Friday, December 11, 2009 FULL SHOW | HEADLINES | PREVIOUS: Ahead of Major Climate Protests, a Rare Glimpse at Activist...
2009-12-11

"Keep the Oil in the Soil": Ecuador Seeks Money to Keep Untapped Oil Resources Underground

DONATE →
This is viewer supported news

As delegates discuss various ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, our next guest has a simple message: keep untapped oil in the ground. Ivonne Yanez is an environmental activist from Ecuador, one of the larger oil producing countries in Latin America. Ecuador is believed to be sitting on an oil reserve of hundreds of millions of barrels. But the oil is located in the Yasuni National Park, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Ecuador has launched a unique campaign to have the international community compensate the country in exchange for keeping the oil in the ground. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN:

We’re broadcasting in Copenhagen at the largest UN climate summit in history. As delegates discuss various ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, our next guest has a simple message: keep untapped oil in the ground. That’s oil in the soil.

Ivonne Yanez is an environmental activist from Ecuador, one of the larger oil producing countries in Latin America. Ecuador is believed to be sitting on an oil reserve of hundreds of millions of barrels. But the oil is located in the Yasuni National Park, one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. Ecuador has launched a unique campaign to have the international community compensate the country in exchange for keeping the oil in the soil. Ivonne Yanez joins us here in Copenhagen, she works with the Ecuadorian group Acción Ecológica. That’s Ecological Action.

Welcome to Democracy Now!

AMY GOODMAN:

Thank you very much, Amy.

IVONNE YANEZ:

You have been speaking out at the Klimaforum across town. Explain this campaign, oil in the soil.

IVONNE YANEZ:

OK. It’s a campaign that started many years ago in Ecuador, mainly because we have been suffering oil activities’ impacts in the Amazonía. So we thought that the unique way to save the forest is keeping oil underground all the time and to save, of course, the indigenous people living in those forests. But after that, linking with climate change, we thought that it could be a good idea also to launch this campaign internationally and say that the only effective, measurable way to fight climate change is, of course, leaving the oil in the soil and the coal in the hole and, of course, tar sand in the land.

AMY GOODMAN:

Wait a second, oil in the soil, coal in the hole, and tar sand in the land.

IVONNE YANEZ:

Yes. This is our slogan now. And it’s a slogan that was taken by other organizations, not only in Ecuador. We have groups in Brazil that want also to leave oil in the soil in Acre region. There are people in Peru that want to leave oil in the soil in one province, for example, in Loreto. There are people in Bolivian Amazon that want also to leave oil in the soil, the gas in the soil, in this case, and they are proposing Amazonía sin Petróleo.

And there are other groups, for example, in Nigeria, that they are making a statement for the government that it’s a better deal, in terms of economics, for Nigeria to leave the oil in the soil than to sell it internationally, because of the damages, because of the corruption linked with that, because of all the oil that has been stolen by the corrupted people there. So they are also asking to leave oil in the soil in the Niger Delta.

AMY GOODMAN:

You have been going to these climate conferences, what, since you were like thirty, in Rio in 1992.

IVONNE YANEZ:

Yes, that’s true. I have been in ’92 in the Rio summit, and since ’97, following international negotiations on climate change. And we have been promoting, since the beginning, not the campaign keep oil in the soil, but a moratorium to oil activities. And this is the same. I mean, a moratorium and keeping oil in the soil or just to declare free of oil peoples and territories. So we want to have nations emancipated of the dependence to oil and other fossil fuels. So we have been growing up, and we have been evoluting to this new concept of a new oil — post-oil civilization.

AMY GOODMAN:

So this idea of oil in the soil in Ecuador started with grassroots activists like you, Ivonne. But now your president, Correa, has adopted this.

IVONNE YANEZ:

Mm-hmm, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN:

And now Germany is taking the lead. I’m just looking at a piece right now on Der Spiegel online, “Germany Takes Lead in Saving Ecuador’s Rainforest.”

IVONNE YANEZ:

Yes. Two years ago, we had the luck to have environmentalist Energy Minister, Alberto Costa, the former one, and we presented him this idea: to say that Ecuador present this to the international community as an official and governmental position regarding climate change. And this is why Rafael Correa presented this, to keep the oil underground of one oil block that is located in the Yasuni National Park. But in —

AMY GOODMAN:

Where is the Yasuni National Park?

