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Becky Watson

Ecuadors Environmental Revolutions

Chapter 2 Summary

The Ecuadorian Context

Ecuador is the fourth smallest country in Latin America but is one of the most biodiverse

nations in the world. A high number of plant and animal species, as well as a high number of

endemic species, exist in an area that is only 0.2% of the earths land area. It is made up of four

bioregions: the Galapagos Islands, the coast, the Andes, and the Amazon. The challenge facing

the Galapagos Islands is that it has become a major ecotourism destination. With more people

coming in, more hotels and restaurants need to be built to accommodate guests taking away the

natural land. The coast has the largest city and main port, Guayaquil. Port cities tend to be

overrun with tourism and industrial parks bringing pollutants closer to the city from cars, trucks,

buses, and boats. In the Andes, the capital, Quito, sits among active volcanoes. Since cities

contain large amounts of people, evacuation during volcanic activity can bring extra pollution to

the city as more cars and buses are being used. The volcanoes themselves can produce pollutants

that can loom over the city changing weather and temperature patterns. The Amazonian region,

east of the Andes, is rich in petroleum and indigenous tribes. As stated in the previous chapter,

the petroleum industry poses a threat to the indigenous people living near the oil fields.

Ecuadors chief export earners include: petroleum, bananas, shrimp, canned fish, flowers,

cacao, coffee, and others such as tourism. Petroleum is a major cause of environmental

destruction in Ecuador but is consistently the leading export. It plays a leading role in the states

capacity to create economic growth and because of that, it creates a lot of problems within the
government. Although petroleum brought in $12,711,229 in 2012 (Lewis, 31), the state focused

on increasing production and ignoring health concerns as well as the impact on the environment.

Bananas are the second largest export bringing in $2,077,351 and Ecuador exports the most

bananas of any nation in the world. Shrimp export revenue brings in $1,279,653. Mangroves are

destroyed in order to have shrimp farming along the coast. Canned fish exports bring in

$1,116,059. Cut natural flowers revenue is $713,934. The pesticides used to grow the flowers

bring health problems to locals and the wildlife in the surrounding area. Cacao and its

derivatives $454,815. Coffee and its derivatives $261,058. Tourism is an important foreign

export earning for the country that has been increasing annually. Tourism development brings

difficulties to the already sensitive Galapagos Islands.

A biodiversity hotspot is a region that is both a reservoir of biodiversity and is threatened

with destruction. Conservation International has two criteria that a region must meet in order to

be considered a hotspot: there must be at least 1,500 vascular endemic plants and 30% or less of

its original natural vegetation. There are 35 areas worldwide that qualify to be hotspots and they

represent 2.3% of the earths land surface. Ecuador is considered a biodiversity hotspot because

it is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world but it is also threatened with deforestation in

order to become more developed. The lowland wet forest of western Ecuador once contained

around 10,000 plant species, nearly 2,500 endemic to the area (Myers, 1988). The forest, within

12 years, was almost completely converted to cash-crop plantations and other non-forest uses

starting from 1960. According to Myers, Western Ecuador, Atlantic Coast Brazil, and

Madagascar are ranked as the hottest of hot spots insofar as they are the richest and the most

threatened of all the areas considered [in the paper] (1988). These three areas combined have

most likely seen small extinctions that have mainly taken out the endemic species. Even with
these areas being threatened, the loss of plant and animal life can be detrimental to human

survival especially those who live within the region.

This chapter brought up a topic that is generally not a conversation starter in America:

politics and how they relate to the environmental movement. In Ecuador, there were certain years

where environmental concerns were the forefront of most political agendas. Environmental

organizations were established, environmental consciousness was heightened, and transitional

funding shifted in favor of environmental projects. After an economic crisis in 2000, transitional

funding shifted away from these projects and there was a sharp decline in mainstream

environmentalism. Once President Correa was elected, there was a shift again but instead of

favoring environmental projects or the state, he tried to both protect the environment and develop

the country socially and economically. Although his plans failed, President Correa tried to bring

together two constantly clashing departments so that the entire country could benefit. In

America, the majority of environmental regulations are turned down due to the political party in

office. Many Americans are split on their opinion of environmental issues as many believe

global climate change is a myth and that environmentalists and scientists have made up their

research. Although we will never see eye to eye, the one take home message that every

American, Ecuadorian, and human should know is that we have only one Earth and we should do

everything as a country to make sure it is around for future generations.


References

Conservation International (2017). Hotspots. Available from

http://www.conservation.org/How/Pages/Hotspots.aspx (Accessed 23 September 2017)

Myers, N. (1988). Threatened Biotas: Hot Spots in Tropical Forests. Environmentalist, 8(3),

1573-2991. Available from

https://www.academia.edu/3245546/Threatened_biotas_hot_spots_in_tropical_forests

(Accessed 23 September 2017)