Day of reckoning for Ecuador’s biodiversity

The world’s indifference to a request for $3.6 billion to preserve a diversity hot spot may push the country to extract oil there, says Kelly Swing.

How much is the world willing to pay to protect a piece of Amazonian Ecuador that is home to the greatest concentration of species on the planet? Ecuador’s government has asked for
US$3.6 billion to refrain from developing the region, in the Yasuní Biosphere Reserve, but the reaction of the world suggests that the price is too high. We need to accept that big oil firms are coming to Yasuní, and the struggle now must be how to limit the damage, rather than prevent it.

The effort to save the region mirrors the plot of 2009’s blockbuster film Avatar. Yasuní is the set and its ancestral people are the Waorani. The precious commodity beneath their feet is fossil fuel. The region and its people are highly threatened by oil extraction and the collateral damage that such development brings. For most of the past half-century, Ecuador’s economy has depended heavily on oil revenue. Oil-field development continues to push into more remote areas to keep the cash flowing. It has already reached into the heart of the Yasuní reserve.

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