Ahead of the Food Revolt, Fabricio Guaman writes on a groundbreaking scheme to avoid exploiting Ecuadorian petroleum reserves. Members of the Ecuadorian food co-op Zapallo Verde will be in Fife for the gathering on 12 November. According to scientific studies, in an area of 9,820 km2 of Amazonian Ecuador, 150 species of amphibian, 121 species of reptile, 598 bird species and around 200 mammals can be found living in a thick forest made up of 2,113 species of plant, which only includes those that have been identified. This all makes up Yasuní, the most bio diverse area on the planet, holding more animal species per hectare than the whole of Europe. It is no wonder that the indigenous inhabitants, some of whom are still completely isolated from civilization, all translate the word ‘yasuní’ the same way as ‘sacred land’. Fabricio Guaman describes the Yasuni project:

The Yasuní-ITT Initiative is a proposal of the government of Rafael Correa that will preserve 20% of Ecuador’s petroleum reserves underground in exchange for a financial contribution of 50% of the earnings that would be generated if such reserves were exploited for profit. This proposal will prevent the exploitation of about 850 million barrels of petroleum in a region of the Yasuní National Park, a protected area that is one of the world’s most biodiverse regions, as well as the home of several diverse indigenous populations, such as the Waorani and Quechua, as well as the Tagaeri and Taromenane communities, which live in voluntary isolation.

Based on the principle of common but differentiated responsibility in relation to global environmental problems, as described by the United Nations (UN), Ecuador has requested that the international community contribute $3.6 billion over 13 years. The implementation of this initiative will benefit not only Ecuador, but humanity as a whole, as it will prevent the emission of about 410 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as deforestation, thereby promoting both the conservation of biodiversity in the Amazon and respect for the indigenous peoples living in that territory. The Yasuní-ITT project has set Ecuador as a global standard for the preservation of biodiversity and for combating climate change.

On August 3, 2010, Ecuador and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) signed an agreement establishing a monetary fund to accept financial contributions from the international community. In this way, Ecuador created an important precedent in the international community, as this tool guarantees legality and legitimacy for the management of the fund across the globe. All of the money received from contributions goes into a “capital fund” which will be used to finance the development of renewable hydroelectric, geothermal, wind or solar energy sources, in order to implement the government’s plan to transform the national energy grid and gradually reduce the use of fossil fuels. This “capital fund” will generate 7% interest, which will go towards a “revenue fund” that will be channeled toward the following five areas of action: 1. Prevent deforestation and effectively conserve 44 protected areas representing 4.8 million hectares, or 20% of Ecuadorian territory; 2. Naturally reforest and regenerate one million hectares of degraded ecosystems (thereby reducing the rate of deforestation in Ecuador, one of the highest in Latin America); 3. Develop energy efficiency; 4. Start repaying the social debt, prioritizing the Amazonian population, through investments in education, health, housing and job creation in sustainable activities such as ecotourism; 5. Invest in science and technology with a medium-to-long term objective of changing the country’s development model.

Most remarkably, the Yasuní-ITT Initiative represents a first step in building a new model of civilization in which social justice and ecological urgency can be articulated. It also represents a good alternative to the extractivist development model and sets a precedent for building a society based on the concept of Buen Vivir, or “Good Living”; hence, its relationship to the National Plan for Buen Vivir (NPBV), the Ecuadorian government’s broad, national vision of a new development model aimed at building a society based on bioknowledge. The Yasuní-ITT proposal offers us a new vision of society and of development that does not pursue wealth and growth, but rather the improvement of relations between human beings and between humans and nature.

All of these concepts (Buen Vivir and the rights of nature, bioknowledge) transcend the anthropocentric gaze, which sees nature as a mere object that can be assigned exchange-value or use-value, according to its “commercial utility”. Instead, these concepts connect us to a biocentric logic, in which all living species are equally important and deserve to be protected.

Knowledge about biodiversity and its protection are closely linked to bioknowledge, the key element in achieving a society based on Buen Vivir, as promoted by the Ecuadorian government through its NPBV. The Yasuní-ITT proposal is, thus, a fundamental pillar of this policy, since it increases Ecuador’s ability to address its social debt repayment by developing sustainable activities, changing the productive and energy models and promoting the recuperation of the environment by halting deforestation and the degradation of forests and land.

We invite all Ecuadorians and the international community to participate in these fundamental discussions aimed at securing a better future for all and to help initiatives such as Yasuní-ITT. The countries of the Northern Hemisphere that owe the greatest ecological debt to the rest of the world are not contributing financially to this initiative. However, given the political, ecological, cultural, social and economic importance of the initiative, we all must continue working to ensure that this project becomes a reality.

Let’s stand up for change and for a better future! Let’s contribute to the Yasuní-ITT Initiative!

Learn more and contribute here: http://mdtf.undp.org/yasuni