Ecuador’s newly-elected President Rafael Correa has appealed to the international community to help raise half the amount of projected revenues resulting from oil extraction in one of the most biologically-rich tropical rainforests in the world in order to save it. The announcement is somewhat revolutionary in that an elected leader is openly promoting investment in protecting rainforests versus opening them up to endless exploitation. The projected amount to be raised, estimated at $350 million per year for ten years, would then be used to keep the oil in the ground and protect it forever.
Elected leaders around the world should follow Correa’s example, particularly because protecting this area is vital in what should be a global effort to curb climate change, preserve biological diversity, and respect the rights of Indigenous communities around the world. Nations that would otherwise benefit from oil exported from this region should share a sense of responsibility in helping Ecuador withstand pressure to exploit it. Furthermore, it should not be the sole responsibility of Ecuador to protect the Amazon for the rest of the world.
And there are other costs that should be taken very seriously, particularly for the foreign oil companies preparing to bid for the 930 million barrels estimated to be under the ground. The area – known as the ITT (Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha) block, is located within Yasuni National Park, home to Indigenous communities living in deep isolation from the outside world. Oil exploration would severely damage their cultural heritage, contaminate their land, and expose them to numerous health hazards and diseases. Oil drilling has already left a toxic legacy in surrounding areas and the costs to Ecuador and its people have been staggering.
Just ask Chevron, who in the coming year may be forced to pay damages upwards of $6 billion dollars resulting from a class-action lawsuit by 30,000 plaintiffs in Ecuador demanding environmental remediation after years of wreckless oil pollution. And that figure does not include the millions of dollars already spent defending the case, let alone the human cost to the victims.
Somehow $350 million a year for 10 years doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
Read the full article in The Christian Science Monitor here.