Yasunizing the world?

THE AFRICA REPORT

joan-martinez-alierWhen Svante Arrhenius, a Swedish chemist and Nobel laureate, published the first articles on climate change in 1896, the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was 300 parts per million (ppm). It is now reaching 400 ppm and rising 2 ppm per year.

Arrhenius announced that by burning coal found underground, industrialised countries were releasing more and more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and that this would increase temperatures. He could not know that in the twentieth century coal burning worldwide would increase seven-fold or that in addition to coal burning would be added much more oil and natural gas; in addition to the effects of deforestation.

What happens is that the new vegetation and the oceans do not absorb all the carbon dioxide produced by the human economy. Fossil fuels can be likened to bottled photosynthesis from millions of years ago. We extract them, "uncork" them, and burn them far too quickly. The enhanced greenhouse effect (so-called by Arrhenius) will be faster and faster.

in the Lofoten Islands in Norway, it is being proposed to leave the oil and gas under the seabed

In this sense the proposal to leave some of the oil, coal and gas underground is clearly reasonable. We must halve the rate of fossil fuel extraction. This proposal comes from places where the extraction of oil, coal or gas is doing great harm; for example, the Amazon of Ecuador and Peru, or the Niger Delta.

In Mexico, oil has caused much environmental damage in Tabasco and Campeche, and in 2010 BP caused a major spill in the Gulf of Mexico. But there are also disasters caused by coal mining in Colombia, China and India and from the extraction of tar sands in Canada.

In Ecuador, in the middle of the world, the organisation [I]Acción Ecológica[/I] proposed in 2006 to leave in the ground 850 million barrels of oil from the ITT (Ishpingo, Tiputini Tambococha) wells located in the [I]Yasuní[/I] National Park, on the border with Peru. The proposal was accepted by the then Minister of Energy and Mines, Alberto Acosta, and also reluctantly endorsed by President Rafael Correa. However, a clause was added.

Ecuador would make a financial sacrifice for its own good and that of humanity, and would forego the extraction of oil, which if burnt would produce 410 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, thereby conserving the unique local biodiversity, and respecting indigenous rights.

The country requested foreign contribution equivalent to about half of the money that would have been earned, some US$ 3.6 billion in total, paid over a period of ten or twelve years. These contributions would be deposited in a trust fund jointly administered with the UNDP, and formed on 3rd August 2010.

The offer is in place, the money is arriving slowly, but President Correa threatens a Plan B for oil extraction in some of the protected wells. Correa is not an environmentalist but has defended the Yasuní proposal in international forums. But now he threatens to push the limits of [I]Yasuní[/I] National Park in June 2013.

The idea of leaving the oil underground  was born in the Niger Delta. Some speak of "[I]ogonizar[/I]" rather than "[I]yasunizar[/I]" because after 1995 and the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Ogoni managed to expel Shell for many years.

There they say, "leave oil in the soil". From elsewhere: "leave coal in the hole", "leave gas under the grass", launching proposals similar to that of Ecuador. So much so that [I]Acción Ecológica[/I] wrote to the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language in order to put the word "yasunizar" in the dictionary.

In Guatemala, the proposal has been made not to extract oil from the Laguna del Tigre, a Ramsar site in the [I]Petén[/I] (an internationally listed wetland). On the Colombian islands of [I]San Andrés[/I] and [I]Providencia[/I] (near to the coast of Nicaragua), the decision has been officially made to leave the oil underground in accordance with local protests.

In the distant New Zealand, those who oppose the brutal open-pit mining of lignite know the word "yasunizar". The same is true in Quebec, France, Bulgaria, and in the Basque Country, where, for the time being, shale gas extraction which can harm the water table, has been stopped, with the argument that if the Yasuní ITT oil stays in the ground, why can other places not follow this same doctrine?

Even in the Lofoten Islands in Norway, it is being proposed to leave the oil and gas under the seabed.

There are local and global reasons for yasunizing the world.