Ecuador’s beauty stems from its abundant and pristine rainforest, which is home to a plethora of unique wildlife. Many endangered species, and surely some undiscovered species, inhabit the spectacular jungle in Ecuador. However, amongst the freely swinging monkeys and orchestral melodies of the many birds in Ecuador lies a dilemma: the lush flora and colourful wildlife rest on thick, black, greed-invoking oil. Beneath the ground of the Biosphere Reserve of Yasuni National Park nearly 900 million barrels of crude oil sits untouched. Almost immediately after the discovery of the vast amount of oil in the western Amazon, oil companies showed an eagerness to exploit the developing country of Ecuador.
The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, was faced with a seemingly painful set of decisions to make. Being a poor country, exploiting the oil reserves in order to provide citizens with decent housing and health care would greatly benefit the economy and the standard of living. However, allowing oil companies to extract the valuable resource in Ecuador would have an enormous impact on the thriving ecosystems. Correa has somewhat postponed his final verdict by proposing to temporarily leave the oil in the ground under the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) area of the national park. In order to fulfill the economic needs of the country, Correa has asked the world to provide Ecuador with half of the monetary value of the oil. Within 13 years, a total of $3.6 billion needs to be raised to avoid the selling of the land and unavoidable exploitation of its resources. Currently, more than $300 million has been promised to preserve one of the world’s most biologically rich areas of the rainforest. The Yasuni-ITT initiative, run by the UN Development Programme, shows that most wealthy countries rejected the invitation to sponsor any money towards Correa’s ultimatum. Foundations, individuals, and even struggling countries, such as Chile and Turkey, have contributed over $300 million since the fundraising began in 2011. A list of donors and their contributions can be found here.
What happens if the $3.6 billion dollar goal is not met? Correa’s answer: “We cannot be beggars sitting on a sack of gold."In a struggling country, the only viable opportunity to become prosperous is by exploiting their natural resources. Although Correa claims he is willing to consider holding a vote if the money is not raised, it seems that he has already made up his mind. How useful is giving the world an ultimatum in order to try and preserve the environment in Ecuador? The project to preserve the Amazonian rainforest is often difficult to relate to because we often do not see the results of our efforts; yet countries, foundations, celebrities, and individuals are anteing up to save this paradise. Sacrificing the Ecuadorian rainforest in the pursuit of economic progress seems likely. In order to avoid the bulldozing of hectares of habitat, wealthy countries need to recognize the value of this ecosystem and work towards saving it. Consumerist countries are inclined to exploit Ecuador’s oil as a means to make a profit. Extracting the oil would have an enormous impact for Ecuador as a growing country, but are the environmental consequences worth economic prosperity? Be active in this hushed debate! Voice your opinion to local leaders, and convince others that the world needs this rainforest.