Researched by Rob Hunter
The western Amazon, home to the most biodiverse and intact rainforest on Earth, may soon be covered with oil rigs and pipelines. Research published by PloS One found that at least 35 multinational oil and gas companies operate over 180 oil and gas “blocks”– areas zoned for exploration and development – which now cover the western Amazon in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and western Brazil. The western Amazon is also home to many indigenous ethnic groups, including some of the world’s last uncontacted peoples living in voluntary isolation. Underlying this landscape of extraordinary biological and cultural diversity, which environmental scientists refer to as the lungs of the planet, are large reserves of oil and gas. Record oil prices and growing global demand are now stimulating unprecedented levels of new oil and gas exploration and extraction —and the threat of environmental and cultural devastation. For example, of the 64 blocks that cover 72 percent of the Peruvian Amazon, all but eight were created since 2004, at least 16 were signed in 2008. At least 58 of these 64 blocks overlay lands titled to Peru’s indigenous peoples. Seventeen overlap areas that have proposed or created reserves for indigenous groups in voluntary isolation. Indigenous resistance is increasingly organized, politicized, and effective at both national and international levels. “This expansion occurs to the detriment of our peoples and of Mother Earth,” warns Jose Antunez, a leader of the Ashaninka people of Peru.
“Oil and Gas Projects in the Western Amazon: Threats to Wilderness, Biodiversity, and Indigenous Peoples” Matt Finer et al, PLoS One, 8/2008
“Oil And Gas Projects In Western Amazon Threaten Biodiversity And Indigenous Peoples” ScienceDaily, 8/14/08
“Amazon Rainforest Threatened By New Wave of Oil and Gas Exploration” Ian Sample, The Guardian/UK, 8/13/08