IVONNE YANEZ:

Where is it? In the Amazonía, in the east part of Ecuador. And this is one of the most biodiverse parks in the world. And most important, this is the ancestral territory of indigenous people that already are living with no contact with civilization. So the President, we’re asking, at the beginning, as a compensation from the international community, the polluter countries, to give to Ecuador, because we are making an effort, leaving this oil in the ground.

But also, this proposal changed. And now they are saying, “OK, we are not asking for a compensation,” because this is not a question that if we don’t us the money we are going to exploit oil. It’s not like that. It’s to say we are really making this effort, of course, but this is a contribution for humanity. But we live — our economy depends on oil incomes. So we say, OK, let’s create a solidarity fund with the industrialized countries giving money to this fund. And this is why Germany offered $50 million per year for thirty years. But other countries also offered: Italy, Spain. And other commitments become — came from other countries.

AMY GOODMAN:

The United States?

IVONNE YANEZ:

No, not the United States. But I think that our government is going to take contact with some US authorities. But in this case, I think that is not maybe a good idea, because they are thinking the possibility to ask for a contribution, but within the carbon market in US. And, of course, this is a change of the original proposal, because —

AMY GOODMAN:

What do you mean?

IVONNE YANEZ:

Because we don’t want — because as oil watch, we are against carbon trading. And I think that this Yasuni proposal to keep oil in the soil maybe is one of the most revolutionary proposals in the world, not only because of climate change, but because we are really trying to shift our society to a post-oil society. And, of course, as a plus, we are contributing to fight climate change. And we know that carbon trade is not good for climate. I think carbon trading is even increasing the emissions. So we cannot put this proposal, that is to save the planet, together with a proposal that is harmful to the climate and humanity, that is carbon trade. So we are asking the President to avoid this possibility to have funds in US within the carbon trade system there.

AMY GOODMAN:

And when you talk about carbon trading, the idea that a company could pollute, let’s say, up here in the United States, of course Chevron is involved in a major lawsuit with the Ecuadorian government —

IVONNE YANEZ:

Yes, yes.

AMY GOODMAN:

— suing them over pollution in the Amazon, that it could buy up land and say, “We’ll keep this as a preserve, but then we will pollute in another place.”

IVONNE YANEZ:

No, this is not the idea. I mean, the idea is that we have to leave oil there, and then in another place, and then in another place. So the idea is to really think in another word. It’s not to say, “OK, we are going to keep the oil here,” but our president is saying, “OK, we are going to take the oil in another place in the Amazonía.” So we are telling him, let’s start with this, and then with all the national park, to start an audit and to see what is going on there, and then an Ecuador with no oil.

AMY GOODMAN:

In our last thirty seconds — you spoke last night at the Klimaforum, and you were really stressing this issue of climate debt, which is not a very familiar term in the United States.

IVONNE YANEZ:

Yes, I know.

AMY GOODMAN:

Explain, very briefly, what it is.

IVONNE YANEZ:

Very briefly, the ecological debt is the responsibility that has industrialized countries with Southern countries, because of historical damages, the pludding —- pluddering of our resources -—

AMY GOODMAN:

The plundering of the resources.

IVONNE YANEZ:

Plundering — contamination of our lands. And this is an historical present. And if we continue with this system, we’ll be also in the future increasing and increasing this ecological debt. And I think that, for example, the ChevronTexaco case should be recognized as — not because Chevron only polluted and should compensate the people there, but should be seen as a repayment, a restitution of the ecological debt.

AMY GOODMAN:

We’re going to have to leave it there.

IVONNE YANEZ:

Yes.

AMY GOODMAN:

I want to thank you very much for being with us, Ivonne Yanez, joining us in Copenhagen, though she lives in Quito, Ecuador, works with Ecuadorian Action, which is called Acción Ecológica.

IVONNE YANEZ:

One second, I would like to give you this. This is our slogan.

AMY GOODMAN:

Leave the oil in the soil, the coal in the hole, and tar sand in the land. Thank you very much, Ivonne.

IVONNE YANEZ:

Maybe it is big for you, but you can give to your program.

Show Full Transcript ›
‹ Hide Full Transcript

Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.