Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Article: Oil and Gas Projects in the Western Amazon: Threats to Wilderness, Biodiversity, and Indigenous Peoples

Oil and Gas Projects in the Western Amazon: Threats to Wilderness, Biodiversity, and Indigenous Peoples Full-text here: Matt Finer1*, Clinton N. Jenkins2, Stuart L. Pimm2, Brian Keane3, Carl Ross1 1 Save America's Forests, Washington D. C., United States of America2 Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, United States of America3 Land Is Life, Somerville, Massachusetts, United States of America Abstract Background The western Amazon is the most biologically rich part of the Amazon basin and is home to a great diversity of indigenous ethnic groups, including some of the world's last uncontacted peoples living in voluntary isolation. Unlike the eastern Brazilian Amazon, it is still a largely intact ecosystem. Underlying this landscape are large reserves of oil and gas, many yet untapped. The growing global demand is leading to unprecedented exploration and development in the region. Methodology/Principal Findings We synthesized information from government sources to quantify the status of oil development in the western Amazon. National governments delimit specific geographic areas or “blocks” that are zoned for hydrocarbon activities, which they may lease to state and multinational energy companies for exploration and production. About 180 oil and gas blocks now cover ~688,000 km2 of the western Amazon. These blocks overlap the most species-rich part of the Amazon. We also found that many of the blocks overlap indigenous territories, both titled lands and areas utilized by peoples in voluntary isolation. In Ecuador and Peru, oil and gas blocks now cover more than two-thirds of the Amazon. In Bolivia and western Brazil, major exploration activities are set to increase rapidly. Conclusions/Significance Without improved policies, the increasing scope and magnitude of planned extraction means that environmental and social impacts are likely to intensify. We review the most pressing oil- and gas-related conservation policy issues confronting the region. These include the need for regional Strategic Environmental Impact Assessments and the adoption of roadless extraction techniques. We also consider the conflicts where the blocks overlap indigenous peoples' territories. Citation: Finer M, Jenkins CN, Pimm SL, Keane B, Ross C (2008) Oil and Gas Projects in the Western Amazon: Threats to Wilderness, Biodiversity, and Indigenous Peoples. PLoS ONE 3(8): e2932. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002932 Editor: Dennis Marinus Hansen, Stanford University, United States of America Received: June 5, 2008; Accepted: July 13, 2008; Published: August 13, 2008 Copyright: © 2008 Finer et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Funding: This work was supported by the Forrest C. and Frances H. Lattner Foundation Inc. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. * E-mail:

Monday, August 11, 2008

UN Secretary General's message on the International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples

New York, 9 August 2008 - Message on the International Day of the World's Indigenous People In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 9 August as the International Day of the World's Indigenous People. There were many reasons for this decision, but the fundamental motivation was the Assembly's recognition of the need to place the United Nations clearly and strongly behind the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples, in order to put an end to their marginalization, their extreme poverty, the expropriation of their traditional lands and the other grave human rights abuses they have faced and continue to encounter. Indeed, the suffering of indigenous peoples includes some of the darkest episodes in human history. Important as it was, proclamation of the day was only a prelude to a greater milestone: last fall's adoption by the General Assembly of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Declaration is a visionary step towards addressing the human rights of indigenous peoples. It sets out a framework on which states can build or re-build their relationships with indigenous peoples. The result of more than two decades of negotiations, it provides a momentous opportunity for states and indigenous peoples to strengthen their relationships, promote reconciliation, and ensure that the past is not repeated. I encourage Member States and indigenous peoples to come together in a spirit of mutual respect, and make use of the Declaration as the living document it is so that it has a real and positive effect throughout the world. As 2008 is the International Year of Languages, this International Day is also an opportunity to recognize the silent crisis confronting many of the world's languages, the overwhelming majority of which are indigenous peoples' languages. The loss of these languages would not only weaken the world's cultural diversity, but also our collective knowledge as a human race. I call on States, indigenous peoples, the UN system and all relevant actors to take immediate steps to protect and promote endangered languages, and to ensure the safe passage of this shared heritage to future generations.