An Important Opportunity to Save a Rainforest from Oil Drilling
© Brian O'Leary, Ph.D, www.brianoleary.com
Every once in a while, a leader in goverment makes a proposal that can actually help the environment. The new president of Ecuador Rafael Correa has just announced that the government would keep the oil in the ground under one of the most precious and extensive Amazonian jungles on Earth if matching contributions could come from the international community as well (conservation groups, other nations, private donors, investors, debt reductions from banks, combinations of these, etc).
Correa has had enormous pressure from just about everybody (except for environmentalists, indigenous and poor peoples) to start drilling oil on a large tract inside the 1 million hectare Yasuni National Park, under which sits at least 1 billion barrels of heavy crude oil, worth over $30 billion at today's prices.
But Yasuni National Park also houses one of the richest, most biodiverse primary rainforests on Earth. It is also a source of clean fresh water, two tribes voluntarily isolated, and an enormous carbon dioxide sink to mitigate global warming. In the long run, the value of this treasure far exceeds anything that could be extracted. The exploitation scenario would surely destroy the region, in similar ways already destroyed further west in the Ecuadorian Oriente. Over the past three decades, Chevron-Texaco had wantonly trashed that environment, contaminating the groundwater and killing off many innocent indigenous Ecuadorians, fauna and flora, and creating a massive wasteland. The oil giant faces a lawsuit of $6 billion to repair some of the damage wrought on the rainforest (see, for Example, Confessionas of an Economic Hit-Man and the other Writings of John Perkins). Actress Darryl Hannah joins thousands of protestors to help restore and preserve this precious ecosystem in the Amazon.
I am working with the Ministry of Energy to help spread the word about the exciting possibility of saving Yasuni from the ravages of humanity’s greed for oil. In Correa's proposal, Ecuador would match funds with donations from the international community to keep the oil in the ground and preserve the ecosystem for all time, under the aegis of a trust fund in partnership with the government and people of Ecuador. Ecuador is a poor country, and this potential sacrifice in short-term revenues to save a significant rainforest is an unprecedented move by a government, and thus provides the rest of us new opportunities to team up and set an example to the world.
The following link explains to you the details of this project. Needed over the first year is $350 million and a projected $3.5 billion over ten years, not that much considering the preciousness of this threatened ecosystem and its importance to preserving the lungs of the Earth.
I will also be posting updates on this urgent undertaking, along with progress on Montesueños, our new retreat center for peace and sustainability in the Ecuadorian Andes, where we will be having conferences on this and other important issues.
Let us know how you can help, what ideas you might have, and please spread the word! Time is short, because contracts for drilling are less than a year off.
All the best,
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