To a person who is surrounded by concrete, glass and neon noise of hundreds of electronic devices a day, biodiversity would probably mean no more than a range of courses on a plate during dinner. Rainforests—merely a distant sound from remote places hailing “Save the planet!” Yet if the average person would be detached from the comfort zone and would travel to some of these remote places, the only predictable effect is that many of us, urbanization children, would encounter more creatures and unimaginable combinations of life than we ever have in our entire life. Imagine a place, where one hectare accommodates the same number of native tree species, as the whole of North America. A place, where there is more known fish species, than the entire Mississippi River Basin contain, and more bird species that those habituating in the whole Europe. Not to mention over 200 different coexisting mammals, rich variety of plants, insects and other forms of life. All of this happening on a relatively small piece of land, than encompasses just 0.16% of South America. If you haven’t heard of the Yasuni National Park, it is about time. Not only because at the current rate of defosterisation, in a 100 years’ time, long gone rainforests will become a tale of old days, but mostly because of the unimaginable scale danger this unique place is facing right now.
Nearly a million hectares of almost untouched primary rainforest---Yasuni is one of the most bio-diverse places in the world. Not only that, it is home of the indigenous people: those who managed to preserve aspects of their culture adapting and resisting the realities of modern world, but also the groups, who chose to maintain no contact with the outside world. However, the real threat for the Yasuni Park and its inhabitants is hidden beneath the ground---oil. The debate and loud stir in the media started when in 2007 Rafael Correa launched a Yasuni-ITT Initiative, and much more, when few years later, in 2013 it was abandoned. The idea, proposed by the president of Ecuador in a nutshell is this: the country would leave nearly 920 million petroleum barrels underground, if in return, the international community donated half its market value--$3.6bn. Among other things this proposal is set to be the attempt to launch a change in present model of growth, based on the intensive use of fossil fuel and in the over consumption. On the high level, it seeks environmental justice—a recognition that the international community has a financial responsibility to help developing countries preserve nature for the benefit of each and every one.
Let’s say, that struggles, which are won on the environmental battlefields around the world keep some hope for the nature to be counted in. Courts and legislators are the two common institutions for environmental protection, but the third possibility emerged as well---the market. Even if assessment of environmental values in terms of willingness to pay for it might as well seem like environmental blackmail, sadly for us in some cases this is exactly the last straw. The pioneering conservation plan for Yasuni Park resorted to this option, and as the time showed, failed. But which battle exactly do we think is lost here? Most of the media made a very key point on how the Yasuni Park is the most biodiverse place on Earth, with lives of indigenous people endangered as well, and how much the world is losing if the exploration of oil begins.(The UNEP, for example, says that biodiversity loss is becoming a greater concern for business, than international terrorism). However, there is a wider context here. The Yasuni-ITT initiative is generalized to protect the whole place. It is not. In the reality, the exploration in this unique area had long begun. At present moment, there are six oil concessions that include parts of Yasuni in addition to Block ITT, which with the fail of initiative now receives permission for drilling. Over 350 000 hectares of the park is already overlapped. The waves of explorations in 60s and 70s has already affected indigenous people—the protected areas were invaded by oil companies, the colonization brought disease, corruption, deforestation and conflict, not to mention the devastating effects of unregulated oil exploitation, the traditional ways of life had been put in peril long before the sensational attempt to prevent further exploration. All in all, there’s no prediction for happy ending. The abandonment of the revolutionary initiative is a blow to hopes and efforts to find alternative funding models for climate change and wildlife conservation. It is yet another reminder that to some extent the responsibility of modern day person life style are taken by someone else far far away.