful policy and technology choices will allow the country to get past the bottleneck.  I’m excited about having CGSD work with Chilean counterparts in government and beyond; the country has many well-trained, thoughtful people in all circles of policymaking, and it will be interesting to accompany this resilient society as it wrestles with the questions of sustainable development.


Gordon McCord leads the economic development work at CGSD, advising governments on sustainable development policy related to economic growth, poverty reduction and resource management, with an emphasis on program design, implementation and evaluation.

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