This summer, Environmental Studies student Maria Ordonez was involved in making a film advocating for better policies on oil drilling in Ecuador. Maria, who attended high school in New York but is originally from Ecuador, stays in touch with friends and family there. She moved to Ecuador after her junior year, to work with different environmental groups for a year, and returned to campus this fall to finish her degree. In the class, Introduction to American Government, she has shared lots of interesting things about her country. For example, in 2006, Ecuador was the first nation to add a 'rights to nature' to its their constitution. However, that right does not automatically translate to perfect environmental policies, by any means. "The Amazon rainforest is a famously rich and complex ecosystem, and one of the most special spots there is Yasuni National Park," she explained. The massive park is home to tens of thousands of species, and many remain to be characterized by biologists. This place is the considered to be "the most biodiverse place on the world." Yasuni National Park is also home to many people. The residents of the park are indigenous peoples the Waorani, Tagaeri and Taromenane , whose life there precedes the national boundaries by thousands of years. Two of these nations are not contacted or better said, remain in voluntary isolation.
Recently, the national government has changed its policy and will be allowing oil drilling in this fragile area. If it goes forward, oil drilling in Yasuni would threaten both the natural environment as well as the communities there, and environmental advocates are urging the government to reconsider. The people that are in front of the fight to save Yasuni are mostly young people, students, and the indigenous people affected with help of other indigenous nations from various regions of Ecuador. They all have a strong natural identity in common and peaceful protests and marches have been seen by these members of society everywhere in Ecuador. The number of people protesting in the streets, reach thousands. Protests have ended in people being hurt and the national police using their force to make people leave. Already, projects related to oil are causing problems, and people are frustrated about cancer rates and more. Specially after the Ecuadorian Amazon has being dealing with what has been considered of the largest environmental disasters of the planet, due to negligence of foreign oil companies in terms of management of toxic wastes. This disaster has so far left 1400 cancer deaths and other health and economic problems. Maria takes this as a personal responsibility; going to an environmental school she knows that biodiversity is a treasure and she is a personal friend of the Woarani women leaders. They are currently struggling even in terms of language barriers, yet fighting hard for their territory. As part of the effort to convince the government to reconsider, Maria helped make a short film about it, with Earth Soul Productions and you can watch this two and a half minute piece on Youtube.