14 Apr 2009
"Message from Penti Baihua, Coordinator of Ome Gompote Kiwigimoni Huaorani
My name is Penti Baihua. My people, the Huaorani, have lived in the Amazon Rainforest, in the area known as Yasuni, since before the arrival of the European peoples in the Americas, since before the country of Ecuador was created. We call the rainforest “omede.” We care for her because she gives us everything: food, water, medicine, shelter, and more. She gives us life and our way of life. Without the forest, we could not survive.
My father is Ahua. He is a great warrior, he defended our Huaorani territory with spears. Now I must defend our territory and the forest, omede, with documents and law, speaking Spanish, and travelling far away like the harpy eagle.
I want to thank my friend Bopo for bringing a message that needs to be included in your Yasuni Green Gold campaign. I have two very important things to say:
1. The first thing I want to say is that the oil in the place known as “ITT” – and in all of the area now known as “The Intangible Zone” – must stay in the ground. (The Intangible Zone is a 758,051-hectare area of forest in the Yasuni area, which has which has been designated by the government as a conservation area, off-limits to oil companies and loggers, since 1999. It includes most of the ITT, and additional lands.) The oil must stay in the ground in the ITT and The Intangible Zone because it is our home. If the oil companies destroy all of Yasuni, where will we live?
Since the arrival of the first oil company, Texaco (now part of Chevron), the Huaorani people have suffered many injuries and violations of our human rights. Our traditional territory has been invaded by outsiders who clear the forest, scare away the animals, and contaminate waters, soils, and air. New diseases have sickened and even killed members of our families, and we have been told that our Huaorani culture is savage and sinful, and that the Huaorani people must change and abandon our traditions and way of life.
But we do not want our Huaorani culture and life to disappear. In my community, Bameno, and in other communities in Yasuni, we are proud to live as Huaorani, in harmony with our rainforest environment. We want our children, and our children’s children, to continue to enjoy the benefits of our culture and way of life. Our shaman, Kemperi, has explained why we do not want more oil companies to come, in a message to the peoples who live where the oil companies come from:
“My message is that we are living here. We are living bien, in a good way. No more [oil] companies should come, because already there are enough…. Many companies want to enter, everywhere. But they do not help; they have come to damage the forest. Instead of going hunting, they cut down trees to make paths. Instead of caring for [the forest], they destroy. Where the company lives, it smells nasty; the animals hide; and when the river rises, the manioc and plantain in the low areas have problems. We respect the environment where we live. We like the tourists because they come, and go away. When the company comes, it does not want to leave. Now [the company] is in the habit of offering many things; it says that it comes to do business, but then it makes itself into the owner. Where the company has left its environment, we cannot return. It stays bad. Something must remain for us. Without territory, we cannot live. If they destroy everything, where will we live? We do not want more companies, or more roads. We want to live like Huaorani, we want others to respect our culture.”
2. The second thing I want to say, that I want all of you to understand, is that we, the Yasuni Huaorani who live in the Intangible Zone, are working to defend the forest and our human rights. We are thankful that there is a lot of national and international concern for Yasuni, that so many people want to protect the rainforest that is our home. But we are concerned because so many people in government agencies and nongovernmental organizations want to negotiate and make decisions about Yasuni, without taking us and our rights into account. We now fear for our right to continue to live in freedom, as Huaorani, in our ancestral lands.
My community, Bameno, shares The Intangible Zone with two other communities of ‘contacted’ Huaorani, Bowanamo and Gabaro, and with other Huaorani families who live in voluntary isolation in the forest. The three communities of ‘contacted’ Huaorani (Bameno, Bowanamo and Gabaro) are working together, as communities, to protect the ITT area and the entire Intangible Zone, and the right of our uncontacted neighbors to be left alone. We call ourselves Ome Gompote Kiwigimoni Huaorani, We Defend Our Huaorani Territory, and we have made very specific proposals to the government of Ecuador for how we can work together to protect human rights and the environment in The Intangible Zone. We call upon the government of Ecuador to hear our voice and respect our rights, including our land rights. We call upon them to refrain from sending their military or other functionaries to our territory to live with us as police, or to visit our communities without our consent.
Finally, we invite the representatives of the government of Ecuador, the government of Coca, and the other governments that are present tonight, as well as the Yasuni Green Gold campaign and other NGOs and individuals who are present, to engage in a dialogue with us. We ask that you tell us about your work and proposals for ITT and Yasuni, and that you support us - the local Huaorani communities who are fighting to protect our ancestral lands.
Thank you for coming tonight, and for listening to my message on behalf of the Yasuni Huaorani who live in The Intangible Zone, Ome Gompote Kiwigimoni Huaorani."
13 Apr 2009
11 Apr 2009
Do you want the good news or the bad news first?
OK, the good news: after months of pressure, the Ecuadorian Government has extended its self-imposed deadline for securing the support of the international community in saving the Yasuni rainforest. The deadline was the 31st December 2008, and since then things haven’t been looking good. Last week we were most alarmed when it transpired that the ‘ITT bloc’ at the heart of the region had been put out to tender for oil companies to gobble up the rights to exploit. We thought it might be all over.
But then, just a few days later, the Ecuadorian Government issued a press release reaffirming their commitment to finding a way to protect the bloc from oil extraction, and listing governments, including Spain, Italy and Germany, who were supporting their proposal for finding enough funding to leave the black stuff in the ground. Once again, the people of Yasuni have been extended a tenuous lifeline - though clearly there are major splits within Ecuador on this.
But it would be premature to crack open the organic sparkling wine.
The bad news is that, having had little luck with their initial proposal: that Western governments should share the cost of financially compensating the Ecuadorian government for its loss of oil revenue, they have come up with a new proposal for funding the preservation of the forest. And it relies entirely on carbon trading. European energy companies and other industrial polluters will be encouraged to buy Yasuni ‘credits’ under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme, and preserve a little bit of rainforest in return for continuing their polluting ways back home.
There are many objections to using the international financial markets to preserve forests - not least that it is handing over responsibility for the long term future of some of the most precious and complex natural systems and habitats on the planet to the very same city bankers and traders who have just brought the global economy crashing to its knees… I just don’t think they know best, do you?
The problems with carbon trading are explored in more depth in the current issue of the New Internationalist, which focuses on ‘Climate Justice’. It is certainly not a solution for the Yasuni. Our campaign to secure a long-term future for the indigenous and local people of the region, who have still not been consulted by either their government or the Western governments supporting the proposal, continues.
By Jess Worth of the New Internationalist Coop