In 2007, Rafael Correa, President of Ecuador took a big risk and it’s paying dividends. Yasuni National Park is arguably the single most biologically diverse spot on earth. The park boasts more amphibian, bird, mammal, and plant species than anywhere on the planet. There is more natural wonder here than science has time to document. Coincidentally, right underneath this amazonian paradise lies 846 million barrels of oil that are valued at $7.2 billion.
Correa had a novel idea. He decided to ask the global community to pay Ecuador $3.6 billion over the course of 10 years to stop him from drilling the oil for some much needed cash. On its surface, Felix Salmon points out “The world has quite a lot of oil; it has only one Yasuni. And while Ecuador would get some desperately-needed cash from drilling for oil, the world would lose an area of paramount importance.” This makes a lot of sense, but it also feels like Ecuador is holding this natural wonder up for ransom.
Miraculously, it worked. As of the December 30, 2011 deadline, it became very evident that the world is willing to vote with their dollars and support Yasuni to the tune of $116 million (the goal was $100 million). Donations poured in from business people, celebrities and national governments. You can make the argument that the amount of money raised is not enough and that even the source of the donations is not super-diversified.
Regardless though, the idea that a national leader can crowd-fund the safety of a global treasure tells me that the world cares. The thought of getting individuals and governments to step up and stop big oil from coming in and tearing up the rain forest is difficult to even fathom. After having spent time in the Ecuadorian Amazon, the message I got from the people native to the jungle was that there is little hope for the future of the rain forest amid the constant global struggle for oil and natural resources. The fact that the world came together and stood up to this challenge and supported it with dollars gives me hope. Collectively, we have all the power and can do anything we want to make the world better today.