Oil or Death in the Amazon

Commentary by Jennifer Jacobs, Rudolf von May, and Alessandro Catenazzi
June 06, 2009

More than 70% of the Peruvian Amazon has been allocated for oil and gas extraction, and the current government of Alan Garcia has been pushing for more. Unfortunately, as usual, these policies are promoted by and only benefit a handful of people, but negatively impact the lives of many. However, Garcia’s government did not foresee the potential consequences of their actions.

Oil and gas blocks in the western Amazon. Solid yellow indicates blocks already leased out to companies. Hashed yellow indicates proposed blocks or blocks still in the negotiation phase. Protected areas shown are those considered strictly protected by the IUCN (categories I to III). Image modified from 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
An excellent paper published in August 2008 by Dr. Matt Finer and collaborators, Oil and gas Projects in the Western Amazon: Threats to Wilderness, biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples, predicted that “environmental and social impacts are likely to intensify without improved policies” regarding the way that Amazonian governments conduct resource extraction. Yesterday, we witnessed the authors’ predictions come true when a number of indigenous civilians and police died as a result of violent clashes over oil and human rights in northern Peru. Indigenous people in Peru have been protesting the Garcia government’s newly created laws that favor and facilitate rapid oil and natural gas extraction in Amazonian Peru. Many of the oil and gas concessions that the government has granted overlap with areas already protected for wildlife and indigenous groups (see Finer et al. 2008 for a detailed account). A number of international news agencies are reporting on this violent conflict, though the victims and perpetrators of the clash change depending on the source. Regardless of exactly who did what, we know that indigenous people of Peru and other Amazonian countries, in addition to the incredible biodiversity of western Amazonia, are facing huge threats on many fronts. The incident that transpired yesterday, on June 5, 2009, is foreshadowing the occurrence of increasingly violent and large-scaled confrontations that will plague all nations as they battle to preserve their own cultures and feed their own mouths, while extracting the Earth’s remaining resources to then sell to the rich.

We urge people to read the cited article and follow the events occurring in Peru and other neighboring countries.

News links regarding the incident in Peru on Friday, June 5, 2009

El Mundo (Spain)

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Commentary by Jennifer Jacobs, Rudolf von May, and Alessandro Catenazzi
mongabay.com (June 06, 2009).

Oil or Death in the Amazon.