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

Multimedia Ferguson Grand Jury Reaches Decision

Missouri town, many Americans on edge over whether jurors will indict white police officer in August shooting death of unarmed black teen More

Corruption Fighters Want More From World’s Strongest Nations

Anti-corruption activists say final communique fell short of expectations and failed to fully address systemic problems More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project 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.
Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Faminei
X
Daniel Schearf
November 23, 2014 4:32 PM
During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video Law Enforcement, Activists in Ferguson Agree to Keep Peace

Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri, say they have agreed with protest leaders to maintain peace when a grand jury reaches its decision on whether to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teenager. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, has been the scene of intermittent violence since the August 9 shooting intensified long-simmering antagonism between the police and the African-American community. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid