Green vine snake, Yasuni National Park
Credit: Gallice

Yasuni National Park is a pristine piece of the Ecuadorian rainforest that is home the thousands of native species and the ancestral territory of the Huaorani indigenous people.

A national park anywhere is thought to be immune to the evils of urbanization, deforestation and oil prospecting, however, for Yasuni National Park this was not the case.

Prospectors found an oil reserve deep underground that holds 846 million barrels of oil, which is roughly 20 per cent of the country's proven oil reserve. With that, the prospectors wanted to commence drilling within the national park – more specifically in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) oil field.

In 2007 Ecuador president Rafael Correa proposed the Yasuni ITT Initiative. This initiative aimed to prevent the exploitation of the oil field in return for 50 per cent of the field’s total value, which would be $3.6 billion to be paid over the next 13 years from the international community. This brave initiative would preserve the biodiversity of the landscape, protect the indigenous people who have lived there for generations, and avoid an increase in CO2 emissions.

The initiative was officially launched in 2010, and by 2011 it had reached it $100 million goal. However, as time pressed on, international donations became slower and slower. Finally, on August 15, 2013, Rafael Correa's commission deemed that the economic results were insufficient, and the initiative was promptly shut down.

Why did the Yasuni ITT Initiative fail? Was it due to our materialistic consumer culture? Or was it the fault of the initiative’s promoters? Perhaps the tight global economy for this revolutionary initiative is responsible.

So what’s in store now for this pristine piece of rain forest? Various groups are already preparing to take the next step to protect this wilderness. There is a suggestion floating around that one per cent of the national park could be sacrificed, which in turn would yield $18 billion dollars.

However, within that one per cent are some 100,000 species of animals and plants, which can be found in few other places on the planet. In the minds of those willing to work to save this landscape, there is no room for compromise. One per cent will make way to another one per cent. Just giving away a little ultimately leads to a big loss.