Luis Valladares Faúndez
This profile was prepared when Luis Valladares Faúndez was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Environmental scientists and lawmakers are often out of touch with the true needs and situations of the Chilean people. Despite a growing environmental movement in Chile, a large gap of understanding remains between the country’s environmental leaders and the communities whose lives are most affected by regulation. In order to bridge this gap, Luis created a profession, the “Social Investigator,” trained in the sciences but at the service of the communities and their development, that applies environmental science and preservation in the context of human development and social needs. Luis founded the Center for Investigation and Education led by Social Investigator biologists that produce relevant knowledge and best practices to preserve the ecosystems where each center is located. However, they do so in a manner that is in tune with the needs—and within the means—of rural populations. Each biologist also participates in a variety of education programs that increase environmental knowledge and encourage participation of local communities. The centers have three primary goals. The first is to generate relevant information for the conservation needs of a specific community and provide the tools and support necessary for rural inhabitants to care for the environment. The second is to bridge the gap of understanding and communication between environmental policymakers and the inhabitants most affected by environmental policy. And finally, each center supports formal and informal environmental education so that rural communities can learn the value of conservation and also begin benefiting from advances in science and technology that aid in the protection of the environment without shattering livelihoods and displacing whole populations.