Last Chance to See Yasuni

Since Sustainable Summer’s inception, we’ve had many conversations with students, parents and educators about why Ecuador was the ideal location for our inaugural environmental summer programs for high school students. We’ve explained that Ecuador offers nearly unparalleled biodiversity relative to its size, and that it is undergoing a period of rapid growth and development. We’ve also frequently cited the fact that Ecuador is the only country to provide legal rights to nature in its constitution, and we’ve noted President Rafael Correa’s commitment to preserving Yasuni National Park, a UNESCO biosphere reserve deep in the Amazon rain forest.

As of this fall, though, Correa has changed his mind, and state-run oil companies will begin drilling in the park in the next five years. Correa’s ban on drilling was dependent upon the international community contributing 336 million dollars to compensate for lost oil revenue. Unfortunately, few countries stepped forward to donate to the Yasuni fund, and after five years, and only 13 million dollars raised, Correa called an end to the initiative.

While Correa claims less than 1% of the park will be open to oil extraction, the drilling will undoubtedly have a profound effect upon the local environment, and the local people. What that effect will be has yet to be seen, which is one of the reasons we feel it is important to offer students the opportunity to visit Yasuni National Park before the drilling begins.

This summer we’ll offer a two-week summer program for teens that travels deep into the Amazon rainforest, offering our students an opportunity to see Yasuní’s extraordinary plant and animal species firsthand before they are impacted by the arrival of extractive industries. We believe that the more people know about what is happening in Ecuador’s rainforests, the greater support there will be for future initiatives to preserve these vital ecosystems. Even though this generation has failed to stop what may become a devastating blow to the environment, perhaps the next generation will prove better able to take the necessary steps to preserve our planet.