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Oil, Contact, and Conservation in the Amazon: Indigenous Huaorani, Chevron, and Yasuni
CUNY Queens College, Department of Political Science and Environmental Studies Program
January 10, 2013
by Judith Kimerling
Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy, Vol. 24, No. 1, 2013
Image courtesy of Eye on Amazon Watch
Texaco’s discovery of commercially valuable oil in the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador ignited an oil rush that made the conquest of Amazonia a national policy imperative. Texaco (now Chevron), Ecuador, and missionaries from the Summer Institute of Linguistics carried out a campaign to “contact” and pacify Indigenous Huaorani (Waorani) who lived in areas slated for oil development. Chevron’s operations also caused massive environmental damage which led to the ongoing, and increasingly complex, litigation now known as “the Chevron Ecuador Litigation.” This Article begins with a brief review of events leading to the litigation and an analysis of petroleum policy, Amazon and indigenous lands rights policy, and environmental protection policy in Ecuador. A discussion of the litigation (in the United States, Ecuador and the Hague) follows. Recent developments in the litigation are shifting much of the focus of the legal and political contest from allegations about Chevron’s misconduct to allegations of misconduct by the lawyers and activists who manage the litigation in Ecuador, and have eclipsed the situation on the ground, where environmental conditions continue to deteriorate and peoples’ rights are still being violated. The Article then examines the situation of the Huaorani who are struggling to survive and protect what remains of their ancestral territory in Yasuni National Park and the Tagaeri-Taromenane Intangible Zone. It includes a discussion of the gap between promises in the law and the reality on the ground, and ways in which conservation bureaucracies and NGOs are also violating the rights the Huaorani and posing new threats to Huaorani territory and self-determination.
Download the paper: SSRN-id2332782