A Triumph for Nature and Humanity: How Ecuador Said “Yes to Yasuní!”
“We humans are taking action to save our planet during these times of climate crisis,” said Leonidas Iza, president of Conaie, Ecuador’s umbrella Indigenous federation. In a historic move on August 20, 2023, the people of Ecuador collectively chose to protect one of the most biodiverse regions on the planet: the Yasuní National Park. Read about this triumph for nature and humanity and how Ecuador said “Yes to Yasuni”. Watch Yasuni Man, the film that put this bio-diverse region on the map.
A Decade-Long Struggle for Conservation
The story isn’t a new one; it’s been a decade-long fight led by Indigenous activists and environmental stewards. Their commitment and hard work paid off when Ecuadorians voted overwhelmingly to end oil drilling in the Yasuní National Park. Specifically, 59% said a resounding ‘no’ to oil excavation in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) region, a part of the park so rich in biodiversity that it’s often called the “lungs of the Earth.”
Yasuní: More Than Just a Forest
For those unfamiliar with the Yasuní National Park, this is no ordinary stretch of woods. We’re talking about a place so teeming with life that per hectare, Yasuní is home to more biodiversity than anywhere else on Earth. But it’s not just plants and animals that thrive here. Indigenous communities, like the Tagaeri and Taromenani people, coexist peacefully with this rich tapestry of life. These communities have depended on a thriving Yasuní for generations, living in what some might call “voluntary isolation.”
Why This Matters: The Global Impact
Ecuadorians didn’t just vote for their own benefit. According to Rachel Biderman, who leads Conservation International’s programs in South America, “the vote to ban oil drilling… is a win for not only one nation but for the entire world.” Yasuní and the Andean Chocó region, another biodiversity hotspot protected by this referendum, are critical not just as natural habitats but as bulwarks against climate change. In a world grappling with environmental crisis, these decisions represent a beacon of hope. They show that people, when given a choice, opt for a sustainable future.
A Ripple Effect Across the Economy
Ecuador has become the first country in the world to halt oil drilling through direct climate democracy, despite the enormous economic pressures the nation faces. Even before the vote, financial rating agency Fitch had downgraded Ecuador’s credit score due to an anticipated fall in oil output. However, the people chose long-term ecological stability over short-term economic gain, signaling a path toward a post-extractive economic model that prizes nature and sustainability.
The Fight Continues
However, it’s essential to note that the battle isn’t over. The recent vote only applies to ITT, which is roughly 1% of the national park. Oil production continues in other parts of the park and on Indigenous lands. As Pedro Bermeo, founding member of Yasunidos, an activist group, put it: “The greatest national consensus at this time is in the defense of nature, the defense of Indigenous peoples and nationalities, the defense of life.”
In Conclusion: A Major Win but Still a Long Journey Ahead
It’s not just a story of a national referendum; it’s a tale of humanity coming together for the greater good. The outcome has been uplifting, but the journey has just begun. Grassroots movements and Indigenous communities must continue their vigilance to ensure the government respects this landmark decision.
So, let’s join hands virtually (or why not, literally!) to celebrate this remarkable achievement. Cheers to the people of Ecuador for showing the world that when it comes to the battle between nature and industry, nature has a fighting chance! 🌿🌏✊
Watch YASUNI MAN documentary
the story of where it all started.
“The results are in! Not only did 60% Ecuadorians choose YES to protect YASUNI, but they did the same for the Choco Andino. Happy my film #yasuniman could be a little part of this movement, way back when Yasuni was mostly unknown. Now it’s on the global stage showing the world that it is time to protect our planet.” ~ Ryan Killackey
“The people of Ecuador have overwhelmingly voted in favour of Yasuni National Park, the Waorani people, and the unparalleled biodiversity of the region. Oil drilling has been banned. Watch Ryan Patrick Killackey’s vital film – Yasuni Man – to find out why.” ~ Journeyman Pictures
Duration: 1 hour 38 minutes
Filmmaker: Ryan Killackey
WATCH NOW Vimeo on Demand
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“Yasuni Man” is a gripping 90-minute film that showcases the pristine beauty of one of Earth’s most biodiverse regions – the Yasuni biosphere reserve. Crafted by the tenacious US biologist, Ryan Killackey, who battled numerous obstacles, from bullet ant stings to severe illnesses, to document the pressing story of a secluded forest community now threatened by US and Chinese oil interests.
The film comes at a pivotal moment in Yasuni’s history. Back in 2007, the Ecuadorian government launched an international fundraiser, offering to leave $7.2 billion worth of oil untouched if half of that value was donated for the area’s protection. However, with a mere $13 million raised, President Rafael Correa greenlit drilling in 2013. The documentary reveals the unsettling presence of oil companies in the area even before the fund-raising was concluded. It also provides a rare glimpse into the life and culture of the indigenous Waorani community in Boanamo, capturing their daily rituals, hunting expeditions, and the rich biodiversity surrounding them – from giant green anacondas to new species discovered by leading biologists.
Through the lens of Killackey, viewers also witness the grim reality of oil corporations drawing nearer, constructing infrastructure that paves the way for land exploitation and jeopardizing the indigenous communities. A desperate struggle between conservationists and oil interests plays out in Yasuni Man, as the indigenous peoples living in the heart of the Ecuadorian Amazon struggle to preserve their way of life against encroaching modernity. Filmmaker and biologist Ryan Patrick Killackey documents the staggering biodiversity of the Yasuni region at risk of destruction alongside the Waorani people who call it home.
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