|An olinguito. (Photo: Smithsonian Magazine)|
|Indigenous people walk thru Yasuni National Park. |
Will oil drilling devastate their culture?
|Ecuador's Yasuni National Park,|
on the Colombian border.
And that trend looks to accelerate with Ecuador's decision this week to open its vast Yasuni National Park to oil drilling. The park, which covers 9,820 square kilometers may be one of the most biodiverse places on earth, according to Wikipedia. In a single hectare, it has as many insect species as all of North America, as well as myriad bats, amphibians and mammals. Several groups of indigenous people also inhabit the park, living in voluntary isolation from outsiders.
|How much impact? Mining titles |
awarded by Colombian departments.
But the park, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, also close to a billion barrels of oil. In 2007, the Ecuadorean government offered to leave that oil underground if other countries would pay Ecuador half of the oil's value, or more than 3 billion dollars. But Ecuador received only $13 million and more than $100 million in pledges.
"The world has failed us," Ecuadorean Pres. Rafael Correa said this week, and criticized rich countries' "hypocrisy."
|Yasuni National Park at nightfall. |
I don't think that the olinguito, which inhabits high-altitude regions, lives in Yasuni park. But Ecuador's decision is only the beginning of wider oil exploration and mining across the Amazon. Ecuador, in fact, is also opening huge areas adjoining the park to oil drilling. And Colombia, naturally, is opening its own wilderness areas to resource exploitation. (Coincidentally, this week Nicaragua also announced that it will open sea waters awarded to it last year by an international court to oil exploration. The waters are disputed by Colombia, which had barred oil exploration from the region, which contains the largest barrier reef in the Americas.)
|A waterfall in Yasuni National Park.|
(Photo: Sense and Sustainability)
Matt Finer of the Center for International Environmental Law told Britain's Guardian newspaper that Ecuador's decision was "deeply disappointing..."The Yasuni-ITT Initiative was the lone exception to the relentless expansion of hydrocarbon projects deeper into the most remote tracts of the western Amazon. Now there is really no viable alternative to stop the wave of drilling slated for the most biodiverse region of the world."
The olinguito may have entered human awareness only to be soon driven to extinction by human greed. And with it will go many other species still unknown to humanity.