The relationship between mankind and nature has always been present; it is a key component of our shared human history. It has been a continuous and constant process of learning and adapting. It has also been marked by the will to dominate and transform. However, this relationship has, in many occasions, not been the most equitable or the most just.
Today, modernization and globalization have brought vertiginous changes. The drive of those who seek the greatest reward in the shortest time span and with the least effort has led, in the case of our country, Ecuador, to a mismanagement of our natural environment. The Amazon region of Ecuador, where oil deposits can be found, is in an extremely vulnerable position. The roads that were built brought colonization, and with it came the cutting down of primary forests, illegal timber trade, the unsustainable extraction of non-renewable natural resources, and the contamination of the soil and water.
It is in this context that the Yasuní-ITT Initiative emerged as an immense challenge for our entire country, and also the world. While the direct implications of the Initiative may be perceived as an Ecuadorian problem, it is a problem of the world, as nature has no boundaries. In this light, we presented the Initiative at the grassroots level, to the community of individuals who possess the moral obligation to preserve the environment and share co-responsibility for the issues that threaten it, which can have adverse effects on the world, and together redefine our approach to using natural resources.
The main objective of the Yasuní-ITT Initiative is to preserve for mankind, approximately 180,000 hectares of virgin rainforest that is comprised within the Ishpingo, Tambococha, and Tiputini oil fields, in Yasuní National Park.
In order to ameliorate the relationship between human and nature, and abate increased exploitation of the environment, it is up to all countries and every citizen to prevent further CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. In our commitment not to use this resource, to leave oil and gas underground indefinitely, the Yasuní-ITT Initiative supports climate change mitigation and also guarantees the conservation of forests as vast carbon reservoirs while advancing reforestation efforts to absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
The second great cause the Initiative aims to champion is to avoid the loss of biodiversity. The fundamental characteristic of this small section of the rainforest, and what differentiates it from other areas, is that it is one of the top five-biodiversity hotspots in the world. Take for example tree and bush species: a single hectare of the one million hectares of Yasuní holds around 700 species - more than all of the native species found the United States and Canada combined. We seek to make sure that birds, animals, plants, trees, rivers, and above all the people that live in Yasuní, continue to exist for the benefit of mankind and future generations. Yasuní's treasures can be the gateway to new research and development of lifesaving medicines and clean energy alternatives. What can be found in Yasuní can pave the way for the development of Ecuador´s biotechnology industry. The promise of Yasuní shows that what is above ground is infinitely more valuable than what lies below.
Contributions to the Yasuní-ITT Initiative, be they from individuals, corporations, or governments, are all deposited into a trust fund administered by the United Nations Development Programme, as a gesture of transparency from our country to the international community. The fund will be used and reinvested to preserve all of Ecuador's protected areas, as well as environmental conservation projects. Among these, our most ambitious goal is to go from a fossil fuel based energy matrix to one based on renewable energy.
We acknowledge that this proposal for change cannot be carried out overnight. However, this is the path towards a world in which we can all coexist within the very limits set by nature´s power and wisdom. It is now the time to reflect and act so that we do not go over that very limit. Climate change, prolonged heat waves and cruel winters, floods and droughts, forest degradation and desertification, the increasing demand for food, diseases caused by environmental degradation: these are all signs that nature is sending us. It is time we paid attention.
We have to make an effort to truly listen. The millenary voices of the Tagaeri and Taromenane, indigenous peoples who live in voluntary isolation in Yasuní, join the voices that come from all the corners of the Earth. They all tell us that the fragile and subtle balance based on the strength of nature is changing precipitously without respect for its limits.
We do not have the force of a large country like the United States or the European Union; we are a small but determined nation that wishes to contribute to all mankind.
We know it is a difficult challenge, but we believe that there is not an irresolvable contradiction between development and nature. We believe it would be unrealistic to deny progress: improved schools, universities, hospitals, roads, working conditions, and production. This, however, must go hand in hand with clear rules that benefit humankind and care for nature.
Moreover, it would be an irreparable loss to allow a world as lush and magical as Yasuní to be extinguished, especially when we know that it cannot be redesigned, reinvented, or restored back to its original state through any scientific or technological advancement.
The success of the Yasuní-ITT Initiative means we can make sure Yasuní National Park will be preserved for present and future generations. All of us together need to make the decision to support it, to spread the word amongst friends and family, believers and skeptics. Let's take that step and make a commitment from the bottom of our hearts to that beautiful reality that is the Yasuní-ITT.