Whether they’ve looked at the trees, the insects, or the jaguars, scientists have agreed that Yasuní National Park in Ecuador’s Amazonian rain forest is one of the most diverse places on earth. But nature left one thing underground that could seal the fate of all that life above: Nearly one billion barrels of oil.
In the coming weeks, Ecuador aims to sign a unique agreement to forgo drilling for oil in a huge plot of this rain forest in exchange for money. The idea is that contributions from industrialized nations and, potentially, from corporations would make up for the badly needed petroleum revenue that the South American nation would lose by keeping the fossil fuel underground.
Although there have been many hurdles—including a controversy over whether the deal would forfeit too much of Ecuador’s sovereignty—the government’s chief negotiator now says the agreement will be signed by early July. If it comes together, some hope that the so-called Yasuní-ITT Initiative— named for the area’s Ishpingo, Tiputini, and Tambococha oil fields—could be a model for combating global warming.