Must Read for the Week: Where Oil Companies and Eco-tourism Collide

The destruction of rainforests across South America is a well-documented phenomenon. Cattle ranching, mining, logging, farming, and oil are all culprits when it comes to environmental degradation, and– generally speaking– there is little recourse in the face of such monolithic industries. In Ecuador’s Yasuni Park, however, residents have found an unlikely protector in the form of ecotourism.

Kevin Rushby, a travel writer for The Guardian, recently penned a report on the Sani community in the Ecuadorian jungle, exploring how ecotourism has afforded the biologically precious area a shield from the invasive attentions of oil companies. “We kept our jungle, and our community spirit,” Fernando, a Sani man, tells Rushby. But the community isn’t all on the same page: some are pro-tourism, while others are pro-oil. Articulating the tension between conservation and tourism, Rushby writes:

My young guide, Victor, put the issue bluntly. “We get an average of 12 guests a day at the lodge, but we need 15. The community is split, but at the moment the pro-tourism group has a small majority over the pro-oil group.”

“I had never realised how brutally direct the relationship between conservation and tourism could be. And if I needed a reminder of what choosing oil might mean, I’d seen it on the journey downriver from the city of Coca, a few days earlier. The banks of the Napo are dotted with communities and some have taken the petro dollar. In those places, large oil storage tanks stand beneath blazing gas burn-offs. The riverbank, eroded by powerful marine engines, has been shored up with metal pilings below scruffy new buildings, and the primary rainforest has been replaced by a thin scurf of secondary growth.”

Read the entire article here.

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