News / USA

Ecuador Leaves Oil Riches in Ground to Save Ecosystem

Seeks compensation from other governments

Oil pipes across the Ecuadorian jungle
Oil pipes across the Ecuadorian jungle

Multimedia

Audio
Rosanne Skirble

Ecuador’s decision to forego potentially lucrative oil drilling in the Amazon forest in order to protect a biologically rich and fragile ecosystem is the focus of two documentaries at the Washington Environmental Film Festival.

The decision represents a huge sacrifice for a small South American country which earns half its export revenues from oil.

In 2007, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa boldly halted operations at one of the country’s most promising wells. That amounts to 25 percent of Ecuador’s known oil reserves, which works out to about 846 million barrels of crude. The oil sits below Yasuni National Park, one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet.

'Two Seconds of Life'

In return Ecuador wants compensation, says Leonardo Wild, an American-born filmmaker who lives in Ecuador. The story unfolds in his documentary, "Two Seconds of Life”" Every two seconds, one hectare of  Amazon rainforest is lost. That’s where the film gets its name.

"If you say Ecuador’s idea is to make $7 billion with the oil profits, they say the world should give half of that or 3.5 billion and Ecuador would give the other 3.5 (billion) by leaving the oil in the ground."

A trust fund has already been set up by the United Nations to manage any money that world governments decide to donate to compensate Equador for leaving oil in the ground. Those funds would be spent on projects that address global warming, deforestation, biodiversity and the alleviation of poverty among Ecuador’s indigenous people.  

In "Two Seconds of Life," we see what’s at stake as we move deep into the rainforest with Waorani Indian guide Penti Bahira, whose ancestors have lived here for more than 1,000 years.   

Judea Lawton, a Washington resident, watched the film at the Ecuadorian Embassy. "We’ve had enough of money and exploitation being the basis for what we do. We need to preserve mother earth and we need to preserve the cultures of people who have been here for thousands of years. I think it is a really important initiative."

'A Future Without Oil'

Ecuador’s plan not to exploit oil requires support from the global community. In "A Future without Oil," French filmmaker Laetitia Moreau joins the Ecuadorian negotiators as they seek partners in Europe and the United States. She says it is not an easy sell.

"There are moments in the negotiations," she says, "that you really feel how difficult it is for a small country to put forward a breakthrough idea on the international stage."

The team sees promise in Norway. The Scandinavian country has offshore oil reserves and invests heavily in reforestation. Moreau says the Ecuadorians are confident that they have common interests, but they leave empty-handed and disappointed.

"They get a cold diplomatic reception for the idea. That was a hard blow for the Ecuadorian team because they came with a lot of enthusiasm."

Hard sell

The movie proceeds like a boxing match, with rounds fought in Germany, Belgium, Spain and the United States. As negotiators face a deadline to close the deal, they struggle to convince foreign governments to invest. Moreau hopes the documentary helps filmgoers understand that the Ecuadorian initiative represents a vision of a future without oil.  

"I want people who see the movie to think about all these problems in a different way and what Ecuador is doing is an out of the mold energy solution."

Tom McGlynn was among some 200 people who watched the movie at a World Bank screening in Washington. He supports the initiative, but sees an obvious roadblock. "The global economies are in such rough straights right now, it is a challenge to get people to pony up the funds to do this when everyone is in deficit spending right now."

Even if his country’s proposal fails to attract sufficient funds right now, the Ecuadorian ambassador to the United States argues that Ecuador has already set an example that other nations can follow.

"That we, as all Ecuadorians, are very respectful of nature," says Luis Gallegos, "very respectful of what comes with nature and the responsibility of people must have in preserving and conserving and making a sustainable environment."

The Correa government in Ecuador will evaluate the initiative at the end of the year and then make a decision on whether or not to proceed with oil drilling in the Amazon.


You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs