On December 10th I attended a press conference in which leaders of indigenous communities from Ecuador and Peru spoke about newly discovered developments by their countries’ governments to increase oil drilling in the Amazon.
Firstly, the indigenous leaders spoke about why it is important that these lands be protected, rather than exploited. Not only is the Amazon a hotspot for biodiversity, it is also the sacred land of many indigenous communities. These communities not only live off the land, but they also have a spiritual connection to the area that go back generations. As a result of previous oil drilling, cancer rates within these indigenous communities have increased over the years, as well as increased water contamination and other health issues related to petroleum by-products. As a result of this environmental injustice, indigenous leaders have started a coalition in order to mobilize and get their voices heard, and to hopefully stop oil drilling. Despite post-colonial made borders, indigenous communities of Ecuador and Peru have banded together to stop the proliferation of drilling.
Working closely with the indigenous communities of the Amazon, Kevin Koening published a report which found that despite public statements and press releases, the governments of Peru and Ecuador are actually trying to expand oil fields. Koening found documents stating that Peru and Ecuador actually want to leave OPEC in order to no longer be constrained by the rules of the agreement. Additionally, there is talks of a new joint pipeline between Ecuador and Peru to decrease transportation costs of oil of the two countries.
Koenig states that the push for increased oil production comes from debts to China. 94% of Ecuador’s revenue from oil is currently given to China in order to pay of a $6billiion dollar debt. Moreover, Ecuador is the second biggest exporter of oil for California. As long as demand for this oil does not decrease, proliferation of oil drilling projects will continue. This is where the injustice stems from – despite not contributing to Ecuador’s large debt, indigenous communities are strongly suffering in the efforts of the government to try to ratify its mistake. This is why indigenous communities are speaking out. They are disproportionally being negatively affected by the oil drilling projects of the government.
Read More about Koenig’s report here: https://amazonwatch.org/news/2019/1209-the-amazon-sacred-headwaters
Indigenous leaders at the press panel spoke about their deep resentment towards the state for the lack of protections for the indigenous populations of their country. While the countries’ public stance is love and conservation of the Amazon, their actions speak differently. Indigenous leaders called for the cessation of oil drilling in the Amazon, as well as the adoption of a New Green Deal for the Amazon, which focuses on conservation and restoration.
It was really empowering to see all of these indigenous leaders have a seat at the table and be able to speak out against the actions of the government. Also, the fact that this was televised was great, allowing their voices to be heard by an even broader audience.