On Dec. 4, the government of Ecuador arbitrarily dissolved the non-profit organization Fundación Pachamama, the Ecuadorean contingent from the San Francisco-based Pachamama Alliance. Pachamama, which looks to give voice to indigenous communities whose ancestral homelands are being devastated or laid waste by industrial exploitation, has been supportive of the Achuar people and their non-violent resistance against expanded oil drilling in virgin Amazon rainforest.
The government of Ecuador is now mired in what appears to be yet another round of dealmaking, which would see the government handing over vast swaths of protected land to oil drilling and other forms of fossil fuel exploitation. The record, to date, is atrocious: Ecuador is possibly home to the worst planned environmental disaster in world history.
Decades of oil extraction in the Ecuadorean Amazon led to toxic contamination of groundwater and of the soil itself, as one after another drilling operation dumped drilling waste and spillover oil into “pits” with no lining, no containment mechanism and no plan for environmental or human safety. The process of clearing, paving, drilling, pumping and dumping, was planned from the start and led to more carcinogenic petroleum sludge being dumped into pristine rainforest than by any other means, anywhere.
Many believe it may be the worst environmental crime ever committed by industry, and the government of Ecuador has wavered between outrage and complicity, for more than a decade. Groups like Pachamama have sought to bring this injustice to light, and to establish practices that would prevent any such eventuality from becoming possible again.
A press release from the Pachamama Alliance reads, in part:
The government’s action comes on the heels of indigenous protests last week against Ecuador’s plans to open some 2.6 million hectares of rainforest to new oil drilling. The oil auction only received three offers, and was widely deemed a failure. President Correa lashed out in a weekend television address, falsely accusing Fundación Pachamama of fomenting violence during a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Hydrocarbons, though no members of the organization were involved. Fundación Pachamama plans to appeal the government’s decision before the Ministry of the Environment.
“The real reason the government has targeted Fundación Pachamama is because of the effectiveness of their work,” said Bill Twist, CEO and co-founder of The Pachamama Alliance, their sister organization based in San Francisco. “This is an attempt to keep them from doing their work, and chill their rights to free speech and assembly,” he continued.
Now, once again, Ecuador seeks to draw massive volumes of fossil capital into its economy by displacing indigenous people, destroying virgin rainforest and killing life-sustaining ecosystems. The project is almost certainly a kind of planned ecocide, and seeks to capitalize on the rigged global market that makes fossil fuels look cheap. The Achuar and other communities will bear the brunt of the costs.
Elsewhere in the Andes, such arbitrary displacement efforts have led to non-violent protests as well, and a resistance movement has been spreading, over the last 20 years. In Perú, just south of Ecuador, the previous government used military force to support the interests of fossil fuel companies who wanted to carry out an extraction and exploitation plan of the kind now under discussion for Ecuador. Snipers actually fired on unarmed protesters, from positions high above a march at Bagua. The mass killing came to be known as the Bagua massacre.
The cruel slaughter of innocent protesters prompted local tribal elders to favor arming for self defense, which led to the government alleging there was a national security interest in opposing the protests with all necessary force. Then Pres. Alán García referred to the local communities as “citizens who are not of the first class” and explicitly said his government’s policy was to move them off the land “for the benefit of millions of other Peruvians”. In Perú, as in Ecuador, a fundamental misunderstanding of value in relation to energy production supported these crimes against humanity.
Today, the people of the United States find themselves in a position to be using oil extracted by these means. The government of Ecuador, where the US dollar is the official currency, has arbitrarily dissolved a human rights organization, in order to support an economically unnecessary and egregiously destructive form of oil exploration and extraction. This is totalitarian, anti-democratic behavior, intended specifically to oppose the engagement of basic liberties.
All of the people of the United States should oppose any effort, by any entity participating in the economic landscape they inhabit, to use Ecuadorean oil, and demand of their public officials that intense and immediate pressure be put on the government of Ecuador to restore, honor and protect the rights of organizations like Fundación Pachamama, to work for the benefit of defenseless, voiceless, remote populations at risk in the virgin Amazon.
We can build a more robust energy economy—not only in Europe and North America, but across the world, and in the less industrialized far reaches of Ecuador’s interior—if we focus our efforts on clean, renewable resources. Fossil fuel extraction and exploitation in Ecuador’s rainforest will destroy much of the nation’s most valuable resources, while transferring all of the wealth created through an unsustainable, unaffordable, rigged market, to foreign interests, leaving Ecuador’s interior and the majority of Ecuador’s population worse off than ever.
Please visit Geoversiv’s original article page for updates, as we move forward on detailing means by which Ecuador, Perú and other nations, with Amazonian and Andean geographies, can develop a smart, robust, 100% clean, renewable energy economy that will enrich local populations and spark economic development of the kind that provides a viable future for a nation and its people.
There is more than enough wind, sun, water and geothermal energy in the region to supply all human needs and to provide excess energy for export, and it can be done without causing irreparable harm to vital ecosystems or to human communities. Geoversiv Envisioning is now on the case and looks to provide guidance as to the building of this smarter, better, more humane and sustainable local+export energy economy.
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Originally published Dec. 11, 2013, at Geoversiv.com