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Decision to spare Ecuadoran rain forest abandoned

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 21st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The leftist-leaning government of Ecuador came up with a very unique idea on conservation that the world largely ignored. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa came up with a plan to save the Yasuní rain forest in eastern Ecuador from oil development by asking the rest of the world to chip in so they wouldn't have to raze the precious land. The $3.6 billion they asked for was half of what they would have Ecuador pursued development. The reaction from the rest of the world to the proposal, alas was distinctly underwhelming. And so the development must begin --

LOS ANGELES, CA (catholic Online) - President Correa's decision to scrap the plan in order to save the species-rich Yasuní rain forest has dashed hopes for what environmentalists hailed as a historic approach to get industrialized society off their petrochemical fix.

"Ecuador and the world have lost an opportunity to shape a revolutionary initiative," Alberto Acosta, Ecuador's former minister of energy and mines says. As one of the chief architects of the so-called Yasuní-ITT Initiative, Acosta called the project "a giant step on the road toward post-extractivism."

The plan called for leaving an estimated 850 million barrels Amazon crude in the ground in the Ishpingo, Tambococha and Tiputini oil fields, which is found inside Yasuní National Park.

Ecuador had sought from developed countries $3.6 billion in compensation, roughly half the revenues the country would have accrued from exploiting the resource. The United Nations Development Program had set up a trust to administer the funds.

Support was unenthusiastic. By the time Correa called for the liquidation of the UNDP trust fund last week, Ecuador had managed to collect only a measly $13 million in donations and another $116 million in pledges.

It's clearly mankind's loss, as ecologists regard the Yasuní rain forest as one of the most bio-diverse places on Earth. The area teems with an extraordinary abundance of birds, primates, reptiles, and amphibians.

Yasuní also harbors two groups of indigenous people who wander the forests as hunter-gatherers in near-total isolation from the outside world.

While recent polls showed that 90 percent of Ecuadorans in favor of leaving the oil in the ITT Block untouched, it was not nearly enough for a country that depends on oil production for nearly 50 percent of its export earnings.

"It was not charity that we sought [from the international community]," a combative Correa in a nationally televised speech from the presidential palace in Quito declared. "It was shared responsibility in the fight against climate change."

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