Oil is profitable, but it cannot protect the Amazon. - Liberty

Saturday, October 14, 2023

Oil is profitable, but it cannot protect the Amazon.


Daniel Huepihue Cahuiya Iteca is the president of Yarentaro, an indigenous village in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Erin Schaff

Imagine your first contact with Western culture was at an oil company.

Ever since I visited Yarentaro, a Huaorani indigenous village in the Ecuadorian Amazon, I've been trying to imagine it.

The Huaorani were semi-nomadic hunters in the 1950s and the 1960s, to whom missionaries and oil companies arrived in search of soul and wealth. In the decades that followed, their world changed rapidly as oil companies occupied vast territories for drilling.

Today I would like to talk about Yarentaro. The people of Yarentaro must accept the consequences of society's failure to recognize the environmental services that rainforests and other places have long provided free of charge.

What I'm talking about are the rain clouds that form over the trees here and help nourish crops across the continent, the carbon that warms the earth as trees and other plants grow, and the forest against the planet. (Forests and the creatures that live in them are very likely to teach us things that science has not yet figured out.

In October, the community of about 90 visited with his Times colleagues Katrin Einhorn and Elin Shaff in one of the most biodiverse places on earth, Yasuni National Park. Nearby. I have. I have. It's also a short walk from an oil company well.

Ana Kupe Tegawani is a woman in her 50s and one of the community elders. A missionary warned her through her interpreter that oil was coming decades ago. I still remember that moment. he said he remembered. She recalled that it was around the same time she first discovered sugar. Her unfamiliar taste disgusted her and made her vomit.

One of her jarring points is that Ecuador has decided to dig forests to lift its people out of poverty, but the standard of living in Yarentaro is incredibly low. This is a common theme here in the Amazon, where most of the country's oil is found.

Tiputini river in Yasuni region. Erin Schaff

Plastic wrappings and bags litter much of the community, a reminder that people here had little support to deal with the consequences of our Western lifestyle.

But what hurts most of all is their lack of education. Here, like Ana, most people over the age of 20 don't speak Spanish.

Community president Daniel Huepifue Cauja Iteka said, "I want my daughters to study and prepare for college and get scholarships."

At the same time, Yarentaro also had a problem with the forest.

The Yasuni region is home to two indigenous tribes of hers who refuse contact with Western society and live a so-called self-isolated lifestyle. Called tagaeri or talomenan, they are semi-nomadic people who survive entirely in the jungle and hunt with spears and blowguns.

Advocates we spoke to said oil exploration and logging fueled conflicts between isolated peoples and other groups, including Huaorani, who have witnessed at least three massacres in the past two decades. . I got

In 2013, an elderly Waorani couple in Yarentaro was speared to death by isolated indigenous people. The people of Yarentaro accuse him of killing in a nearby oil field where loud machinery blares day and night.

“Brother Talomenan hates noise,” said Cauija, the community leader. "They blame us for it."

The residents of Yarentaro retaliated, and dozens of Talomenans were reportedly killed. Katja said he lives in fear of another attack.

However, the presence of talomenan has helped forests. Governments must protect their territories from oil exploitation. Despite the violence, Cahuiya feels obligated to protect them.

"The company has done a lot of damage," he said. "I want to be Waorani. I want to be free to follow my own path."

Cahuiya's struggle represents the universal challenge of finding a way to live in harmony with nature and thrive in a world built on abundant oil.

Despite the dire consequences of the climate and biodiversity crises we are already facing, environmentalists have not been so optimistic about the future for quite some time. Comprehensive agreements for protection have been approved in nearly every country.

These governments face a difficult question: How do we fix a financial system that generously compensates for oil extraction without valuing existing forests that provide essential services to the entire planet?

Our ability to adapt to the climate and biodiversity crisis may depend on finding answers.

Leer en español: Ecuador trató de frenar la extracción de petróleo y proteger la Amazonía, pero sucedió lo contrario.

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