VICTORY FOR THE RIGHTS OF HUMANS AND NATURE IN ECUADOR'S YASUNI NATIONAL PARK
There's some real good news emerging from the western Amazon and, especially in the context of the more worried view that I've been reporting, it is inspiring to see good intentions taking on concrete meanings.
[UPDATE 03 August 2010: Mongabay offers an in-depth report and lots of background links for this historic victory.]
Under an unprecedented agreement, known as the Yasuni-ITT Initiative, the government of Ecuador will refrain from exploiting some 900 million barrels of oil underground in the Yasuni National Park in exchange for more than $3 billion from foreign donors. The agreement, which is based on value of protecting ecosystem services as compared with burning extracted fossil fuels is an outstanding example of a how a new global carbon economy might promote a reciprocal win/win relationship between people and nature. The agreement is scheduled to be signed on Tuesday.
This begins the long process of giving concrete meanings to the first-of-its-kind rights-of-nature clause which was included in Ecuador's new Constitution.
Globally, grassroots organizations have contributed significant energy and support -- Ecological Internet helped "nudge" the donors into action on protecting the park and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund offered technical assistance in developing the visionary constitutional clause -- and according to Amazon Watch:
Ecuador's civil society organizations, as well as the Huaorani themselves, kept the proposal alive by pressuring the government and continuing to increase the proposals popularity nationally and internationally. The environmental organization, Accion Ecologica with its "Amazon For Life" campaign collected tens of thousands of signatures of support and kept the initiative in the news during times when the government's commitment appeared to wane.
Developing a 21st Century model for replacing resource extractivism with reciprocity is not an easy task and is riddled with contradictions such as possible "leakage" to other regions. Again, according to Amazon Watch:
Although there is cause for celebration, some of Ecuador's indigenous groups are concerned by the Correa administration's announcement this week to open up areas of Ecuador's roadless, pristine southeastern Amazon region, as well as re-offering older oil blocks that were unsuccessful due to indigenous resistance.
"We hope that the success of the Yasuni proposal doesn't mean a defeat for the forests and people of the southern rainforests," said German Freire, President of the Achuar indigenous people who have land title to almost 2 million acres of intact rainforest, all of which would be opened to new drilling. "We don't want Correa to offset his lost income from leaving the ITT oil in the ground by opening up other areas of equally pristine indigenous lands."
As the delicacies and dangers of development unfold across Amazônia, agreements such as protecting the Yasuni National Park serve both as an important concrete accomplishment and a beacon for the future. But it's going to take constant vigilance to truly turn vision into reality. Stay tuned for latest reports at Amazon Watch.