photo by sara y tzunky (Flickr CC)

A combination of individuals and corporations, along with local, regional and national governments, has raised enough cash to temporarily halt the drilling of oil from the Yasuní National Park in Ecuador.

The collection of money is being facilitated by the UN Development Group in a ‘crowdfunding’ project called the Ecuador Yasuní ITT Trust Fund. So far $116m (€89.5m) has been raised to help preserve this 722 square mile area of Amazonian rainforest.

From the Guardian:

The park, which is home to two tribes of uncontacted Indians, is thought to have more mammal, bird, amphibian and plant species than any other spot on earth. Development of the oilfield, which was planned to take place immediately if the money had not been raised, would have inevitably led to ecological devastation and the eventual release of over 400m tonnes of CO2.

National governments contributing to the fund include Australia, Chile, Colombia, Georgia, Peru, Spain and Turkey, with Italy forgiving $51m of Peru’s external debt and Germany contributing $48m in the name of ‘technical assistance’. Regional governments in Belgium and France also made sizable contributions.

The Ecuadoran Amazon has already seen its share of injustice and pollution at the hands of big oil, resulting in a long drawn-out legal battle.

From a forthcoming piece in the New Yorker:

During the decades when Texaco operated there, the lawsuit maintained, it dumped eighteen billion gallons of toxic waste. When the company ceased operations in Ecuador, in 1992, it allegedly left behind hundreds of open pits full of malignant black sludge.

Ecuador is a poor country with 35% of its population living below the poverty line. The Amazon covers half the country, but under this rainforest lays perhaps $7bn in oil reserves. Ecuador’s government is willing to accept half of this sum ($3.5bn) in order to preserve its Amazon, a treasure trove of biodiversity, a natural carbon sink and the ‘lungs of the Earth’.