THE AMAZON PINK DOLPHIN 23/6/2017
The Amazon Pink Dolphin is the official blog of SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras
Opinion: What China and California have in common — the Amazon?
By Leila Salazar-López |
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, left, leaves the stage accompanied by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, center, and California Gov. Jerry Brown during a US-China economy forum in 2012 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Los Angeles Times, Robert Gauthier, Pool )
At a time when President Trump is moving the country in the wrong direction on climate change, Gov. Jerry Brown’s bold moves to place the state at the forefront are most welcome. His trip to China is no exception. He urged the country to be the world’s climate enforcer and asked for its help on further greening California’s economy.
But before making California an enthusiastic partner of China on climate action, Brown must address the significant climate impact of China’s foreign investments and of California’s contributions to those impacts.
That’s because Chinese funding of fossil fuel infrastructure in the Amazon, and California’s imports of much of that oil, generate a triple carbon impact: from the burning of the oil, the emissions released when cutting down the rainforest, and the destruction of the world’s largest carbon sink.
The Amazon rainforest is one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world. It’s essential to preserve in order to combat climate change. Yet today, Ecuador is opening up new, pristine Amazon indigenous rainforest territory to oil drilling, funded and propelled by China. And, though it seems counterintuitive, much of Ecuador’s oil ends up in California.
Chinese development banks and state-run companies have invested heavily across Latin America, including in Ecuador, in the past several years. Since 2010, the China Development Bank and China Export-Import Bank have provided $15.2 billion in loans.
Many of these loans must be paid by the sale of oil or fuel from Ecuador’s state-run Petroecuador to China’s state-run PetroChina International. After the recent collapse of crude prices, Ecuador must now drill even more oil to service its debt. Chinese investment is thus driving a new and destructive oil boom in the Amazon rainforests of Ecuador.
Instead of going to China, however, roughly 60 percent of Ecuador’s Amazon crude makes its way to the US, and more than half of that to California. It is processed in California refineries and sold throughout the state, as Amazon Watch revealed in a 2016 study.
California ranks third in the nation for refining capacity and, in 2016, about 10 percent of its fuel stock came from the Western Amazon. In fact, Ecuador ranks second only to Saudi Arabia in supplying crude oil to these refineries.
The impacts of drilling in the Amazon rainforest are dire both for its world-renowned biodiversity – areas of Ecuador’s Amazon boast some of the highest rates of species diversity and endemism in the world – and its indigenous peoples, many of whom have long rejected controversial drilling plans on their lands.
These forests and people already suffered through the world’s largest environmental disaster in history due to previous oil drilling by companies like Texaco (now Chevron) and state-run oil companies. The risks that the Amazon rainforest and its indigenous protectors face cannot be ignored if Brown and China truly want to prevent climate catastrophe.
As long as the current U.S. administration will not provide leadership on climate, it is important for California to look elsewhere for willing and able partners. But the state must assess the full climate impacts of its own supply chains, and assure that its partners do, in fact, have a commitment to global climate leadership.
With so much Amazon crude coming to California, spurred by Chinese investments, Brown has an incredible opportunity to contribute to the protection of the Amazon rainforest and to triple the reduction of California’s climate impact. He can act to end Amazon crude. We hope he will seize this opportunity.
Source: The Mercury News
The Ecuadorian Amazon Region is home to 11 identified indigenous civilizations. The Quichuas and the Shuar being the most numerous followed by the Achuar, Cofan, Huaorani, Secoya, Shiwar, Siona, Taromenani, Tagaeri and Zaparo. Population estimates for 2010 fluctuate between 105,000 to 120,000 indigenous inhabitants.
Geographically the region forms the principal headwaters of the Amazon River basin, which is the source of 18% of our planet’s daily fresh water supply. The Ecuadorian Amazon represents 30% of the world’s biodiversity as it comprises the largest and most species-rich tract of tropical rainforest in the world; roughly 40,000 plant and tree species, 3,000 fish, 1,560 birds, 430 mammals, 420 amphibians, and 380 reptiles have been classified, including an almost infinite number of insect species.
Indigenous communities have inhabited the Amazon for over ten thousand years, with total population estimates reaching two million in the early twentieth century. Prior to 1950, their society can best be categorized as nomadic hunters and gatherers, who followed the migration patterns of animals within a boarder free geographical area of approximately 13 million hectares.
