“A novel proposal by Ecuador is testing world leaders’ commitment to fight global warming and preserve the biodiversity of the Earth.”

The Ecuadorian government announced it will leave untapped oil reserves in the heart of the Amazon untouched (1, 2). Ecuador will only do so if the international community compensates its citizens for their sacrifice. The reserves would produce an estimate 900 million barrels of oil, or an estimated 350 million dollars per year (they do not expect full compensation, but roughly half). Ecuador’s President says they will wait one year and gauge the response of the international community. I do not know very much about Ecuadorian politics at all, or how the money would be distributed.

Ecuador has certainly explored and exploited its oil reserves in the past (3). Regardless, this development is encouraging and an innovative approach to international land management. The Amazon is often referred to as “the lungs of the world.” It is very difficult to place a monetary value on any aspect of our natural world, and I think it is great that Ecuador has decided to use this approach. The US does not treat its few remaining wild places with such respect, and we have the means to!

Notes:

1. The oil reserves in question are located in indigenous territory known as Ishapingo-Tiputini-Tambococha (ITT), within the boundaries of a designated “biosphere reserve” according to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

2. Petrobas is already performing oil exploration in the area (and thus having an environmental impact).

3. The biggest environmental lawsuit in history is happening in Ecuador, and it has to do with the development of another oil field in a region known as Lago Agrio – and it is a very interesting story. Perhaps this environmental disaster will prevent another, and encourage a new approach to environmental economics?