Michael Ellis is back from a trip to Ecuador’s Amazon where his joy was tempered by some troubling questions.
A few days ago I was in a somewhat remote section of Ecuador’s upper Amazon Basin. The Yasuni National Park is the richest biological place on earth. Yes, more documented species per hectare than anywhere.
Our five days of exploration was coming to an end. We were paddled by canoe before dawn down seven miles of Añangu Creek. The rainforest was just awakening with the thunder of red howler monkeys, tinkling poison dart frogs, the soft avian hoots of undulated tinamous calling to one another. The peace was broken occasionally by screaming mealy Amazon parrots above and the splash of a black caiman or perhaps one of the monstrous fish below us. We couldn’t tell. The ethereal mist was rising, the day beginning as we drifted silently through the green fecundity. My heart was full.
In 2008 Ecuador was the first country to give nature – mountains, rivers, forests, air and islands- legal rights. Unfortunately, there is an abundance of petroleum in this part of the Amazon. Ecuador offered to keep Yasuni intact if the world would pay one half of the oil’s value, a paltry $3.6 billion. The world replied, "No."
We exchanged our quiet dugouts and for a powerful motorized canoe to cruise back up the Napo River to bustling Coca. Here we’d catch a plane for the short flight over the Andes to Quito.