Amazon Defenders Part One: Protecting Biodiversity from Big Oil


EcoJustice RadioEcoJustice Radio celebrates the land and water protectors of the Amazon Rainforest in a Four-Part series called Amazon Defenders. We begin Part One in the Western Amazon to understand how activists are confronting the dirty legacy of oil extraction, stopping the expansion of new oil leases, and protecting the rainforest biodiversity. LISTEN TO PART TWOPART THREE

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Amazon Watch, Ecuador

Photo courtesy of Amazon Watch

Rise of the Amazon Rainforest Defenders

Our guest Paul Paz y Miño, Associate Director of Amazon Watch, provides an overview of the rich significance of the Amazon, expands upon what is happening in the Western Region and the connection to California and the United States, and speaks to the growing resistance protecting the rainforest and the rights of Indigenous peoples.

STORY: Amazon Oil, Biodiversity and Human Rights in “Yasuni Man”

The Amazon Basin is home to half of the world’s tropical forests, with 33% of all plant and animal biodiversity thriving in impenetrable wildernesses.

Unfortunately, some of the world’s most promising oil and gas deposits lie deep in these rainforests, especially in the Western Amazon. Moreover, governments and oil companies have opted for expediency and profit over environmental protection. Did you know that much of the Amazon crude is shipped to California to be processed? We will talk about that today.

The exploitation and destruction for a product responsible for breaking the global climate system continues today at a fevered pace. Oil corporations and their governmental enablers are pushing to drill deeper into the rainforest by building roads and railroad lines, cutting old growth trees, and invading indigenous sovereign territories and protected biospheres.

Right now, tens of millions of acres of Indigenous Amazonian territories and isolated rainforest are slated to be auctioned off for new oil drilling in the western Amazon, threatening the most biodiverse rainforest in the world and the survival of the Indigenous peoples who live in it, and paving the way for catastrophic global climate change.

Yet the international resistance is building and communities are fighting back. In a BIG victory for Indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon, oil company GeoPark announced it’s withdrawing from its contract to explore & drill for oil in Block 64, which directly overlaps with the 5 million acres of Achuar and Wampis ancestral territory.

The Achuar and Wampis Peoples have long opposed any oil drilling on their territory, making sure Peruvian lawmakers, international investors, the US government and GeoPark CEO James Park himself heard their message.

“U.S. investors BlackRock, JPMorgan, HSBC, Goldman Sachs, and Citigroup have poured tens of millions of dollars into GeoPark and its plans to expand oil drilling in the Amazon in places like Block 64. GeoPark’s withdrawal from Block 64 is yet another clear message to investors that it is past time to divest from oil companies and re-invest in a truly sustainable future for the Amazon and the world,” said Moira Birss, Climate and Finance Director at Amazon Watch.

Can this incredible ecosystem in other threatened areas be protected, allowing Indigenous societies and wildlife to thrive?

Yasuni National Park, Ecuador Bejat McCracken

Yasuni National Park is Ecuador’s largest protected area, and is under threat from multiple new oil leases and the roads and deforestation. It’s forest is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth and also protects part of the Waorani Indigenous territory. Image by Bejat McCracken.

Paul Paz y Miño has been at Amazon Watch since 2007. He has been a professional human rights, corporate accountability and environmental justice advocate since 1993. He has worked with various human rights NGOs including Amnesty International USA and Human Rights Watch/Americas. Paul has lived in Chiapas, Mexico and Quito, Ecuador, promoting human rights and community development and working directly with indigenous communities.

In Part 2, we investigate the story of a US lawyer named Steven Donziger who represented Ecuadorian communities demanding justice from Chevron-Texaco for one of the largest-ever oil disasters. Chevron refused to pay and turned Mr. Donziger into a corporate political prisoner. 

In Part 3, we will explore how the implications of deforestation, fires, and COVID are affecting Brazil and the Eastern Amazon region. And finally, in Part 4 we will speak to Indigenous rights activists on how they are creating a model of resistance and international solidarity to build solutions-based alternatives and protect cultural survival.

Amazon Watch:
Chevron Toxico:
Make Chevron Clean Up Their Ecuador Mess:

Amazon Defenders Part One - EcoJustice Radio

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Hosted by Jessica Aldridge
Engineer: Blake Lampkin
Executive Producer: Jack Eidt
Producer: Emilia Barrosse
Show Created by Mark and JP Morris
Music: Javier Kadry
Episode 82
Photo courtesy Amazon Watch

Updated 20 January 2021

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About Jack Eidt

Novelist, urban theorist and designer, and environmental journalist, Jack Eidt careens down human-nature's all consuming one-way highway to its inevitable conclusion -- Wilder Utopia. He co-founded Wild Heritage Partners, based out of Los Angeles, California. He can be reached at jack (dot) eidt (at) wilderutopia (dot) com. Follow him on Twitter @WilderUtopia and @JackEidt