Government appeal threatens historic Waorani verdict and half a million acres of primary rainfores

Quito, Ecuador, June 25th, 2019 — With their historic court victory protecting 500,000 acres of rainforest homeland from oil drilling at risk of being snatched away on a government appeal set for July 1st, the Waorani people are launching the digital media campaign #WaoraniResistance on June 27th to get 500,000 people (1 for every acre they are protecting) to sign their declaration defending the “lungs of the earth.”

Outside of the Presidential Palace in the capital city of Quito, over fifty Waorani leaders and community members called on people from around the world to “Stand with the Amazon” and sent a warning to the Ecuadorian government by turning in the signatures of 122,471 people who have already signed the Waorani people’s urgent declaration in defense of their rainforest territory.

Nemonte Nenquimo, President of the Waorani of Pastaza and lead plaintiff in the lawsuit said, “The Waorani defend our forest because it gives life to our people but it also gives life to the world. And that’s why we are asking the world to stand with us. Together we must save the lungs of the earth from oil drilling.”

At the headwaters of the Amazon, the Ecuadorian government is planning to sell off 7 million acres of indigenous people’s rainforest territory, some of the most biodiverse on the planet, to the international oil industry. If exploited, 70% of the oil would be shipped up to refineries in California, and eventually pumped at gas stations across the United States.

But the Waorani victory in court on April 26th, 2019 put a halt on the oil block overlapping their territory, and set a precedent for other indigenous nations to do the same. With millions of acres of untapped oil reserves in play, the Ecuadorian Executive Branch and the oil lobby are exerting enormous pressure on the judges in the province of Pastaza to rule against the Waorani in the high-stakes legal appeal on July 1st. With the launch of their digital campaign, the Waorani people are building an online movement to shine a spotlight on the Ecuadorian judicial system, and ensure that indigenous rights trump industry interests.

The Waorani youth have initiated an urgent digital media campaign and will be taking selfies of Waorani of all ages to “Stand With The Amazon”, asking the world to show up in support by doing the same. Once they hit 500,000 signatures, they’ll march on the capital and demand a meeting with the President to hand in the petition.

“Our territory gives us life. We will not allow oil-drilling to poison our creeks and our fishing holes. We will not allow lines of explosives to be placed in our hunting grounds for seismic testing. We will not allow the building of platforms or pipelines or roads. Our forest homeland is not an oil block, it is our life.” – Excerpt from the Waorani petition

Local and international celebrities are expected to join the Waorani and mobilize support in recognition that the Waorani victory is a win for the planet and the global fight against climate change. Home to 10% of the species on the planet, the Amazon produces 20% of our oxygen, and absorbs and stores more carbon pollution than any other place on Earth. Just one acre of the Amazon provides oxygen for 18 people to breathe during an entire year, meaning the Waorani land at stake provides air for 9,000,000 people.

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Sophie Pinchetti, Communications Coordinator