Their social structures were based on extended families, governed by a Shaman or Curaca whose authority followed patriarchal lineage. Amazon indigenous culture is based in the equilibrium and reciprocity between humans and flora and fauna. The Rainforest is the genesis of traditions, spiritual life and ancestral medicine, and constitutes the essence of cultural values.
Indigenous medicine is particularly significant and an important contribution for human civilization. Its preservation should be of primordial interest for humanity. More than 700 endemic species of plants are used for medicinal purposes. These account for 25% of all western pharmaceuticals while, in contrast, they represent less than 10% of the plant species utilized in Indigenous medicine.
The development process that expanded into the Ecuadorian Amazon as of approximately 1950, totally contradicted the socio-economic and political rationality of Amazonian Indigenous culture.
While it is beyond the scope of this presentation to provide an in-depth analysis of this process, the consequences and impact on the Indigenous communities should be highlighted.
- Land concessions to oil and lumber companies, combined with the expansion of the agricultural frontier, drastically reduced ancestral lands, especially for the Cofanes, Secoyas and Sionas. Within 50 years their areas of influence were reduced from approximately 4 million hectares to: Cofanes; 148,907 hectares divided into three separate reserves; Secoyas; 39,444 hectares; and Sionas; 47,888 hectares.
- Demographic pressure on reserve lands seriously compromised their hunter and gatherer economy. By 1980 the Rainforest was no longer the sole provider for their subsistence, and the communities were forced to adapt to an emerging market economy in order to satisfy their basic needs. Labour opportunities are scarce, and agricultural activities introduced by the Ecuadorian state and international agencies, primarily coffee and cocoa, only generate monthly incomes of $ 29 per family. The Amazon communities became semi-sedentary, submerged in conditions of extreme poverty. External influences undermined the prevailing social organisation with the gradual disintegration of extended families and the emergence of nuclear family units. The previously uncontested power and influence of the traditional leaders is eroding.
- The combination of extreme poverty, deforestation, oil induced pollution and diseases such as flu, measles, malaria, small pox and tuberculosis, which accompanied the development process and to which the communities have no immunity, decimated the Indigenous population. While general statistics concerning Indigenous mortality rates are almost inexistent, case studies for the Cofan, Secoya and Siona settlements are very disturbing. We have documented a drastic decline amongst the Secoya and Siona population living next to the Aguarico River – approximately 73% and 60% respectively. The plight of the Cofan community is particularly bleak. Prior to 1960, the total population of the Cofanes was estimated at 15,000 people. Today only 650 Cofanes survive, a shocking 95.7% demographic decline.
- Doctors associated with SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras have identified the following tropical diseases present in the area: • Protozoan infections, chronic amoeba infirmity. • Helianthus bacterial infections. • Ector-parasite conditions. • Tuberculosis • Malaria and hepatitis, which afflicts 25% of the population. • Health problems related to oil pollution and toxic waste contamination include fever, dysentery, headaches dermatitis, nausea, dizziness, abdominal pains, blindness, premature abortions and foetus deformation, skin and stomach cancer.
Oil in the Amazon has been particularly devastating. Daily dumping of 4.3 million gallons of untreated toxic wastes into the environment and oil spills, the equivalent of 30 million barrels to date, are seriously threatening indigenous communities, flora and fauna alike. Many species, such as the pink fresh water dolphin, which dates back 50 million years to the Eocene period – the beginning of the Age of Mammals -, are endangered and on the brink of extinction.
Unfortunately, we are forced to conclude that natural beauty and harmony are not necessarily constant variables within the history of human development. Since the middle of the 20th century, with the expansion of the oil industry and the emergence of the cocaine trade, the Colombian and Ecuadorian Amazonian frontier has become one of the five most conflictive boarder regions in the world. A tale of different and contradictory rationalities under one roof, providing empirical evidence to substantiate Rachel Carson’s observation that “ the rapidity of change and the speed with which new situations are created follow the impetuous and heedless pace of man rather than the deliberate pace of nature.”
Editorial comment by Mariana Almeida & Pieter Jan Brouwer
Gustavo López Ospina
Editor: Pieter Jan Brouwer
All Title photographs of the Amazon Pink fresh water Dolphin are the creation of Kevin Schafer.