Where do We Go From Here? Ecuador’s Catch-22 and the Fate of the Amazon

A Story told by Green Lifestyles’ Dakota Maxwell-Jones

As I sit here in my comfortable American home, I start to reminisce about my time in Ecuador. Studying abroad there in Latin America was eye opening in a variety of ways. For instance, I was able to culturally and ecologically connect with the diversity present in the tiniest of countries. Through staying in the Amazon and the Galapagos, I developed a fascination for the interconnectedness of organisms on earth. This is to say that we as humans have a direct effect on the flora and the fauna as well as the land itself. Stomping around in bright yellow rain boots in the thickness of night in a rainforest brought this to the forefront of my mind.

Staying in the vicinity of Sucumbios, a far east region of Ecuador considered part of the Amazon Rainforest, I encountered many things. The five-hour boat ride coming to the area allowed me to see how pristine, natural, and still the Amazon is. You would never guess that piranhas and caimans were stealthily swimming underneath the fast moving boat. Nor that monkeys are quietly swinging from tree to tree to get a closer view at the foreigners approaching their home. You honestly would never know because everything is so frozen in natural sublimity.

Then you see an orangey fog pierce the calm of the sky. Getting nearer, you realize that they are flames. You catch a strong whiff of destruction as you pass. I’m referring to petroleum extraction. On my way to our lodging, my peers and I witnessed this ecological atrocity in plain sight. Almost half of Ecuador’s income comes directly from petroleum extraction. This is to say that Ecuador depends wholeheartedly on this destruction to stay afloat economically. Seeing this was shocking and saddening. I’ve seen many shows and documentaries about the destruction of the Amazon through contamination and exploitation. However, seeing those flames and drills in real life really made the story tangible and thus, difficult to comprehend.

I’m not sure what’s the lesser of the two evils: Exploiting the environment and its indigenous inhabitants so that the country can invest in social programs or not drilling to save the environment and let the country fail. It pretty much comes down to that. Saying we need to stop drilling, etc. is easier said than done. Ecuador would greatly suffer from the loss of this industry. What are they supposed to do when 47% of the country is living in poverty?

After swimming in piranha waters, hiking deep into the rainforest, and going canoeing, I appreciated the lifestyle led by the indigenous people there. They are probably the greenest people I know. It was incredible to see the way that they lived with, not against the environment. By merging their lives according to what’s best for the environment, they live well. I think that the Western world definitely lives against the environment, pushing it to its utmost limits. These limits are going to break and then we’ll be in a bit of a mess. That’s why it’s so important that we start investing in alternative ways of living. From emphasizing the importance of switching to electric cars, to recycling responsibly, whittling away the use of plastic bottles, and learning to work within the earth’s boundaries. The Amazon was absolutely beautiful and I hope to go back one day. Seeing what our world used to be inspires me to think about the ways we can revert back to responsible living.


Dakota Maxwell-Jones


Author: mila

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