Amazon Rainforest or Oil Wealth? Ecuador’s Unique Approach to Solve this Dilemma
The outcry for protection and conservation of biodiverse environments and the battle against corporate greed is highlighted uniquely in the case of Yasuni National Park. This forest region, located in the Ecuadorian Amazon, thrives above liquid wealth in the form of oil. However, the country is taking bold moves to preserve this valuable ecosystem: Instead of earning money and further developing the economy through the sale of oil, Ecuador proposes that Yasuni is left undisturbed and intact. Furthermore, the funding for environmental projects that would make this possible are to come from donors worldwide who would like to contribute to the responsible treatment of the planet.
Ecuador is a haven of incredible floral and faunal variation, with particularly large numbers of birds, spiders, and orchids. Along with its cloud forest regions, the revered Amazon Rainforest is teeming with life. The Yasuni area is assumed to have the highest concentration of tree species in the entire world.
The Amazon jungle, also home to indigenous groups, is not a stranger to the oil industry and its negative implications on the environment. The case between Ecuador and Chevron (formerly Texaco) has been an ongoing struggle since 1998. After drilling, the oil fields were not properly treated, resulting in severe contamination of the waterways and land. Reports of sickness and cancer have risen since these operations, and the cultural traditions of native communities, like the Waorani, are threatened.
Ecuador has demanded cleanup and compensation in accordance to the damages left behind, but Chevron denies responsibility. This legal entanglement has highlighted the pros and cons of fossil fuel extraction. Although the sale of oil has been important to the growth of the economy, Ecuador has also recognized the degradation and toxic effects that result from this crude practice. The country has realized that guarding the natural ecological wonder of the Amazon from harms outweighs the financial benefit that oil exports can bring.
Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputinin (ITT) is the name of the plentiful oil field below below this pristine environment; estimates report that there are nearly 900 millions barrels of oil worth billions in this well. If industrial development was permitted to occur here, up to 410 million tons of carbon dioxide could be released into the atmosphere. Coupled with loss of habitat and likely extinctions in addition to destruction of indigenous homeland, this could be disastrous to the well being of the Earth. Development in Yasuni wouldn’t just directly impact Ecuador; it would affect the entire globe.
And so the campaign to save Yasuni was created. In 2007, president Rafael Correa announced the decision to leave the oil untouched in exchange for sustainable enterprise. In order to fund this ambitious and ecologically minded effort, Ecuador is requesting donations, which would be sent to the United Nations Development Fund and accordingly distributed to bring this project into existence. In exchange, carbon credits would be granted, reducing the donors’ ecological footprints.
By the end of 2011, $100 million was required to fulfill the terms of agreement, and the beginning of 2012 marked a milestone in the Yasuni National Park initiative. Through donations, $116 million has been collected, allowing to project to go on. Other South American countries – Chile and Columbia – as well as Australia, Belgium, and Turkey, have pledged for this cause. Italy has even made an agreement to allow Ecuador’s $51 million debt to remain in the country and go toward the Yasuni-ITT initiative. Celebrities and political figures are also lending to this cause; President Correa has even donated a personal sum of $40 million.
You can do your part in the preservation of this environment important to all life on Earth. Personal donations, no matter how small, can go toward this collective endeavor. By disseminating this novel idea through word-of-mouth or social media, you can help to spread environmental education and to recruit supporters and donors. Monetary contributions can be sent to the Ecuador Yasuni ITT Trust Fund.
Team up with the non-governmental organization Finding Species. Learn more about the Yasuni situation and send a message to President Correa, showing your support for this initiative and encouraging Ecuador to continue its acts of environmental leadership and solidarity with a worldwide environmental movement.
If you belong to an environment-oriented organization, fundraising for this cause could be a worthy project for the new year. It is imperative that the world works together to enable projects such as this to go on; please help protect one of Earth’s most vibrant and lively communities.
Photo credit: earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/AmazonDrought/Images/Vista_Floresta.jpg