Climate Change and Development of Rural Areas of Ecuador
[Brian O’Leary, Ph.D., www.brianoleary.info, summary of presentation to the National Congress of Parishes on the Environment, June 23 and 24, 2011]
It is my honor to have the opportunity to share some thoughts about the deteriorating state of the Earth and how important it will be for us to come together in unity and find ways to create a truly sustainable future for generations to come. With its incredible beauty and diversity, my adopted country of Ecuador could lead the way in innovation to replace the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation—acknowledged to be the major contributors to global climate change—with radically new and clean energy sources, thus giving us a chance to start reversing climate change and global warming everywhere. The new Ecuadorian Constitution provides for the rights of nature and a plurinational state that respects our centuries-old tradition of buen vivir. Ecuador joins Bolivia in the desire to ensure that Mother Earth has a voice in our international deliberations. This sets a very different tone from virtually all other nations’ views in the climate talks, which have basically gone nowhere. The problem of climate change affects all life on the planet and can only get worse if we don’t take action.
When I was asked to speak about climate change in rural areas, it first occurred to me that this enormous, unsolved problem is truly international in scope with implications for all of us, especially in the poorer countries like Ecuador whose people depend on reliable supplies of food and water, which in turn depend on a stable climate. The Earth’s atmosphere is now loaded with greenhouse gases that do not respect international boundaries. Climate change is a global problem that is caused principally by emissions from the industrial First World nations. Ecuador will need to join Bolivia and other nations to hold those causing the problem accountable in reversing the climate change before it gets too late; in any case, the problem will get worse before it gets better even if we were to drastically decrease our emissions immediately, something the whole world will need to do if we are to sensibly survive these times.
Because of its progressive thinking and its unusually pristine environment well worth preserving, Ecuador is also in a unique position to research and develop clean breakthrough energy sources that could replace highly polluting and dangerous fossil fuels and nuclear power. When most people think about a clean energy alternative to coal, oil, and nuclear power, they think of solar power, wind power, hydropower, and biofuels. Although any one of these sources of power is far superior to coal, oil, or nuclear power in its effect on the environment, each of them involves substantial hidden costs in terms of materials, land use, and their associated grid systems. If these alternatives were our only options to replace coal, oil, and nuclear power, it would only make sense to put our best minds to work on developing them and implementing them in a way that would have the greatest chance of being sustainable over time. What most people are unaware of, however, is that there is a growing technology of alternative power that is far cleaner and more efficient than solar, wind, hydropower, and biofuels, and which does not come with such an overwhelming burden of hidden costs due to materials, land use, and the grid systems required for delivery. I am referring here to what has come to be called “free energy,” due to the fact that its efficiency is orders of magnitude greater than the efficiency of solar, wind, hydropower, or biofuels.
This remarkable technology, although not widely known by the general public, is based on many years of solid research since the time of Nikola Tesla and depends on the huge energy potential of the vacuum, cold fusion systems, and innovative hydrogen and water chemistries. The reason this technology is not widely known is that it has been suppressed for decades by powerful interests whose profits are based on our continued reliance on oil, coal, and nuclear power. I have made it my priority to research free energy for several decades, and I can vouch for the fact that there are scores of scientists who have developed promising prototypes in this field, any one of which would far transcend the efficiency not only of oil, coal, and nuclear power, but also of solar, wind, and hydropower. I have documented these prototypes in my book The Energy Solution Revolution, but you can also search on the Internet for “free energy devices” and you will find a great deal of information about them that is not reported by the mainstream media.
Perhaps because the world has reached such a crisis due to our reliance on fossil fuels, the vested interests who profit from dirty energy are not now able to suppress free energy as effectively as they have in the past. Over the coming year, therefore, many free energy systems are likely to begin to become available worldwide. In Ecuador, we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this opportunity by supporting the development of this new technology. If we can convince our government and industry of the tremendous potential of this technology, we could create protected innovation sanctuaries to research, develop, and implement an energy system that would not only ensure that our future would be more sustainable, it would also mean that Ecuador would become economically more sovereign as we are gradually able to abandon our reliance on oil, other mineral exports, and on foreign banks. Ecuador could be a leader in introducing truly clean energy, and could thereby become a shining example to the rest of the world.
But free energy in and of itself cannot be relied upon as the sole “technological fix” for our environmental problems whether it be applied in Ecuador or anywhere else. This and many other potential nature-friendly innovations will need to be implemented by an overarching conscious governance system that understands the basic principles of natural law and Earth jurisprudence as applied to creating harmony with all of nature in terms of water, energy, money, agriculture, forestry, waste management, and the overall preservation, restoration and sustenance of the biosphere.
It is necessary for all of us to become educated about what’s possible and to develop strong public support for these initiatives, which must come from you all as representatives of the people of Ecuador. We must begin programs of innovation for the benefit of the people, rather than for the benefit of the few within multinational corporations that exploit our resources and create huge environmental problems. We need to convince the top levels of the Ecuadorian government that it’s in their best long-term interest to abandon these destructive petroleum and mineral extraction projects and convert them to sustainable ones, even though short-term revenues depend upon the exploitation and export of oil, minerals and large agricultural products. These measures surely don’t help us in the rural areas nor do they provide any lasting solution to our prospects for converting our energy, water, waste, forestry and agricultural systems to ones that are truly sustainable. If anything, the extra money from these exports further destroys the environment as we continue to build new roads that lead to deforestation, the displacement of villages, more traffic, more air and water pollution, more noise, more factories, more oil drilling, more logging, more mining and more agricultural monocultures. These measures can only harm the sanctity of our peaceful and beautiful countryside and the buen vivir that we value so much.
The problem is even worse than it first appears. The deforestation rate in Ecuador of 3 % per year is South America’s highest and will result in losing half our trees in just 24 years, mainly due to building roads into the pristine rainforests of Yasuni National Park and surroundings. Fully 80 % of the Oriente is being leased or is about to be leased to multinational oil companies for the drilling and export of oil (see map, attached). This is the most biodiverse region on Earth, inhabited by voluntarily isolated indigenous peoples, and the fact that it is earmarked for oil drilling will surely ruin their habitat. The Chevron-Texaco oil spill in the Ecuadorian Amazon that killed or caused cancer among thousands of residents is an indication of what might come if we don’t oppose extensive oil drilling in Ecuador. Furthermore, the resulting deforestation, refinement and end use of the oil combine to contribute significantly to global climate change.
The government’s Yasuni Initiative invites the international community to match funds with Ecuador in terms of potential lost revenues to keep the oil in the ground in the pristine ITT oil block. This is an admirable start to preserve the precious ecosystems and habitats of Ecuador, but it’s only a start. The ITT block is only one of thirty planned oil blocks in the Oriente, and none of the other 29 has any of the protections that are envisioned for the ITT block (see attached map of Ecuador with the oil blocks). Clearly, we need a radical solution to our energy needs if we are to have any hope of saving our pristine environment and protecting our indigenous people.
Mining, hydroelectric and pipeline construction are also on the increase, and create even further problems for the rural areas of Ecuador. A primary example of this environmental insensitivity is the forthcoming construction of the massive Chinese-built Coca-Codo Sinclair Hydroelectric dam which will obliterate San Rafael Falls, the tallest waterfall in Ecuador. We here in the Vilcabamba-Podocarpus area are gravely concerned about the intrusion of mining projects, which can only destroy rather than preserve our precious environment. We must oppose these practices and move to innovation for our answers.
About two years ago I proposed that we look toward clean technologies for our answers, technologies such as free energy, cleaning the mines and the oil facilities, re-converting to local sustainable agricultural, water and waste management systems, reforesting the countryside, encouraging eco-tourism and health tourism, increasing information technology research and placing a moratorium on all unsustainable practices. I believe that this “Ecuador Initiative” (attached) could lead to Ecuador’s becoming both sustainable and sovereign in the long run. But the interests of large corporations and governments seeking short-term revenues from the export of nonrenewable resources have so far prevented us from moving forward with these initiatives. I hope that, with your support, we can create a sustainable development program in the countryside that would begin the process of preserving, restoring and sustaining our precious environment, consistent with the new Constitution of Ecuador. May our voices be heard so that we may replace our unsustainable practices with an awareness of what’s possible. We all can come together to innovate our energy, food, water and other systems to new ones that are truly sustainable. Our lives will depend on that.
We can together create new initiatives to protect the environment. Just like the action of preserving the Mindo cloudforest and bird sanctuary from mining interests, we can together preserve Vilcabamba, Podocarpus and other rural regions as national heritage sites. We can together stop the mining, dirty energy production, unsightly grid systems, cell phone towers, big highway and waterway building, overdevelopment, and other heavy infrastructure that litters the rural landscape. We all appreciate the improvements to existing roads between population centers, but we need to be aware that the mindless expansion of infrastructure to exploit natural resources can wreak havoc on the environment and the quality of life for all citizens of Ecuador. We can replace the blight of unsightly development with truly sustainable energy, water, food and waste systems. Many people in North America have come to realize that the price of industrial dominance has been the loss of the beauty of the environment and the true quality of life, a quality that is still present in abundance in Ecuador. The people of Ecuador can still experience and share the buen vivir that only nature can offer in abundance.
I propose that we place a moratorium on any suspicious industrial activity including at least the following: new superhighways in special places like Vilcabamba, deforestation, pesticides and fertilizers in crops, large agricultural monocultures, overgrazing, GMO food, deforestation, oil drilling, mining, large hydroelectric projects, fluoride in salt or water, chlorine in water, unsustainable sewage, waste and water treatment, and excessive noise, water, air and land pollution. I also propose that a committee of parishes be formed to consider adopting sustainable new systems to replace the old, polluting systems—new systems that work with nature instead of against nature. Let’s put people to work to restore and sustain our precious ecosystems. Let’s get on the job now, as time is running out.
Many of us here in Ecuador have left North America to seek a more sustainable lifestyle and community. We came here because we’ve seen a dramatic decline in the qualities of our lives and our environment up North. Many of us feel we are in the midst of an Earth emergency and we all need to become more aware of and take action on preserving our precious environment while we still can. Unfortunately, we are beginning to see the same problems of over-industrialization arise here in Ecuador. Please let’s not do that; let’s make buen vivir our highest priority to act upon now. Let’s put people to work to restore and sustain our precious ecosystems. Let’s get on the job now, as time is short.