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Alberta can help save the planet September 1, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Ecuador, Environment.
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Hoatzins perch on a tree at the Yasuni National
Park in Ecuador. The park and the nearby Tiputini Biodiversity Station
sit on top of some 846 million barrels of oil. Alberta could improve its
reputation and help protect the region by contributing to a fund that
would invest in renewable energy instead of oil, a reader writes.

Photograph by: Guillermo Granja, Reuters, File, Edmonton Journal

Edmonton Journal
August 30, 2011

Re: “Ecuador’s climate plan worth a look,” The Journal, Aug. 24.

Over
the last 10 years, we have been blessed to be able to escort biology
students to the most remarkable place on our planet – Tiputini
Biodiversity Station in Eastern Ecuador.

TBS is located in
pristine, primary lowland tropical rainforest, right beside Yasuni
National Park. Yasuni has been named a UNESCO heritage site because of
the biological treasures it houses and because it is the home of
indigenous Warani people who live traditionally in harmony with their
environment.

Our students (mostly second-year science students)
who venture to TBS as a field experience for their tropical biodiversity
course, start out with some trepidation – after all, most people think
about poisonous snakes and countless insects with fear.

After a
couple of days in the rainforest, however, they have an epiphany. When
they see their first scarlet macaw (one of 550 different species of
birds), or their first golden mantled tamarin (one of 12 types of
primates there) or they climb to the canopy of one of the giant trees
(there are about 1,500 species at TBS – 500 per hectare) or they swim in
the Tiputini River with pink river dolphins, the students are changed
forever. This is the magic of TBS.

Besides housing the richest
biodiversity in the world, TBS and Yasuni Park are important to Ecuador
for another reason, however. They happen to sit on top of some 846
million barrels of oil.

Even if developed in the most
environmentally sustainable way possible, oil extraction will have
drastic consequences on the landscape, biota and native people. When we
were there in May, we saw and heard helicopters flying over the forest
every day. In addition, extraction and burning the fossil fuels will
contribute to our global climate change.

This conundrum, whether
to develop the oil resources that lie under the richest biological area
in the world, or not, has been solved by the people of Ecuador.

At
a meeting of the United Nations, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa
suggested his country would leave the oil where it is if developed
countries like Canada and the United States gave $3.6 billion U.S. to a
fund managed by the United Nations. This amount was equal to about half
of the revenue that the Ecuadorian people would be forgoing.

So
far, this suggestion has been resoundingly disapproved by the government
of Canada. But consider this – we in Alberta will spend more than $3
billion defending oilsands development, contributing to unproven CO2
sequestering technology and providing oil extraction companies with
subsidies.

That’s just Alberta. Imagine the benefits we could
derive by contributing at least some of this money to the Ecuadorian
plan. Our tarnished environmental reputation would immediately be
improved and our participation would encourage other countries to
participate as well.

In addition, we just might help to address the global problems of climate change and loss of biodiversity.

For once, we Albertans would be seen as stewards of the planet rather than as pillagers.

Michael Stock, department of biological sciences, Grant Mac Ewan University; Rick Lewis , director, MacEwan International

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal
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