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
TEXT SIZE - +
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 Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends 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, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid