National Geographic : 2013 Jan
Yasuní Rain Forest 119 The Yasuní-ITT Initiative, he says, is still on the table. “We’ve always said that if we didn’t receive the necessary support for the initiative within a reasonable period, we would have to exploit the oil,” he says, “with the greatest environmental and social responsibility.” The initiative poses a real dilemma, he con- tinues. “Ecuador is a poor country. We still have children without schooling. We need health care, decent housing. We lack many things. What would suit the country most would be to exploit the resource. But we also understand our responsibility in the fight against global warm- ing, the principal cause of which is the burning of fossil fuels. That’s the dilemma.” As we wrap up the interview, Correa sounds like a man who’s already made up his mind. “I insist that we are going to exploit our natural resources, as all countries in the world do,” he states. “We cannot be beggars sitting on a sack of gold.” Nonetheless, he finishes by saying that he’d be willing to consider putting what is widely known in Ecuador as Plan B—exploiting the oil in the ITT—to a popular vote. ON THE STEPS outside the presidential palace, I think about the road I saw under construction in Block 31 and the violation of the wilderness it represented. Regardless of the outcome of the ITT Initiative, significant portions of Yasuní will remain under siege. “If the Yasuní-ITT Initia- tive fails, we’ll figure out how to save part of it,” Kelly Swing had told me as we sat on the deck of the research station, as though he too were already looking beyond the decision. “My main concern is that with each compromise with de- velopment, we end up with less for nature.” A breeze rustled the treetops. Somewhere a macaw shrieked. “Should we use our capacity to tame nature and commandeer all the resources for ourselves and take it right up to the breaking point?” Swing asked. “Will we even know where that breaking point is?” j Nine-year-old Daniela Cupe Ahua daydreams as her sister-in-law tends to babies. In keeping with Waorani custom, this extended family live together. Their house, near the Maxus Road, uses store-bought blankets as walls. kArLA GACHet We thank the Kichwa community of Añangu and the staffs of the Napo Wildlife Center and the Tiputini Biodiversity Station for their support.