Ecuador Wants Money to Save Its Rainforest

Just found this story reported on NPR’s blog ‘Planet Money’.

Apparently, Ecuador’s president Rafael Correra has claimed that he will protect the rainforests from oil drilling IF he is paid for it. Specifically, he would like half the price of the total oil predicted to be stored below the forest, which amounts to 3.6 billion dollars.  The global response has been mainly one of looking the other way – only 6.5 million dollars has been raised thus far.

This seems to be a  tough dilemma because, on the one hand, this proclamation could look like blackmail.  However, at the same time, in the words of Correra himself:

“The real dilemma is this: do we protect 100 percent of the Yasuní and have no resources to meet the urgent needs of our people, or do we save 99 percent of it and have $18 billion to fight poverty?”[1]

The reality of the situation is that Ecuador needs to maintain some sort of economy, and right now 44% of its revenue comes from oil [2].  To me, Correra’s proposition seems to be a balance between understanding the need for environmental protection and the necessity of maintaining income for Ecuador’s people.

Maybe it’s time we start thinking about spending money on protection plans such as this.  I imagine the problem now is that people see this as putting money into something with no return – they’re not getting a commodity (oil) or anything else.  But the money would be going toward species protection, carbon dioxide sequestration (the rainforest stores huge amounts of CO2 that would be released to the atmosphere and further augment global warming), prevention of native tribe displacement, among other things.  Investing money in protective actions such as this takesa shift in perspective from that traditional capitalistic perspective of local, short-term gains.

In the meantime, the drilling continues on…


1) Kestenbaum, David. “Ecuador to World: Pay Up to Save the Rainforest. World to Ecuador: Meh.”, Sept 2, 2013.

2) Gill, Nathan. “Ecuador Economic Growth Stagnates as Oil Drop Cuts Spending.”, Sept 2, 2013.

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