“This summer, a court in Ecuador issued a ruling with profound implications for the urgent fight to save the imperiled Amazon rainforest. The decision effectively blocked a planned government oil-auction that threatened half-a-million acres of some of the world’s most biodiverse primary rainforest. The broad outlines of the situation are sadly familiar to similar cases found throughout the Amazon region: In pursuit of foreign investment, the government sought to partner with foreign firms to develop large swaths of ecologically fragile rainforest. As is often the case, these forests were the ancestral lands of indigenous inhabitants who were not informed about — and did not approve — the arrival of industry on their territory.
The Waorani villagers-turned-plaintiffs have millennia deep roots in the region. They have seen the effects of oil blocks in other parts of the Ecuadorian Amazon, and knew that the planned auction threatened their survival and way of life. They also knew their rights: Like all indigenous peoples, they hold an internationally recognized right to informed consent when it comes to the “development” of their ancestral lands. When indigenous people fight to defend and enforce these rights, they are protecting their future and ours. The fate of the global climate hinges on empowering the indigenous peoples who help preserve nearly a quarter of the Amazon across seven nations, and who represent a powerful buffer against the destruction of a biosphere that regulates our planet’s flows of oxygen, carbon and freshwater…” Continue reading