Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The perfect space

It is so hot outside right now that I can't help but be reminded of a month ago, when I was in the Amazon. To continue from where I left off, we were in Nuevo Rocafuerte, ready to embark on our three day camping trip in Yasuni National Park. Following the beautiful sunset and a dinner of rice and beans, our bags were packed and spirits were high. Jerry, Drisk and I loaded up Juan Carlos' motorized canoe and set off for a two and a half hour ride even further into the Amazon. Here were are on the boat:

Along the way we spotted a rare species of pink freshwater dolphins and saw the border of Peru at an even closer range. After studying there during the fall semester it was strange to see Peru from the other side.

After a gloriously breezy ride we arrived at our first encampment. We set our tents up beneath a canopy of leaves and readied ourselves for some adventure. And let me say that adventure, it came and took us by force. We hiked, canoed, and swam our way through the some of the most exciting few days that I can recall.

Recreational activities aside, we came to Yasuni with a research objective. In 2008, Ecuador was the first country to declare the unalienable rights of nature. Therefore, maintaining the preservation of Yasuni National Park is a crucial part of meeting the Millennium Development Goals. The ecological diversity within the park is unparalleled and because of it Yasuni was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1989. Inside this area live many indigenous groups, some whom have never contacted the outside world.

However, this sacred place is threatened by the natural resources that lie beneath its surfaces, namely oil. In 2007 the Ecuadorian government created the ITT Initiative, which claims to leave Ishpingo-Tiputini-Tambococha oil fields untapped in exchange for compensation from the international community for lost revenue. If exploited, the indigenous rights and the unalienable rights of nature will be seriously jeopardized.

With this knowledge, the ever-fearless team Ecuador wanted to see what the effects of the oil exploration process were on this piece of jungle. So after our two canoe rides we hiked an hour and trekked through waist-deep water to find the oil reservoirs. Look at us go:

And after our exploring, this is what we found on the other side (its the Ishpingo of ITT):

I am still not completely sure what to call this structure, but I think oil valve is the most accurate. I am still in awe of how it came out of nowhere, distracting us from the incredible greenery around it. Poking at its base with a stick released the oil fumes. So it was easy to imagine how building a pipeline from it would be extremely dangerous for the surrounding communities. If used, Ecuador would benefit economically, but not for long. Definitely not long enough to make up for the damage it would cause to the environment. Many people we met, even our guide, believe the current administration of Ecuador WILL break the ITT initiative and drill for oil. Only time will tell, but for the sake of Ecuador and the importance of biodiversity everywhere I sincerely hope that they do not.

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