Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park is one of the most biodiverse rainforests in the world. Within a few acres there are more species of plants and insect than all of North America combined and the park hosts over a thousand striking species of birds, mammals, amphibians, fish and reptiles. Yasuni is also a natural pharmacy of curatives and may hold the keys to treating any number of human ailments. And it’s not just animals, deep inside Yasuni, roaming indigenous tribes live as they have since pre-Columbian times. But these aren't the park’s only natural resource: Yasuni also happens to sit atop an estimated 850 million barrels of oil. Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park has become a battleground for human rights activists, environmentalists, and community groups against Chinese oil companies seeking to develop its oil. Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa has taken the side of the oil companies – arguing that Yasuni’s oil is critical to providing infrastructure and services for the country’s economic development. This spring, the government’s questionable rejection of a national referendum on whether to drill for oil in Yasuni ignited a firestorm of international controversy.
Today, Yasuni is a microcosm of many critical issues confronting the global economy and its relationship to energy and the environment: Does Ecuador have an obligation to preserve South America’s most biodiverse rainforest? Does the world have an obligation to support Ecuador financially as it faces the trade-offs between conservation and growth? And what does the future of Yasuni tell us about the nature of oil, corruption and political freedoms in Ecuador?
Join New America for a conversation on the fate of Yasuni and the global clash between conservation, corporate power, and development.
Join the conversation online using #BattleForYasuni and following @NewAmerica.
Pablo Peidra Vivar
Legal Counsel, YASunidos
Dr. Matthew Finer
Research Specialist, Amazon Conservation Association
Dr. Levi Tillemann
Jeff and Cal Leonard Fellow, New America
Author, The Great Race: The Global Quest for the Car of the Future (2015)