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May, 19, 2014

A tribal ambush in the hunt for lipstick and chewing gum?

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Name: Anna Hobson
Member of: Applicant Panellist
Joined: November 2011
Anna's Full Profile

Here are four everyday products I bet you never knew contained derivations of petrol: lipstick, gum, crayons and aspirin. Everyone knows that petroleum provides gasoline for our cars and jet fuel for airplanes, but our global, national and individual dependency on the substance is in fact far more culturally interwoven than one would think.

Petrollandscapecropped

Photo By Tom Parnell

In about 125 years we have managed to consume over half of the world’s 50-300 million year old petrol resources and due to increases in extraction technology and equipment, consumption has never been as high as it is now. Our current global demand for and rate of consumption of petroleum is unsustainable. In a few years’ time, at most, global petrol extraction will reach ‘Peak Oil’, marking the point of maximum production, and its subsequent, rapid decline.

However, we do not have the infrastructure nor sufficient alternatives in place which would enable us to make a global transition to alternative energies come that day. Therefore, as citizens of the World we must ask, why not? Why are we investing so much money on conflict, on weaponry, on nuclear power, on oil, when our imminent future is dependent on the sourcing of renewable energies?

Solarcropped

A solar light collector at the Shanghai World Expo. Photo By Daniel Foster

Despite the undeniable depletion of our World’s petroleum there is another face to this story: the oil industry is an ugly business. It is one which tends to make the rich richer and the poor, poorer, being as it is, one of the biggest international commodities. In our blind-sighted thirst for this resource, we have forgotten our humanity. Let me introduce you to the case of Ecuador’s national park, Yasuní, arguably the most bio-diverse place on Earth. Yasuní national park covers an area of 9,820km² deep in the Ecuadorean Amazon jungle. Since the discovery of oil there, estimated to be 20% of Ecuador’s total petrol reserves, Ecuador’s president, Rafael Correa, initiated an ambitious plan; he asked rich nations to donate half the expected revenue anticipated to be generated over ten years from the national park’s oil reserves, in order to leave the oil in the ground. As he stated, this was not a charity fund, but away in which the World could responsibly contribute to the reduction of greenhouse emissions.

Yasunicropped

Yasuní – Photo By Sara y Tzunki

On account of the funds raised falling short of the $7.2bn benchmark, plans to exploit the park ‘responsibly’ are due to go ahead. However, as I mentioned previously, Yasuní’s biological diversity is rivalled by none. Many of its plant and animal species are endemic to the area, with over 130 species of animal, such as the giant armadillo and jaguar, threatened by extinction as it is. Moreover, the national park since 1989, a designated UNESCO Biosphere reserve, is home to two indigenous tribes, the Tageari and the Taromenane who are in voluntary isolation.

Taromenanecropped

Taromenan tribe member. Photo By Agencia de Noticias

Exploiting the national park’s oil reserves will threaten and affect the species living there by unavoidable petrol contamination, sound pollution, deforestation and subsequent illegal lodging, poaching and colonization in the area. Despite Correa’s insistence of safe operation methods, contamination and detrimental effects to the environment are unavoidable and to be expected. Alternative energy sources are available to be exploited, developed and invested in, so why can’t we leave the oil reserves below Yasuní untapped? In lieu of this, I am asking: can we justify this to happen for the lifestyles that we are used to leading?

Photo By Aristocrats

Photo By Aristocrats

The Amazon does not just represent the planet’s greatest biodiversity, but it provides around 20% of the World’s oxygen. By compromising that, we are threatening a vital life source for all living beings. I think it is unrealistic to suggest that we should cut out all petrol-derived products, we are nowhere near the stage of being able to do that yet, not nationally nor on an individual basis, but I think that each one of us can become more conscious of their use of petrol and see what they can do in their life to reduce that consumption.

Moreover, we must raise our voices to protect those places of wilderness and biodiversity, which are not just national but global treasures. We are our Planet. Can you justify it?

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  1. robert

    the fact is that a civilised society REQUIRES nuclear energy, renewables alone just cannot provide the amount of power our civilisation needs. it is unfortunate that pristine rainforest is being destroyed for the sake of petrol but it is also unwise we need petrol at all. if people would rationalise their attitude to nuclear energy(statistically the least hazardous when weighed up against the other energy sources in deaths per megawatt hour, pollution from coal plants can lead to cancer, hyrodelectric dams can break, nuclear meltdown has happened on a significant scale less than 20 times since it’s first use) this exploitation would be entirely unnecessary. by analysing energy consumption versus live expectancy and quality of life there is a clear positive correlation so there is no way that a modern society can function with much less power use than we currently have, the only real solution to climate change and the energy crisis is nuclear fission (giving way to fusion once the technology is developed). as for your other points. 1st the amazon and all rainforest provide far less than 20% of earth’s oxygen, peat bogs, marsh land and especially plankton blooms are responsible for far more than 80% of it when summed up, the destruction of rainforests is bad news but we won’t be suffocating because of it, and nor will any other life form. 2nd lipstick, glue, aspirin and other products derived from crude oil make only a tiny proportion of oil use if petroleum was being used only for chemical processes there would be no need for extraction on this scale(not that i approve of wasting ANY natural resource for the sake of the cosmetic products) our foolish choice of fossil fuels as an energy source rather than nuclear ones is responsible for most oil extraction. if this was a forest being torn up to provide us with the next milleniums worth of uranium and thorium i would utterly approve, but doing this for oil is sheer idiocy.

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