Oil & Wilderness

Yasuni National Park, in eastern Ecuador, lies on the eastern slope of the Andes in the upper Amazon Basin.  It protects one of the most biologically diverse tropical rain forests on our planet, home to more species of bats, birds, insects and frogs than any other site on Earth; more than 20 threatened mammals inhabit the refuge and biologists know that many species of plants and animals have yet to be discovered.

Yet, for the past decade, this spectacular wilderness, like many others across our globe, has been caught in a struggle between political, economic and environmental interests, triggered by a pool of oil beneath its pristine tropical ecosystem.  Ecuador's president has proposed that countries and organizations dedicated to conservation and concerned about global warming commit 3.6 billion dollars to cover half the economic loss of leaving the oil in place.  Lauded as a farsighted approach by some and as blatant blackmail by others, the proposal has never gained traction and oil development in Yasuni National Park has gradually progressed.  Of course, the oil companies claim that drilling can be accomplished safely and responsibly in Yasuni but history suggests otherwise.

It is a sad commentary on human civilization that even the most vital ecosystems on our planet are not immune to our never-ending quest for oil.  While we profess our commitment to renewable sources of energy to reduce pollution and combat global warming, we cannot muster the collective political will to accelerate our transition from fossil fuels and to, once and for all, eliminate threats to develop what little wilderness remains on this planet.