Drilling in the Amazon

  • Published on August 19th, 2008

Amazon CarAccording to a recent report from Save America’s Forests, some of the most ecologically sensitive parts of the Amazon are also home to large blocks of oil and gas reserves. Similar to the situation in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR), global (and American) demand for oil and gas is resulting in natural resource exploration in areas that until recently, have been untouched. And, while the debate over offshore drilling and oil extraction in the ANWR seems to dominate the headlines and the political sphere, a similar discussion is not happening in this case.

Unlike the debate occurring over exploration in the ANWR, the Western Amazon is located in a remote part of the South American continent, rather than in one of America’s states. As a result, while there is immense pressure on local leaders to open the region up for drilling, as these can be important sources of government revenue for nations that are part of the global South, there rarely is the same level of pressure to avoid actions with potentially huge environmental costs as there is in the United States.

When politically active and influential groups and individuals make their views and opinions heard, the leadership reacts (witness the on-going debate between Obama and McCain on offshore drilling). In this case, indigenous local tribes are mainly disenfranchised and therefore unable to effectively make their views heard, and it therefore seems that overseas groups attempt to publicize and mobilize American (and generally Western) voters in support of dissenting views.

This then becomes a delicate and complicated political dance within a Western context: Western oil companies are involved in exploration and extraction in order to eventually provide their consumers with the oil and gas that they demand, and non-governmental organizations become involved in mobilizing opposition to these exploration and extraction activities.

A delicate dance, and a thorny political problem; but one that should be discussed.

For More on the Amazon:

Photo Credit: Wizan through Flickr

About the Author

Amiel is the founder of the Globalis Group, an organization whose motto is "combining action and thought for a sustainable world." His experience includes working with the Canadian government on greenspace projects, sustainable development programs and on policy documents on issues as diverse as climate change, sustainable development, and the environmental and social impacts of transportation. He is listed on the UN’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory’s list of GHG experts, and has sat on the Canadian Environmental Certifications Board’s Greenhouse Gas Verification and Validation Certification committee.