Benefit concerts for Ecuador’s endangered rainforests

Ecuador was the first country in the world to write the “rights of nature” into its constitution.

The tropical Andes of Ecuador are at the top of the world list of biodiversity hotspots in terms of vertebrate species, endemic vertebrates and endemic plants. Ecuador contains more diversity than the entire United States.

In the past year, Ecuador’s government has quietly granted mining concessions to more than 1.7 million hectares of forest reserves and indigenous territories. These were awarded to transnational corporations in closed-door deals without public knowledge or consent.   

From the cloud forests in the Andes to the indigenous territories in the headwaters of the Amazon, the Ecuadorean government has covertly granted these mining concessions to multinational mining companies from Australia, Canada, Chile, China and others.

Ecuador was the first country in the world to write the “rights of nature”, or Pachamama (Mother Earth), into its constitution. Now it is ignoring that commitment.

As founder and director of the Rainforest Information Centre (RIC), I have had a long history of involvement with Ecuador’s rainforests.

In the late 1980s, our volunteers initiated the creation of the Los Cedros Biological Reserve in Ecuador, helped by a substantial grant from the Australian government-funded AusAID agency.

Los Cedros lies within the tropical Andes hotspot in the country’s north-west. It consists of nearly 7000 hectares of wet tropical and cloud forest teeming with rare, endangered and endemic species. It is little wonder that scientists from around the world have rallied to Los Cedros defence.

In 2016, a press release from a Canadian mining company alerted us to the fact that they had somehow acquired a mining concession over Los Cedros. Working with Ecuadorean researchers, we slowly realised that Los Cedros was only one of 41 protected forests that had been secretly concessioned along with 1 million hectares of indigenous land, half of all the territories of the Shuar in the Amazon and three-quarters of the territory of the Awa in the Andes — 14% of the country.

Last November, RIC published a report by Oregon State University ecology professor Bitty Roy and her co-workers that maps the full extent of what is being planned.

A huge international outcry will be needed to rescind these concessions — a battle between many billions of dollars of mining company profits and hundreds of local communities and Indigenous peoples who depend on some of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth.

As part of this campaign, US singer Dana Lyons is playing two benefit concerts in New South Wales to help defend Ecuador’s rainforests — an intimate house concert in Bondi on April 23 and an April 25 concert at the Narara Ecovillage on the Central Coast (just north of Gosford).

Lyons is best known for his 1996 hit “Cows With Guns” (which remained on Ireland’s “Top 40” for six months and features at 28 on Triple J’s 1997 Hottest 100).

He is touring northern NSW, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia in May and June with his “Cane Toad Muster” tour. His policy of “I’ll play anywhere once” has landed Lyons gigs on a tropical island in the Great Barrier Reef, an Irish Pub in Beijing and the Hanford Nuclear Waste Dump in his home state of Washington.

Lyons has nine albums to date, including his latest The Great Salish Sea and an album with world-renowned Jane Goodall called Circle the World, which features Goodall telling stories and Lyons singing related songs.

[Visit rainforestinfo.org.au/dana.htm for details of the Dana Lyons benefit concerts and ecuadorendangered.com for more links to the history and causes of Ecuador’s mining crisis. A longer version of this article may be found at rainforestinfo.org.au/article.htm.]

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