photo by Rainforest Action Network (Flickr CC)

Around 35% of Ecuador’s residents live below the poverty line. The economy of this South American nation depends overwhelmingly on its natural resources and agriculture. Half of the area of Ecuador is covered by the Amazon rainforest.

The Ecuadoran Amazon is one of the richest, most bio-diverse place on the planet and the “lungs of the Earth”, supplying crucial oxygen and taking in vast amounts of CO2.

However, beneath this extremely important carbon sink and treasure of natural life that the entire world benefits from is a huge amount of oil – $7bn worth.

From a piece by Johann Hari:

[…] underneath that rainforest, there is almost a billion barrels of untapped oil, containing 400 million tones of planet-cooking gases. We crave it. We howl for it. Unlike biodiversity and a safe climate, it’s tradable for cash. Here is a textbook example of what is driving both the sixth great extinction and global warming. We have been putting short-term profits for a few ahead of the long-term needs of our species.

Ecuador’s government is willing to take $3.5bn to preserve the rainforest and not cut it down to extract the oil – that’s half of what they could earn from drilling. By forgoing the big temporary pay off, this poor country would receive much needed cash and the world would keep a big part of its lungs and biodiversity.

The offer has been on the table for 5 years and Ecuador is running out of time. If they don’t get $100,000 by the end of the year they will have to start clearing the precious Amazon.

But now, according to an article in the Guardian, small donations from private citizens are now being accepted through the Yasuni ITT Trust Fund.

From the Financial Times:

So far only token amounts have been raised: Spain has given €1m ($1.3m), Chile has donated $100,000 and Belgium’s regional Walloon government has provided €300,000. All the money goes into a UN trust fund and Ecuador plans to use it for renewable energy, conservation and reforestation projects.

Is it going to work? Will the world’s governments step up and cough up for Ecuador’s and everyone’s future? Wait and see or chip in to help out yourself.