Ecuadorian Rainforest Communities Send Message to the World: Save Yasuni National Park from Devastation by Oil Industry

Aerial Images To Air During Live Earth Concert Broadcasts

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Amazon Watch
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Yasuni National Park, Ecuador - Indigenous communities from Yasuni National Park, home to some of the most biodiverse primary tropical rainforest on the planet, sent a message to the world today pleading to save the park from devastation by the oil industry.

Lead by Ecuador's Vice President Lenin Moreno Garces, nearly 100 people joined together to spell the words "Live Yasuni" in the heart of this pristine National Park as a helicopter carrying photographers hovered overhead. The images will be sent to the world feed for the Live Earth event this Saturday, a series of televised concerts from cities around the world organized by former US Vice President Al Gore to highlight the threat of global warming.

The Yasuni images form part of several Live Earth events focusing attention on the plight of the Ecuadorian Amazon:

  • A public service broadcast narrated by Martin Sheen and produced by Amazon Watch will be broadcast as part of the Live Earth feed
  • Pablo Fajardo, the lead attorney against Chevron in Ecuador, will be a special guest of Sting at the concert in New York, as The Police perform on stage
  • Actress Daryl Hannah will be interviewed as part of Live Earth's broadcast on Bravo TV talking about her recent visit to an area of the Ecuadorian Amazon devastated by Chevron (formerly Texaco)

The Yasuni event was organized to highlight the Ecuadorian Government's proposal to keep that nation's largest oil reserve, in the ground forever, saving the park and avoiding an estimated 436 million tons of carbon emissions. Yasuni, home to several indigenous groups, including some of the last still living in isolation anywhere in the Amazon, sits atop the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oilfields.

In a bid to avoid drilling in the park, Ecuador President Rafael Correa has proposed to the international community that the oil could be left in the ground in exchange for financial commitments ranging from $2 billion to $3.5 billion to offset the lost oil revenues. The government plans to invest the funds in sustainable social development programs.

Quito and international environmental groups are now working to meet this challenge, exploring a variety of financial mechanisms including debt relief, carbon credits, and traditional fundraising. The presence of Vice President Moreno Garces in Yasuni, where he met members of the Waorani, Quichua and Cofan indigenous groups that live there, was a signal of the Ecuadorian government's intent.

Ecuador's experience with the oil industry has been bitter. Texaco (now Chevron) allegedly dumped 18 billion gallons of toxic wastewater directly into the rainforest in northern Ecuador over a period of 25 years, causing a public health crisis among 30,000 local people who now suffer an epidemic of cancers.

They are suing Chevron for an environmental remediation provisionally priced at $6 billion in a landmark class-action lawsuit expected to conclude next year. On Tuesday, representatives of the affected communities posed for another series of aerial photos, forming the letters "SOS" and the word "Justice" in Spanish at one of Chevron's former well-sites as a helicopter circled overhead.

Deforestation causes between 20 percent and 25 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions - more than US automobile use. Stopping it will be a key element of any plan to tackle global warming. Equally, the Amazon plays a critical role in regulating global climate, sending rain-clouds to water farmers' fields from Argentina to Iowa and helping power trans-oceanic air currents on which millions of people's livelihoods depend.

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