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YASunidos trek to the highlands of the Ecuadorian Andes to defend rights of nature

Environment

Photo by Julien Gomba

An ecological defence organization in Ecuador called YASunidos held a news conference in the highlands of Rio Bamba on November 14, 2014 to announce a demand for the rights of nature in response to a planned massive pine tree plantation in the highlands of Páramo de Pallo-Tangabana.

The monoculture pine tree plantation will destroy the water cycle in this high mountain area. The pine trees absorb tremendous amounts of water and their disruption would cause death to existing mountain vegetation while destroying the habitat for High Andes wildlife. The collective YASunidos Chimborazo presented the demand to the constitutional court of Chimborazo calling for the defence of the rights of nature which are protected under the Ecuadorian Constitution.

In article 71 of the Constitution the rights of nature are established as follows: “All persons, communities, peoples and nationalities can exercise the public authority to defend the rights of nature.” Several members of this organization with supporters from many other groups were seen in front of the Court of Justice after presenting their demand which will now be considered in the Court of Justice.

The 200 hector pine tree monoculture plantation is planned by a private corporation, ERVIC A.A, with credit funding from the Ecuadorian government. It is owned by retired military captain Carlos Rhor Romeno. Romeno was partly responsible for a large gasoline spill in the water of the Galapagos Islands 10 years ago. Because of this action he is known as a person who has committed ecoside.

For two years, popular resistance has prevented the pine tree plantation from being initiated. Opposition is almost entirely supported by local communities who recognize the fragile ecology of the Andean Highlands. Scientific investigations have demonstrated that the impact of this planation on the water and the acidification of the soil constitute serious enough risks to discourage its construction.

Opponents also reject the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the pine plantation. Owners expect to make money using the monoculture pine trees as a carbon sink rationale for selling carbon credits. Acción Ecológica, a prominent Ecuadorian ecological organization, rejects carbon sinks for carbon credits, and CDMs because they have proven to be scams that fail to reduce emissions; they’re believed to merely delay significant and meaningful action to curb petroleum and coal extraction which is the main cause of anthropogenic climate chaos. At every step, Acción Ecológica and YASunidos have been working to keep fossil fuels in the ground.

YASunidos is an autonomous group of young people who have joined Acción Ecológica’s campaign in the Yasuni National Park in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest to keep oil in the ground. Despite the Ecuadorian government’s earlier commitment to leave some one billion barrels of oil in in the Yasuni, the government, under pressure from China, decided in August, 2013 to allow China to exploit the Yasuni region in a joint operation with the national oil corporation, PetroEcuador.

The Ecuadorian government had been prepared to leave the oil if the international community compensates the government by contributing approximately half the market value of the oil that would be produced. Throughout 2014, the YASunido network organized a national petition campaign that generated between over 700,000 signatures calling for a national referendum on the exploitation of the Ecuadorian Yasuni National Park. The government rejected this massive petition, citing “irregularities”, a ploy that reflects denial of democratic process that is protected in the Constitution.

On Saturday, November 15, a delegation of YASunidos members from across Ecuador - along with international supporters in solidarity with the defence of the highland region against monoculture plantations, including the planned pine tree plantation for Páramo de Pallo-Tangabana - travelled to the proposed plantation site by bus, foot and horseback on a pilgrimage to defend the natural environment. The trek brought together several groups concerned about the environment and the ways in which corporate profiteering is undermining the ecosphere. Indigenous organizations from Ecuador and nearby territories in Latin America also sent representatives on the trek to the site of the proposed plantation.

In December, YASunidos will join a road caravan from Mexico to the 2014 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Lima, Peru. This caravan of young people will participate in the peoples’ forum which brings together civil society organizations that are pressing for clear, fundamental and immediate steps to stop hydrocarbon production and climate-destroying emissions. YASunidos and the climate caravan expect to participate in an ethical tribunal that will hear evidence of ecoside by oil companies and their allies including governments which actively contribute to the destruction of the rainforest.

This peoples’ forum at the UN Conference brings together civil society organizations from across the world who are engaged in direct action to resolve civilization-threatening climate change that is facing all the people of the world.

In all these campaigns, the rights of Indigenous peoples to live in their territories without facing oil corporations or monoculture tree plantations are at the forefront. International solidarity has been forthcoming, including support from Friends of the Earth Canada where I, as that organizations’ Energy Advisor, joined the trek into the Paramo de Pallo-Tangabana On Novembr 15. This national and international solidarity recognizes that the destruction of the Paramo is also the destruction and undermining of the waterways and the massive oxygen producing capacity of the wider Amazon itself.

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